Guatemala: Attacks proliferate on anti-mining protestorsPublished by MAC on 2012-12-17
Source: Statement, EFE, IPS, Prensa Latina (2012-12-10)
Over the past month, Guatemalan "security" forces have attacked demonstrators who are seeking to halt the advance of a number of Canadian and US-owned mining projects.
According to a statement issued by Rights Action:
"The North American governments and resource extraction companies maintain profitable economic and military relations with the Guatemalan elites, almost always turning a blind eye to repression, violence and impunity that are the norm in Guatemala.
"It is up to the people of Canada and the USA to say 'no more business and politics as usual'".
Police Break Up Protest Against Guatemala Mining Project
9 December 2012
GUATEMALA CITY - Security forces used tear gas Friday to break up a demonstration against a gold mine project in southern Guatemala, arresting four people.
Clashes with the protesters occurred while officers were unblocking the access road to the project site in the municipality of San Jose del Golfo, National Police spokesman Pablo Castillo told reporters, adding that no one was injured.
Protests against Guatemalan company Exploraciones Mineras de Centroamerica, which in October acquired the 50 percent it did not already own in the project from Canadian joint-venture partner Argonaut Gold, began in March.
The project is located three kilometers (1.9 miles) from the center of San Jose del Golfo.
Local residents told reporters they oppose the El Sastre project because it will cause pollution and could deprive the community of potable water.
A study by Argonaut Gold showed the site could contain 500,000 ounces of gold reserves.
A group of protesters demonstrated Thursday outside the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala City against mining activity by Canadian firms Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources in parts of northwestern Guatemala.
Arrest of Four Guatemalans against Mining Project
8 December 2012
Guatemala - The National Maya Convergence and Coordination denounced the arrest of four citizens of La Puya community in San Jose del Golfo (central department) where people expressed their opposition to a mining project.
Milton Carrera, Francisco Oliva, Tomas Aquino, Israel Oliva are the names of those arrested during the violent eviction by riot police, said a statement from the group that brings together Maya and rural Guatemalan organizations, to which Prensa Latina had access today.
The Independent Media Center (IMC) published on its website, 38 pictures showing the presence of National Civil Police (PNC) agents in La Puya, whose settlers protest a mining project that was not previously consulted with the locals. The project is held by the U.S. Company Kappes, Cassiday & Assocites, based in Reno, Nevada.
The IMC denounces that President Otto Perez Molina government has attempted to exercise state violence by illegally evicting, without any order issued by a competent court, peaceful resistance of the inhabitants of the towns of San José del Golfo.
During the confrontation the day before, the PNC threw pepper gas bombs, which affected three people: Elba Santos, 10, Siara Oliva, 4, and Enma Veliz, 38, the local newspaper Prensa Libre reported Saturday in its website.
For his part, the Minister of the Interior has warned he will not allow more protests against mining, and said, the eviction was done under the PNC intervention protocol parameters.
Deaf Ear Turned to Local Opposition to Mines in Guatemala
By Danilo Valladares
Inter Press Service (IPS)
4 December 2012
GUATEMALA CITY - As the mining industry booms in Guatemala, local communities are increasingly opposed to the operations of the mainly foreign companies because of the potential negative effects on the environment and on their villages.
But the firms themselves say the opposition is limited to small groups who are misinformed and manipulated by outsiders.
The latest episode in the increasingly violent disputes occurred on Nov. 19, when local residents of Mataquescuintla, a town in the southeastern department or province of Jalapa, set fire to five vehicles belonging to the Minera San Rafael, a subsidiary of Canada's Tahoe Resources Inc.
Since 2008, the company has run the El Escobal mine in San Rafael Las Flores, in the southeastern province of Santa Rosa, which borders Jalapa. For 25 years, starting in 2014, the mine will produce silver, lead, zinc and gold.
"The worry is that the mine will pollute the Los Esclavos river, which runs through the department of Santa Rosa, the Ayarza lake, and the underground aquifers," Moisés Divas, the representative of the Diocesan Council for the Defence of Nature, told IPS.
Minera San Rafael plans to invest 325 million dollars in the mine, which is to create 800 jobs. But local residents overwhelmingly expressed opposition to the mine in four local referendums held in its area of influence.
"In 2011, the first three votes were held in the municipalities of Nueva Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Lima and Casillas, in accordance with what is established by the municipal code, and this year another was held in Mataquescuintla, and 99 percent of the people voted against it," Divas said.
The company has forged ahead nonetheless, drilling enormous tunnels and challenging the results of the referendums in court. "That has upset people, who see it as going against the will of the people," the activist said.
Canadian companies are predominant in the industry, whose total earnings soared from 8.6 million dollars in 2005 to 935 million dollars in 2011.
But the state only took in 9.2 million dollars in royalties and taxes from the mining industry last year, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
That represents a mere two percent of GDP, partly because the royalties are limited to one percent of gross sales, in accordance with the country's mining law - an aspect that exacerbates the anger of local residents and activists.
But while the industry is growing year by year, so are the conflicts.
The El Tambor gold mine began to operate in 2011 between the towns of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo, 28 km northeast of Guatemala City.
"There is not one single mine anywhere in the world that has not been destructive for the local communities," Antonio Reyes, who lives in San José del Golfo, told IPS. "And things are even worse because of Guatemala's mining law, which authorises companies to use the water and the chemicals they need, without any controls whatsoever."
Since Mar. 2, local residents have been blocking the entrance to the El Tambor mine, operated by Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Kappes, Cassiday & Associates and Radius Gold Corp of Canada.
"Our resistance is not based on a whim; it is in response to the historical manipulation and utilisation of the people," Reyes said.
Villagers in the area are asking for support for development alternatives to mining. "We are focusing on diversification in sustainable crops which, rather than degrading the soil, repair, preserve and protect it," Reyes said. "We also believe in ecotourism projects."
But instead of alternatives, what have come are attacks. Yolanda Oquelí, a leader of the resistance against the El Tambor mine, survived an attempt on her life on Jun. 13. Although the crime has not been solved, Reyes said it is clear that the attack was motivated by the activist's fight against the mine.
Yuri Melini, director of the non-governmental Legal, Environmental and Social Centre of Guatemala, told IPS that "we have had a series of governments spellbound" by the mining industry, "but all they have done is foment negative social and environmental impacts."
Since 2005, 1.25 million people in this impoverished Central American country of 15 million have voted against mines in 65 local referendums held around the country - all of which were ignored, he said.
"This is a time bomb, and the government refuses to understand that the opposition of local communities is based on the knowledge of the severe damage caused by mines, especially to the surface and groundwater," José Cruz, an activist with the local NGO Madreselva, told IPS.
In May 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanded that the Guatemalan government suspend operations at the Marlin gold mine, owned by Montana Exploradora, a subsidiary of Canada's Goldcorp Inc.
The IACHR ruling stated that the mine was polluting rivers and the water supplies of 18 indigenous communities in the western province of San Marcos.
But Marlin is still operating.
A study titled "The economic dimension of mining activity (the case of the Marlin mine)", conducted by the public University of San Carlos, questions the economic benefits of the industry.
"In 2009, Guatemala sold each troy ounce of gold to Goldcorp Inc. at Q550.25, equivalent to 69 dollars, and the company received Q8,064 per troy ounce of gold, or 1,008 dollars...The mine keeps the earnings while the poverty of the local population" and the social and environmental conflicts are growing, the study says.
Magaly Arrecis, a researcher at the University of San Carlos institute that carried out the study, told IPS that the mining law should be reformed to "increase the compensation for communities around the mines and to address environmental issues."
But the mining companies see things in a very different light.
"The mining industry is probably the most highly regulated in the world in the areas of the environment and workplace safety," Regina Rivera, a representative of the Gremial de Industrias Extractivas, the industrial association that represents the mining companies, told IPS.
"And all international companies are governed by the strictest environmental and worker safety standards," she added.
Rivera said she did not believe there was "fierce" community opposition to the mines. "What there is," she argued, "is a great deal of misinformation and many interests that have managed to manipulate small vulnerable groups, to turn them against the industry.
"In most cases, the conflicts are brought to the communities from areas or communities completely outside of the companies' areas of influence," she said.
"The companies generally have good relations with the communities where they operate and with their real leaders, always making an effort to keep up a positive dialogue pointed in the direction of the development of the communities," Rivera added.
Guatemalan Police Use Tear-Gas and Violence On Behalf Of KCA Mining Company (& Radius Gold Inc.) To Try And Evict Community And Environmental Defenders
By Grahame Russell
10 December 2012
On December 7 and 8, 2012, there was yet another act of mining-related aggression against community members of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, 45 minutes outside of Guatemala City, who are defending their environment and community well-being. Community members have been legally and peacefully engaging in a 9-month encampment at a place known as "La Puya" by the entrance to the proposed "El Tambor" mine site.
El Tambor is now owned by the American company KCA (Kappes, Cassiday and Associates), and was, until recently, owned by the Canadian company Radius Gold Inc., that retains financial interests in the mine.
Since the encampment began, Rights Action has brought in 5 delegations of North Americans and journalists to listen to community members. Rights Action has also been providing emergency response and humanitarian funding to the community defenders.
On December 7-8, hundreds of police and anti-riot troops, along with mining company personnel, arrived effectively on behalf of KCA (and Radius Gold), with "verbal" orders to evict the community members who are peacefully and legally on their own community property. At least three community members (Elba Carolina Santos, 10 years old, Enma Véliz, 38, and Siara Abigaíl Oliva, 4) needed medical attention due to breathing in the tear-gas after the aggression by the armed forces.
The community members held their ground, peacefully, and sang songs. For now, the police and other armed forces have again backed down. The encampment continues - legally and peacefully.
November 12th "Aggression in La Puya"
The community defenders used this tactic of peaceful resistance, singing songs and not responding to provocations, most recently on November 12. Watch this 17-minute documentary in Spanish "Aggression in La Puya" (by the Guatemalan Centro de Medios Independientes) filmed at the encampment on the day of a very aggressive "pro-mining" march supported by KCA (and Radius Gold).
In "Aggression in La Puya", you will see a large group of people - mainly men at the forefront - wearing EXMINGUA (KCA's subsidiary) company shirts, marching towards the encampment and then speaking aggressively and threateningly towards the local population and towards human rights observers with cameras.
For the governments of Canada and the USA, and for people and organizations seriously trying to understand the role that North American mining companies are playing in this complicated situation, it would be worth translating the words of the group leader - the man with a yellow helmet, an EXMIGUA (KCA) t-shirt, and speaking in an extremely aggressive, threatening and provocative manner through a hand-held micro-phone.
Also, read this article, by Rosario Suarez, about the November 12th "pro-mining" march, and about how KCA (and Radius Gold) are using children to divide and create conflict in community opposed to mining in Guatemala: http://rightsaction.org/action-content/us-based-mining-company-kca-deliberately-using-children-divide-and-create-conflict
Interviewed in "Aggression in La Puya" is Yolanda Oqueli, a respected community member of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, who was the victim of an assassination attempt on June 13, 2012.
In October, after three months of recovering her physical and mental health, Yolanda - one of the assassin's bullets still lodged right by her spinal column - spoke out publicly again, and has rejoined the community defense struggle.
Radius Gold Retains Financial Interests in the "El Tambor" Mine
After the assassination attempt on the life of Yolanda Oqueli, that occurred while Radius Gold Inc. was the principal owner, Radius sold its interests to KCA. Ralph Rushton, president of Radius Gold Inc., stated (La Hora, December 7, 2012) that "the sale of our participation in the El Tambor project is part of our corporate strategy to sell problematic interests, permitting our company to concentrate our capital and experience in those less conflictive development interests in the region."
Radius Gold received a quarter of the sale amount upfront, and retains a financial interest in the mine, receiving the remainder of the sale price when KCA makes a profit from the mine. Radius Gold president Ralph Rushton explained that "Radius continues to feel optimistic that commercial production will be achieved at El Tambor and the company will be paid back for the investment it has made in the region since the discovery of gold in El Tambor in 2000."
In response to the opposition of the community members of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, and to the increased attention in Canada and the USA due to the assassination attempt on the life of Yolanda, due to the constant aggression carried out against the villagers on behalf of KCA (and Radius Gold), Dan Kappes, of KCA, recently responded:
"To: All of you interested people: I thank you for your email which urges caution at our mining project in Guatemala, and I appreciate the opportunity to reply. I do not know what you understand about our company or the situation at our mining project "El Tambor" in Guatemala. We spent three years interviewing everybody in the area, and in preparing a three-volume environmental / social study which outlines what we propose to do. We understand that the local community has some worries, but in fact, we will be a very healthy, productive local business in an area that needs development.
"We are not displacing anybody from their land, or affecting the local water supply (we don't discharge any water). We are not stepping on anybody's rights. And, we have an information room in the local community and phone numbers where they can call us with questions.
"The NGO's that are opposing us have not contacted us with any issues which we can answer. They seem only to want to stop mining. But, mining provides well-paying jobs and significant cash flow to the community. By opposing mining, the NGO's are dooming the locals to a life of subsistence living. Your email was in response to an email which I sent to CIEL [Center for International and Environmental Law].
"Since you may not have seen it, I am attaching a copy. Since you have taken the time to respond to me, I urge you to take the time to read the letter I sent to CIEL and think about what I said there. We are not a cold, evil creation of the capitalist system. Businesses like ours are what make a pleasant life possible. Incidentally, the majority of the local citizens are supporting us. The protests at our gate involve a few people who are being paid to be there by NGO's.
"Please give us the benefit of the doubt, and discuss it with your associates. Please reply to the NGO's who asked you to write your letter, and urge them to either contact us or to take an honest, analytical look at the facts. You and your groups would not oppose us if you knew the reality of our project. We are not an enemy. Sincerely, Dan Kappes (firstname.lastname@example.org)."
With KCA's words in mind, I urge the governments of Canada and the USA, and other concerned people and organizations, to view "Aggression In La Puya" - http://www.movimientom4.org/2012/12/video-hostigamiento-en-la-puya/ - and read the articles linked above.
Illegal Mining Operation
The position of the community members has been clear since late 2011. They were never, as required by national and international law, consulted as to whether or not they wanted this type of "development" in their lands and community.
Like communities across Guatemala, they are resisting having a foreign company - supported by the Guatemalan regime, police and soldiers, and by foreign governments and investors - being imposed on them, against their will. This imposed "development" project - responding solely to the economic interests of far away shareholders, directors and investors - is playing itself out identically to dozens if not hundreds of similar struggles across Latin America and Africa.
Dignity and Impunity
Yolanda barely survived the June 13 assassination attempt, that has devastated her own life physically and emotionally, her family and her community. And yet, bullet lodged near her spine, she is back with her community, afraid, and with the same conviction as always that they have the right and the responsibility to defend their community well-being and their environment. Her strength and dignity contrast with the impunity and callousness of the mining industry.
Firstly Radius Gold and now KCA have tried, by hook, crook and violence, to begin operating this mine, regardless of the opinions or well-being of the local communities. In response to this most act of aggression, Yolanda Oquelí said (La Hora, December 8, 2012): "I believe that [the Guatemalan government is] closed in their position, given the pressures of these foreign companies, ... It is irresponsible that they continue with this closed mindedness and that they do not attend to the needs of communities that are at risk."
Say No to Impunity and Unjust "Economic Development"
As distressful and painful as these latest acts of aggression are, they are neither surprising nor an anomaly. The North American governments and resource extraction companies maintain profitable economic and military relations with the Guatemalan elites, almost always turning a blind eye to repression, violence and impunity that are the norm in Guatemala. It is up to the people of Canada and the USA to say "no more business and politics as usual.
Please Write to: KCA / Radius Gold Inc. and to your own elected officials
Please send copies of this information, and your own letters of complaint, directly to the KCA and Radius Gold mining companies, with copies to your own elected politicians (MPs, Congresspersons, Senators), demanding that North American mining companies stop any and all actions of repression and community divisions and that KCA and Radius Gold renounce its mining interests, at this mine, as they have neither the social license nor the prior and informed consent of the local population that is clearly opposed to this mining operation.
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