Latin America updatePublished by MAC on 2007-08-25
Latin America update
25th August 2007
While farmers from the district of Pacaipampa in Ayabaca (Piura, Peru.) mobilised on the streets against Rio Blanco mining project, Monterrico Metals received two stability agreements from the Government of Peru. The company says that this provides it important guarantees for its investments. Some days later, the National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining (CONACAMI) declared that an attack against the Mayor of San Ignacio province was related to his opposition to the mining project. Mayors from three municipalities of Piura have threatened to go to "international bodies" if the national government "fails to respect" the outcome of the referendum to be held on September 16th.
Colombian small scale mining and farming communities, affected by the exploration activities of AngloGold Ashanti subsidiary's Kedahda, have made clear their objections to the company's presence/ They are to organise a 'caravan'. with representatives of organisations from Britain, Canada, Italy and the USA. which will visit these communities between 17 August and 4 September.
A Rights Action report from the municipality of El Estor, eastern Guatemala, comments on the indigenous Q'eqchi' community of Barrio Revolucion and its long fight against Canada's Skye Resources.
In Mexico, one man was killed during a battle between hundreds of miners at the La Caridad copper mine, close to the US border. The operating company, Grupo Mexico, also asked for government permission to fire 2,200 striking workers at La Caridad's sister mine, Cananea - Mexico's largest copper mine.
Residents of Ayabaca March In Opposition to Majaz Operations
By Frank Garcia, Piura
11th August 2007
Farmers of the district of Pacaipampa, in Ayabaca (Piura) have mobilised against mining exploration being carried out by Minera Majaz at the Rio Blanco project. The comuneros demanded the protection of the páramos - high mountain forest wetlands which generate water for the rivers, for fear that they will be affected by the mining operations. They also urged the regional and central governments to respect the decisions taken by the communities in the popular consultation this coming September 16. In the referendum, the provinces of Ayabaca and Huancabamba will decide if they wish to base their development in mining or in agriculture.
Questions Regarding Pact with Majaz Mines
By Silvia Mori
5th August 2007
The Front for the Sustainable Development of the Northern Border of Peru raised their voices in protest against the decision of the state to sign an agreement of legal stability for ten years with the mining firm Majaz, while there is an ongoing conflict with communities who say the mining firm is illegally occupying their lands and [the issue[ still has not been resolved.
The president of the Front, Carlos Martinez, criticised the attitude of the government in passing over the democratic decision of the people to carry out a popular consultation which will determine whether they desire a development model based upon mining or upon agriculture which will not cause environmental harm. The pact of legal stability guarantees tax and tribute stability as well as stability of the employee laws.
Piura Authorities May Turn to International Institutions in the Majaz Case
11 August 2007
The mayors of Ayabaca and Huancabamba will turn to international legal institutions if the Peru government does not respect the results of the popular referendum regarding the continuation of the Majaz mines which will be carried out in these provinces this coming September.
"We will turn to different international organizations to give us the legitimacy and the power to stand up to our government in the case that they do not respect the results of the popular consultation," said the mayor of the municipality of El Carmen de la Frontera (Huancabamba), Ismael Huayama.
Mayor of San Ignacio Attacked
16th August 2007
The National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining (CONACAMI) has denounced last Tuesday's attack against the Mayor of San Ignacio province, in Cajamarca department, which was related to his opposition to the Majaz company's Rio Blanco mining project.
Mayor Carlos Martinez Solano declared that he was shot while traveling in his car, and held "at least six people" responsable for the attack.
CONACAMI expressed its support for the Mayor, who is a member of the Front for Sustainable Development of the Northern Border, which is one of the organizations that opposes the activities of Majaz (a branch of British corporation Monterrico Metals).*
The Mayor told the media that the attack "will not affect the campaign for the referendum" to be held next September 16th. The referendum will decide the continuity of the mining project.
* Editorial note: Monterrico Metals' controlling shareholder is the Chinese company, Zijin Mining.
No to the Stability of the Abuses of Majaz Mines
Press statement, Peru
9th August 2007
The undersigned institutions and persons declare to public opinion the following:
The government is about to sign an agreement of legal stability with Majaz Mines, the company carrying out the Rio Blanco project. This pact will:
- impede the State from raising taxes, as they can do with the Peruvian people
- award these [tax] breaks without urging the minimum of $2 million [tax on] exports established by law, nor requiring effective investments in Perú
- if the State lowers taxes, the corporation can enjoy a rebate because they can renounce the contract at any time
The use of these agreements has been criticised by many international organizations, even the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Rio Blanco project of Majaz:
- has not been approved by the public
- has been observed by the Public Ombudsperson and by the Public Registry to be a case of a company illegally occupying lands that are the property of the Campesino Communities of Yanta (Ayabaca) and Segunda y Cajas (Huancabamba). In this respect there are penal complaints for the crime of illegal possession of lands currently submitted to the Public Ministry
- This project has a high risk of affecting the environment, which will be aggravated that the company is intending to develop a large mining district without controls, in areas of paramos and rainforests - fragile ecosystems where the waters of the Chinchipe (Cajamarca) and Quiróz (Piura) river basins emerge
- The intentions of the mining firms to create a mining district has been amply demonstrated, since the concessions adjacent to those of Majaz belong to Mayari Mines, a company that belongs to the same economic group and has the same owners
Faced by this, in the Piura districts of Carmen de la Frontera, Pacaipampa and Ayabaca, a popular consultation will be carried out this coming September 16, so the people can manifest their position publicly over this mining project.
THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD RESPECT THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE AS EXPRESSED THROUGH UNIVERSAL BALLOTING
Technical Roundtable of Support to the Majaz Case – RED MUQUI – CooperAccion - Fedepaz – Piura Collective for Life and Agriculture "Godofredo Garcia Baca" – Pedro Francke
Monterrico Metals gets govt. stability agreements for Peruvian units
LONDON (Thomson Financial)
7th August 2007
Monterrico Metals PLC has received two stability agreements from the Government of Peru saying this gives it important guarantees about its investments in that country, and that tax and labour regimes will remain unchanged during their 10-year term.
It said the stability agreements will be entered into with Monterrico's Peruvian subsidiaries - Rio Blanco Copper Ltd and Minera Majaz SA - and the Government, and that these agreements will be signed shortly.
Other benefits include free transferability of foreign currency, non discrimination regarding exchange rates, and free trade of mineral products, the company added.
One dead after miners fight at Mexico copper pit
12th August 2007
MEXICO CITY, Aug 12 (Reuters) - One man was killed in a battle between hundreds of miners at a Mexican copper mine close to the U.S. border, the government said on Sunday, the latest violence in a long-running labor conflict.
About 250 miners from two groups fought close to the La Caridad mine in the northern state of Sonora on Saturday night, state Secretary for the Interior Roberto Ruibal told Reuters. "There was a battle between two groups, one group who work at the mine and another group of former workers," Ruibal said. "One person died," he said.
Ruibal said it was not clear how the unidentified man died, but he denied union claims the man was shot. He said police arrested six people. Mexico's mine workers are engaged in a power struggle within the miners union and with La Caridad owner Grupo Mexico.
The Mexican mining industry has been hit by numerous strikes since last year by workers loyal to union boss Napoleon Gomez, who is accused of corruption by other workers and Grupo Mexico.
Three steel workers were shot dead in April 2006 when police used firearms to try and break a strike at the Lazaro Cardenas steel mill in western Mexico.
La Caridad produced about 70,000 tonnes of copper last year until it was closed for months by a strike that only ended when Grupo Mexico fired all the workers.
Most were rehired under a new contract, but about 80 were not, Ruibal said. Grupo Mexico and the union gave conflicting versions of what caused Saturday's violence, but it appears some of the fired men wanted to enter the mine and were turned back by a large group of workers.
The union said the man killed was one of the former workers and loyal to Gomez. Spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the men had won a court ruling ordering the company to reinstate them.
A strike at La Caridad's larger sister mine Cananea has crippled production there since July 30. A court decision on legality of the strike is due next week.
Grupo Mexico Seeks to Fire 2,200 Striking Workers
By Adriana Arai and Alex Emery, (Bloomberg)
10th August 2007
Grupo Mexico SAB, the country's biggest copper producer, asked for government permission to fire 2,200 striking workers after the stoppage was declared illegal, company attorney Salvador Rocha said.
Grupo Mexico presented the request to a government arbitration panel on Aug. 8 after workers failed to return to work, Rocha said in a telephone interview. The panel will say next week whether the Mexico City-based company has the right to dismiss the workers, he said. An appeals court ruled this week that the miners could continue the strike.
Employees began the strike July 30 at Cananea, Mexico's largest copper mine, and the Taxco and San Martin zinc mines to push for wage increases and improved safety conditions.
Grupo Mexico can't fire the workers, because the original ruling declaring the walkout illegal was overturned, Carmen Romero, spokeswoman for the National Mining and Metal Workers Union, said in a telephone interview from Mexico City. The government panel has to determine whether the company was officially notified of the appeals court's decision before a 24-hour deadline.
``As workers failed to return to work, at 4:40 p.m. the company presented to the arbitration panel a statement terminating the labor contract with the workers,'' Rocha said. ``It's a timing issue.''
(See previous postings at:
Part III: Bolivia's Mining Rollercoaster: Negotiating Nationalisation
Andean Information Network
16th August 2007
Evo Morales became president with an electoral mandate to reclaim state control over the nation's natural resources. For Bolivia's mining sector, this means maintaining a balance between the interests of cooperative miners, attracting much needed foreign investment and increasing the State's take on the earnings. This update on the nationalization of Bolivia's mines is the third in a three part series on Bolivia's mining sector from the Andean Information Network. All three are available at www.ain-bolivia.org
Bolivia's cooperative mining union, FENCOMIN, has again demonstrated its formidable political power, forcing the Morales administration to guarantee its right to mine and to give them access to more lucrative mining areas -- apparent concessions to the new nationalization program. The MAS government is also negotiating a new tax plan which seeks to maintain foreign investment while giving the state a larger stake of the earnings.
Re-inserting the State
Beginning in October 2006, the Morales administration has taken measures to reinsert the state into the mining sector, including the May Day presidential decree giving state institutions such as the mining company, COMIBOL, greater control. The administration also seeks to increase the state's share of the earnings in light of skyrocketing prices for Bolivia's principal minerals: silver, gold, tin and zinc. The Morales administration has negotiated several times with the 50,000 cooperative miners, who supported him during the 2005 elections and who represent 80% of Bolivia's miners, offering them concessions in his "nationalization" plan.
The Latest Conflict ...and Agreement
Both sides reached a new agreement on July 20 after five days of roadblocks. The roads around Potosi, one of the largest and oldest mining centers, had been completely blocked by the cooperative miners. Five days earlier, police turned back 1,500 cooperative miners outside La Paz, as they prepared to march to protest a MAS proposal for the new mining code. The miners took issue with the proposal that all joint venture contracts and leases with COMIBOL, including those of mining cooperatives, must be renegotiated and approved by congress. The FENCOMIN miners said that President Morales promised them the new mining code would not include these changes. Furthermore, cooperative miners demand that the new constitution officially recognize their right to mine as "self-employed" miners.
The agreement reached on July 20, according to FECOMIN's President, Andres Villca, responds to "ninety-eight percent" of their demands1 and will strengthen the already strong cooperative miners' position in the mining sector, which includes private companies and the re-emergent COMIBOL as well. The agreement includes respecting areas where cooperative miners are working; extending the leases and shared-risk contracts that cooperative mining companies have signed with the state; a promise from the government to give access to richer areas of Bolivia's mines to the cooperative miners;2 and a promise from the Morales administration that it will take steps to insure that the cooperative miners are fully recognized in the new constitution. Villca also indicated that the agreement recognizes the government's obligation to protect mining areas from takeovers, a practice that cooperative miners have used in the past to gain access to richer veins and wealthier mines.
Depleting Mines: a "Time Bomb"
However, access to more mines and richer veins is still a largely unresolved issue between the government and the cooperative miners. The mines in which the cooperatives currently work are quickly becoming exhausted.3 According to the Mining Minister, Luis Alberto Echazú, at this time Bolivia is only exploiting 30 percent of its mines. A lack of investment over several years has prevented the exploration and opening of new mines. Without access to additional mines, the 50,000 cooperatives will have few places to earn a living while mineral prices are some of the highest in history. This situation has been described as "time bomb"4 which could explode into protests, roadblocks and mine takeovers if thousands of cooperative miners left without access to the minerals.
The Tax Debate
Pending issues in the Morales' administrations attempt to reactivate the mining industry include a new mining code redefining the state's ownership of mining operations and, most controversial, taxes on transnational mining companies' profits. The proposed MAS tax plan is a 50-50 split on the profits, up from 35 percent, and the elimination of a sales tax credit that companies can currently apply to their income tax.5
An executive for San Cristobal Mines, an affiliate of the US Apex Silver Mines, expressed concerns over some other aspects of the MAS proposed tax plan.6 Vice President of the San Cristobal Mine, Geraldo Garret, said that while they were committed to remaining in Bolivia due to the large investment they have made and the potential for profits, he lamented that the company might be required to pay up to 70-90 percent of the profits if additional surtaxes are enforced.7 However, Minister Echazú questioned Mr. Garret's concern for lost profits given that the proposed surtaxes would be applied only when earnings reach high levels.
In addition to the tax plan ex-Mining Minster, Jorge Espinosa, recently stated that the Bolivian mining sector is not sufficiently secure to make it an attractive choice for foreign investors. A point that Peruvian mining consultant, Walter Belaunde, emphasized when he offered the models of neighboring Chile and Peru who guarantee stable tax plans in the contracts they sign with mining corporations.8 The Morales administration insists that an updated mining policy would create secure conditions for foreign investors and regularly points out that guarantees already exist.
While the Morales administration has said that environmental groups will play a role in policy development, environmental advocates remain skeptical. Given pressures from cooperative miners and private companies, many doubt that the Morales administration has the political will and capacity to implement a mining policy that offers greater environmental protection. At this point it is unclear how the new mining policy will offer such assurances.
In the midst of negotiating with the cooperative miners and debating mining taxes, the Bolivian government celebrated the signing of a contract with Jindal Power and Steel of India to begin the exploitation of the Mutún iron mine in the eastern department of Santa Cruz. Reportedly one of the largest iron ore deposits in the world, Jindal has committed to investing $2.1 billion in the next 10 years and will exploit half of the mine over the next 40 years. The Bolivian government estimates that when fully operational the state will receive over $200 million a year in revenues.
President Morales also signed into law the nationalization of the Posokoni tin mine in Huanuni, Bolivia's largest tin mine and the sight of a massive conflict between cooperative miners and COMIBOL miners in October 2006. The initiative received mixed reviews. The signing was postponed a day after a cooperative miner from Huanuni tried to enter the government palace just before the ceremony carrying dynamite in his backpack.
The dynamic of three major actors in the mining sector – cooperative miners, multi-national mining corporations and a re-emergent state - in a country where until recent decades the mines were its economic motor, presents major challenges as the Morales administration attempts to keep its electoral promises to recuperate the nation's natural resources. Elevated mineral prices and potential profits create urgency on the part of all interested parties to upgrade and reactivate the sector as quickly as possible. This is especially true of cooperative mining interests who seek to maximize short-term profits rather than long term investment.
Clearly, a weak COMIBOL and lack of investment in the mining sector9 weakens the attempts of the Morales administration to implement fully its nationalization plan, a situation that the cooperative miners have not hesitated to exploit.10 Yet, in this respect Morales eludes the convenient label of "socialist" that so many western and even Bolivian journalists assign him. He has demonstrated a willingness to negotiate a "nationalization" plan that is pragmatic and, far from radical, that seeks partnerships between the state and private enterprise. Perhaps, a more radical plan would also be more responsive to environmental concerns. What remains to be seen is if President Morales will be able find a balance that lives up to his election mandate while keeping the cooperative miners sufficiently satisfied and attracting much needed foreign investment.
1 La Patria. "Tras negaciones: Gobierno garantizó áreas de trabajo y los contratos con Cooperativistas." July 23, 2007.
2 This meets a longstanding cooperative miner demand and was the central issue that led to the October 2006 conflict at the Posokoni tin mine in Huanuni that left sixteen people dead and 115 injured.
3 For example in Cerro Rico, the historic silver mine in Potosi, there are currently over 16,000 cooperative miners extracting the little silver and zinc left in the mine. So much mineral and ore have been extracted over the centuries that some have warned that the mine could collapse at any moment.
4 La Razón. "La caída en los precios es un peligro por los cooperativistas." July 29, 2007.
5 According to the 1997 Mining Code companies currently pay a Complimentary Mining Tax (CMT) which is a tax paid on the sale of minerals. The CMT varies between 1% and 10% depending on the mineral and the market price. Mining companies also pay a Corporate Income Tax (CIT) based on the net profits. The CIT is credited to the CMT. The CMT is like a "prepayment" of the income tax. For example, if a company pays $100 CMT and their CIT is $120 then they are credited $100 through the CMT and pay only an additional $20. If the CMT is higher than their CIT then companies pay the total amount of the CMT and do not pay an additional amount for the CIT. The Morales administration proposal increases the CIT another 10 percent and eliminates credit for companies when they pays the CMT. So, according to the proposal companies would have to pay both the CMT and the full CIT. Furthermore, the proposal expands the minerals and metals included in the CMT to include previously excluded ones such as iron, copper, antimony, and bismuth. Ref. Ley 1777: El Código Minero, Titulo VIII, Capitulo III, Art. 100.
6 San Cristobal is in the process of developing a large open pit silver and zinc mine in the department of Potosi. They own 65 percent stake in the mine while Japan's Sumitomo Corp. holds the other 35 percent. The say they will be investing over $700 million in the mine which the company describes as one of the largest silver deposits in the world and which has just come on line. Reuters. "Apex produces silver concentrates at Bolivian mine." August 7, 2007.
7 Reuters. "Bolivia's San Cristobal concerned about mining taxes." July 27, 2007.
8 La Razón. "La minería tiene pocas opciones." July 27, 2007
9 See previous memos "Mining Policy in the Morales Administration: Reactivation and Conflict. Parts I and II." The mining bust of the mid-eighties that led to the firing of 40,000 COMIBOL miners and the neoliberal economic policies of the last two decades that Bolivia implemented and formed the basis for the current mining code have left COMIBOL a shell of its former self. The political and social instability of recent years and a lack of access to the sea have also added to Bolivia's problems in attracting the high levels of foreign investment.
10 Many see the cooperative miners as sharing many of the same interests as corporate mining companies. For example, both want a limited role of COMIBOL and the State, and both want to limit the taxes on their earnings. However, most Bolivian based cooperative miners are also interested in limiting the amount of access that foreign companies have to Bolivian mines and have resisted the presence of foreign operations; at times attempting to take over mines or parts of mines where foreign companies are working. Yet, they also know that foreign investors can bring needed upgrades in technology and equipment.
(See previous posting:
SKYE RESOURCES ORDERS CHRISTMAS EVICTION: Mayan Q'eqchi' Communities on High Alert
Recuperating the Land that Belongs to Us
Sandra Cuffe, Rights Action
22nd August 2007
"Why are we gathered here tonight?," asked community elder Roberto Caal, looking around at the dozens of women, men and children gathering under the palm-thatched roof of the open-air community hall in Barrio Revolucion, in the municipality of El Estor, in eastern Guatemala.
"We have come to recuperate our land once again," he explained. "This land is for our sons and daughters."
The indigenous Q'eqchi' community of Barrio Revolucion was among the six groups evicted during three rounds of forced evictions in November 2006 and January 2007. Canadian mining company Skye Resources, which acquired the controversial property rights granted in the 1960s by a repressive military dictatorship to International Nickel Company (INCO), sought the evictions. Decades after the brutal repression linked to the INCO nickel mine that operated briefly in the area in the late 1970s through 1981, State 'security' forces are once again being employed against the local Mayan population.
By the light of the near-full moon in the early evening and of the lightening flashing through the torrential downpour into the night, Barrio Revolucion was gathering for a ceremony in honour of the ongoing collective process of rebuilding. Nearby, in the neighbouring municipality of Panzos, department of Alta Verapaz, the community of La Paz ('Peace') was also gathering in preparation for a simultaneous ceremony.
"How can they call us squatters?" a resident of La Paz had asked a few days earlier, when a human rights delegation of activists from Mexico, Canada and the United States visited three of the evicted communities.
La Paz (approximately 60 families), Lote 8 (100 families) and Barrio Revolucion (currently 95 families) have historic territorial claims to the recuperated lands from which they have each been evicted twice over this past year. Linked to the communities of Santa Maria, Cahaboncito and Chichipate, respectively, they are continuing a decades-long struggle in the face of powerful mining interests.
Memories of Silence: They Never Came Home
Reports by both the United Nations Commission for Historical Clarification in Guatemala and the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala found INCO subsidiary EXMIBAL complicit in grave human rights violations against opponents of the mining project, including threats and assassinations. Prominent lawyers involved with an ad hoc Commission established in 1970 in Guatemala City to investigate and oppose the mining concessions granted to EXMIBAL were promptly attacked and killed.
Local leaders struggling for their communities' lands were also targets for persecution and repression during the 36 years of armed conflict that left an estimated 250,000 people dead or disappeared. In each place, there were stories to tell about the leaders murdered in previous decades.
In La Paz, residents remembered relatives and neighbours from Santa Maria who had gone to the municipal office in the town of Panzos to participate in a peaceful demonstration for indigenous land rights in the region. Among the hundreds killed in the infamous Panzos massacre in 1978, they never came home. The very beginning of the 1980s saw other community members killed or forcibly detained because of their involvement in the land struggle.
Lote 8 elders recalled a meeting of some hundred people in Lote 8 nearly three decades ago. Community leader Apolonio Tux Rax left the meeting to go into the town of Panzos to get copies of documents related to Lote 8's struggle for their land. The elders explained that he went to the Municipality, but company security agents surrounded the building and detained him. He never came home.
The next day, residents of nearby Lagartos informed Lote 8 that they had seen a strangled body float by down the river, matching the description of the missing community leader. When other Lote 8 organizers went to the Municipality to inquire about the whereabouts of their leader, they were met with silence.
"The only thing they said was that they knew nothing and that nothing had happened," they recalled.
Engraved in Our Minds: What Our Grandparents Told Us
Back in Barrio Revolucion, the storm subsided and community elders and leaders began to share their own stories while preparing the materials for the ceremony. Barrio Revolucion itself is the missing piece of Chichipate, the former surrounded on three sides by the territory of the latter. The community cemetery, at least 80 years old, lies within Barrio Revolucion.
"It stayed when they removed us from here," explained elder Santiago, who was born in Barrio Revolucion lands and remembers working the mountainside to facilitate its use for agriculture. His own son, a leader in the local land struggle, was murdered in 1981. The murder of Pablo Bac Caal was one of the cases documented by the United Nations Commission for Historical Clarification.
"Pablo Bac gave his life for the community of Chichipate… We want to take that example," said Alfredo Ical, a leader in Barrio Revolucion. "Years ago, our grandparents engaged in a struggle to obtain this little piece of land."
"We carry engraved in our minds what our grandparents told us," explained Ical.
"They explained that this land belongs to Chichipate," related Tomas Chub, also a community leader. "It does not belong to [Skye Resources subsidiary] CGN, nor to the EXMIBAL company."
Community accounts narrated a history involving the gradual encroachment by INCO subsidiary EXMIBAL onto the Chichipate lands that are now being recuperated, the eviction of families and the destruction of their crops. Never used for mining activities, the lands were controlled for decades by the company, which granted their use to cattle ranchers.
"The EXMIBAL company killed poor people over land," said Chub. "They took lands away from the poor people of Chichipate."
He explained that these days, with the new company, "what they're doing is the same."
Fenix: Rising up from the Ashes of Repression
Vancouver-based mining company Skye Resources was essentially created in order to take over the Fenix nickel project when the 40-year mining concession granted to INCO subsidiary EXMIBAL back in 1965 was approaching its expiry date. Skye Resources operates through its subsidiary, the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN), which claims on its website that it "has nothing to do with the old EXMIBAL."
Despite the company's attempt to distinguish itself from the past, the links between EXMIBAL/INCO and CGN/Skye are numerous. Skye Resources CEO Ian Austin himself is a former executive of INCO, which has since become CVRD Inco. The latter has retained rights to receive payments from Skye based on future production at Fenix and will also market any finished nickel products. Another important element revealing the corporate connection is the fact that Inco is a major investor in Skye, holding almost 9% of the company's shares.
The publicly funded Canada Pension Plan is another shareholder in Skye Resources, with roughly $8 million invested in the company. The dominant player in the global mining industry, Canada funds and promotes Canadian mining corporations and the industry in general. Exemplifying this broader policy of institutional support, the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala has been denounced on various occasions for its active role in promoting mining despite concerns regarding indigenous, environmental and human rights.
In the Fenix project, however, the Guatemalan government itself is also a direct participant, through its 7% ownership of CGN. Thus, the company has had no trouble obtaining the appropriate permits. By January 2006, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) had already approved the Environmental Impact Assessment related to actual mining activities. The exploitation license – for almost 250 square kilometres – was then granted to Skye/CGN in April 2006.
Earlier this year, on June 7, Skye announced that its Guatemalan subsidiary CGN had received official approvals for the four Environmental Impact Assessments related to the processing plant. More recently, in a July 3 press release, Skye announced that it had received the construction permit, the last remaining permit required to start construction at the plant for the Fenix project.
In July, it was announced that a resolution by the Ministry of the Economy (#843, dated June 25, in file #487-2007) had determined that Skye subsidiary CGN would receive tax exemptions due to the company's classification under the Law for the Promotion and Development of Export and Maquila Activities (Decree #29-89). This classification allows the mining company to import materials and equipment duty-free and also exempts CGN from paying value-added tax.
While on paper things have been moving forward for the company, the future is much less clear not only for the evicted families who continue to rebuild, but also for many other indigenous communities in the hills above them.
"This primarily is a land issue that is separate from the project," remarked Skye Resources CEO Ian Austin when asked about the recent evictions and land conflicts at the company's annual shareholders' meeting this past May 17. According to Austin, none of the land where evictions have taken place contains mineral desposits, although "some of it is of use to the project, such as housing."
The forced evictions took place on lands for which controversial mining company property claims and in some cases third party property titles overlap with the collective rights claimed by the indigenous population. The actual mineral deposits, however, are elsewhere. According to the local indigenous rights organization Defensoría Q'eqchi', an estimated 90% of the nickel lies under lands that in no way belong to the company, but to farmers, ranchers and some of the indigenous villages up above Cahaboncito and Chichipate. The majority of the 16 communities located ontop of the nickel deposits are staunchly opposed to any and all mining activities and have, in some cases, carried out direct actions against the company.
Skye Resources has repeatedly claimed that the company has carried out "extensive consultation activities" and that the project has a "very high level" of community support. However, ever since Skye has resuscitated the project, local indigenous residents have denounced the fact that no consultations ever took place, in violation of International Labour Organization's Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, to which Guatemala is a signatory. The ILO itself accepted a petition regarding the total lack of consultations, filed in 2005 by a Guatemalan workers' confederation.
We Want Peace, Not Evictions
"The Peace Accords are not being carried out now," confided Alfredo Ical back in Barrio Revolucion. "We are very worried. They offer us evictions. They offer us deceit. That is what we feel."
These collective feelings were prevalent when the ceremony got underway towards midnight, as the residents of Barrio Revolucion gathered around the offerings burning in the fire lit by community elders. A cacophony of prayers poured out into the night, flowing in each of the four cardinal directions. Among the tears and voices of anguish, rage and hope, certain words in Spanish cut through the Q'eqchi' over and over: Police. Soldiers. Eviction. Mining company…
Barrio Revolucion and the other communities will not soon forget the series of evictions carried out on November 12, 2006, and the 8, 9 and 17 of January 2007. Tear gas was fired at unarmed groups of women, men and children. Company employees burnt homes to the ground. In November, no eviction order was presented, while in January one order was used to evict several communities. Soldiers were involved, contravening the Peace Accords, which prohibit Army participation in internal policing activities.
The evictions are not the only thing worrying local residents. Leaders in La Paz expressed deep concern over reports that Skye/CGN has a list with the names of 27 community leaders in the area, including their own. Given the long history of persecution that has accompanied nickel interests in the region, they feel that they have cause for concern. In fact, over the past few years, activists working with the regional environmental organization Association of Friends of Lake Izabal (ASALI) and the indigenous rights organization Defensoría Q'eqchi' have received numerous threats.
Dialogue established between community and company representatives after the evictions in January fell apart after some six encounters in Puerto Barrios facilitated by bishop in the region. No record of the meetings was permitted, nor did the company ever reveal to the community representatives the land deeds it claims to own. The latter grew tired with the proceedings and the lack of any positive outcome. They explained that the company has made many promises – jobs, electricity, houses, animals – but that their struggle has a clear objective: "We want the land."
A Better Future?
Only a few days after the ceremony in Barrio Revolucion, reports were confirmed of yet another round of evictions, scheduled to be carried out on August 9, the International Day of Indigenous Peoples no less. In the end, whether for political reasons or public relations interests, Guatemalan governmental authorities and Canadian mining company Skye Resources suspended the evictions – for now. Instead, the company decided to establish yet another round of dialogue, with professional facilitators.
It remains unclear, however, how even professional facilitators will manage to reconcile the two disparate worlds and the development they envision for this region of eastern Guatemala. On the one hand, indigenous communities continue their struggle for their rights to live on and from the land. On the other, a foreign mining company advances its business plan to extract metals from the land and turn a profit. In fact, Skye Resources may not be the only one with such a plan; Canadian mining company Nichromet and Australian mining giant BHP Billiton have enormous exploration licenses in the region.
"What we can do is try to offer a better future," said Skye Resources CEO Ian Austin at the May 17 shareholders meeting. "They need to move beyond subsistence farming."
"The work that we need is farming," clarified Tomás Chub of Barrio Revolucion. "Just like everyone says, it would be better if the company would just leave."
Today, rain has washed through the ashes that remained from the ceremony in Barrio Revolucion. The community continues to rebuild, home by home. Some 75 families have been cultivating the land and soon the corn will be ready to harvest.
"We know that there are many here who call us invaders, but we are not invading the land. We are recuperating the land that belongs to us," explains Ical. "We are engaged in this struggle for the well-being of our families."
"Barrio Revolucion continues the struggle."
Pobladores de Ayabaca marchan en rechazo a operación de Majaz
Por Frank García. Piura
11 Ago 2007
Agricultores del distrito de Pacaipampa, en Ayabaca (Piura), se movilizaron en contra de la exploración minera que realiza la empresa Majaz, a cargo de proyecto Río Blanco. Los comuneros pidieron que se proteja a los páramos que son bosques donde se genera el agua de los ríos, pues temen verse afectados por las operaciones de la mina.
Asimismo, en la concentración, se exigió al gobierno regional y central que respeten la decisión que tomen las comunidades en la consulta popular del próximo 16 de setiembre. En el plebiscito se consultará a las provincias de Ayabaca y Huancabamba si es que desean sustentar su desarrollo en la minería o en la agricultura.
Por otra parte, especialistas y dirigentes agrarios consultados afirmaron que la firma de un convenio de estabilidad jurídica entre la empresa y el Estado debería darse una vez resuelta la demanda por usurpación de tierras que interpusieron los comuneros de Yanta contra la compañía. Los pobladores aducen que Majaz comenzó a operar sin contar con la autorización de la asamblea comunal. "Tenemos un contrato con una empresa que está de forma ilegal porque no tiene permiso", sostuvo la congresista nacionalista por Piura Marisol Espinoza.
Atentan contra alcalde de San Ignacio
Por Ángela Quino - Radio Marañón
Jaén - Cajamarca, 15/08/2007 (CNR)
El alcalde provincial de San Ignacio (Cajamarca), Carlos Martínez, denunció que, la noche del último martes, siete sujetos armados atentaron contra su vida, cuando se desplazaba a la altura de la localidad de Puerto San Juan. Los hechos ocurrieron hacia las 21:00 horas de ayer, cuando el burgomaestre a San Ignacio procedente de Jaén, en compañía de su resguardo personal y el conductor del vehículo municipal.
Fue en esos momentos que los desconocidos abrieron fuego contra el auto donde viajaba Martínez Solano. Afortunadamente, los ocupantes del vehículo salieron ilesos del episodio tras repeler a sus atacantes.
Empero, la autoridad municipal expresó su extrañeza por el ataque, el cual descartó haya sido obra de meros asaltantes de carretera. "Los delincuentes han estado camuflados. Pero aún así hemos disparado para poder salir del lugar. Es claro que era un atentado directo contra la camioneta de la municipalidad provincial de San Ignacio", comentó.
En ese contexto, el alcalde de San Ignacio dijo que tiene dos hipótesis respecto a los responsables del atentado. La primera, apunta a la empresa minera Majaz SA., toda vez que su cerrada oposición al Proyecto Río Blanco le ha valido ser víctima de reiteradas amenazas. Sin embargo, Carlos Martínez tampoco descartó que el ataque pueda haber sido organizado por los traficantes de madera que operan en la zona.
Cuestionan convenio con minera Majaz
Por Silvia Mori
5 Ago 2007
El Frente por el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Frontera Norte del Perú alzó su voz de protesta contra la decisión del Estado de suscribir un convenio de estabilidad jurídica por diez años con la minera Majaz, cuando todavía no se ha resuelto el conflicto con las comunidades que aseguran que las instalaciones de la mina ocupan ilegalmente sus territorios.
El presidente del referido frente, Carlos Martínez, criticó la actitud del gobierno de pasar por encima de la decisión democrática de los pueblos de realizar una consulta vecinal que determine si desean un modelo de desarrollo que tenga como componente a la minería o si quieren uno agroindustrial que no afecte los pasivos ambientales.
"Es lamentable ver que cuando un pueblo se pronuncia no se le escucha, sino que se le vulnera sus derechos y se expropia sus tierras. Nosotros no vamos a permitir que una mina destruya lo que es nuestro", indicó Martínez.
Por su parte, el coordinador de dicha organización en la provincia de Huancabamba, en Piura, Wilson Ramírez Ibáñez, expresó que no le sorprende que el gobierno negocie con la minera, "pues lo único que le interesa es el dinero. Es claro que desde el Estado la minera Majaz quiere imponer un proyecto de explotación que la población no acepta".
"Desde un principio el gobierno se mostró a favor de la actividad minera, por eso el convenio de estabilidad jurídica no nos extraña", enfatizó el dirigente. Según el ex ministro de Energía y Minas Carlos Herrera Descalzi, la prioridad del gobierno debió orientarse a resolver el conflicto social que existe en la zona, antes de anunciar la firma del convenio que puede llegar a reflejarse en una nueva ola de protestas y enfrentamientos.
"Es evidente que el país afronta problemas de gobernabilidad y esto (la firma del convenio) lo empeora si es que antes no se ha dialogado con las comunidades", sostuvo.
BENEFICIOS. El convenio de estabilidad jurídica garantizaría a la minera Majaz estabilidad del régimen tributario, del Impuesto a la Renta y la estabilidad de los regímenes de contratación de trabajadores.
HUELGA. Los trabajadores sindicalizados de la minera Southern Copper en el Perú anunciaron el inicio de una huelga si no logran un acuerdo salarial con la firma.
Autoridades piuranas acudirán a instancias internacionales por caso Majaz
Lima, 11/08/2007 (CNR)
Los alcaldes de Ayabaca y Huancabamba acudirán a instancias internacionales si es que el Ejecutivo no respalda los resultados de la consulta popular que se llevará a cabo en dichas provincias respecto a la continuidad de la minera Majaz S.A.
"Nosotros acudiremos a los diferentes organismos internacionales para que nos den legitimidad, y poder reclamar a nuestro Gobierno, en caso no se respeten los resultados de la consulta vecinal", sostuvo el alcalde de la municipalidad de El Carmen de la Frontera (Huancabamba), Ismael Huayama.
En entrevista concedida a la Coordinadora Nacional de Radio (CNR), Huayama Neyra emplazó al Gobierno central a respetar los derechos de los piuranos para elegir su modelo de desarrollo y alcanzar el bienestar social.
Así mismo, el burgomaestre aclaró que su localidad era sumamente pacífica, pero que, en la actualidad, atraviesa una serie de divisiones producto de la presencia de la compañía Majaz S.A.
"La situación actual de El Carmen de la Frontera frente a este problema es muy preocupante porque se vienen dando diferentes conflictos sociales entre los propios moradores", subrayó.
Cabe recordar que en El Carmen de la Frontera se ubican las principales reservas cupríferas que Majaz S.A. planea explotar en el marco del Proyecto Río Blanco, usando tecnología de tajo simple. Sin embargo, según los especialistas, dicho método es altamente contaminante cuando se desarrolla en las cercanías de ríos o lagos; peor aún cuando se trata de dos nacientes de cuenca como en este caso.
La contaminación de las nacientes de la cuenca de los ríos Chinchipe y del Quiroz, cuyas aguas se dirigen hacia los océanos Atlántico y Pacífico, respectivamente, representaría una amenaza a los ecosistemas de montaña donde se ubican los bosques de neblina y páramos, que son fuente de agua para las localidades de Segunda y Cajas (Huancabamba) y Yanta (Ayabaca), que utilizan este recurso hídrico para la agricultura y la ganadería, actividades de las que depende su economía.
NO A LA ESTABILIDAD DE LOS ABUSOS PARA MINERA MAJAZ
Comunicado de prensa, Peru
9 de agosto
Las instituciones y personas que suscribimos el presente pronunciamiento, nos dirigimos a la opinión pública para manifestar lo siguiente:
El gobierno está por suscribir un convenio de estabilidad jurídica con Minera Majaz, empresa titular del proyecto Río Blanco. Este convenio:
- Impediría que el estado le aumente impuestos, como puede hacer con nosotros los peruanos.
- Pero si el Estado rebaja impuestos, podrían gozar esa rebaja, porque puede renunciar al convenio.
- Ilegalmente otorgaría estas ventajas sin exigir el mínimo de 2 millones de exportaciones establecido por ley ni que hagan inversiones efectivas en el Perú.
El uso de estos convenios ha sido criticado por diversos organismos internacionales, hasta por el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI).
El proyecto Río Blanco de Minera Majaz:
- No ha sido aceptado por la población.
- Ha sido observado por la Defensoría del Pueblo y por los Registros Públicos, puesto que la empresa minera ocupa ilegalmente tierras que son propiedad de las Comunidades Campesinas de Yanta (Ayabaca) y Segunda y Cajas (Huancabamba). Al respecto, hay denuncias penales por delito de usurpación en curso en el Ministerio Público.
- Tiene un alto riesgo de afectar el medio ambiente, lo que se agravaría, puesto que la empresa minera pretende desarrollar un gran distrito minero sin control, en zonas de páramos y bosques de neblina, ecosistemas frágiles donde nacen las aguas de las cuencas de los ríos Chinchipe (Cajamarca) y Quiróz (Piura).
- Se ha demostrado la pretensión del distrito minero, puesto que las concesiones adyacentes a las de Majaz pertenecen a Minera Mayarí, empresa que es del mismo grupo económico y tiene los mismos directivos.
Frente a ello, en los distritos piuranos de Carmen de la Frontera, Pacaipampa y Ayabaca, se realizará una consulta vecinal el próximo 16 de setiembre para que manifiesten su posición sobre este proyecto minero.
EL GOBIERNO DEBE RESPETAR LA VOLUNTAD DE LOS PUEBLOS QUE SE EXPRESARÁ POR VOTACIÓN UNIVERSAL
Mesa Técnica de Apoyo al caso Majaz
Colectivo Piura Vida y Agro "Godofredo Garcia Baca"
La verdad de Majaz en Huancabamba
10 de agosto, 2007
Por Emilio Camacho
Sin duda, la minera Majaz –que opera en las provincias piuranas de Huancabamba y Ayabaca– es una de las más afortunadas del país. No solo está a punto de firmar un convenio de estabilidad jurídica con el gobierno (que le dará garantías de estabilidad del régimen tributario, del impuesto a la renta, y de los regímenes de contratación de los trabajadores), también ampliaría sus operaciones gracias a una concesión gemela que está inscrita en los Registros Públicos bajo el nombre de uno de sus principales directivos.
Es decir, la empresa no solo tiene una presencia de seis mil hectáreas en Huancabamba, en las que se desarrolla sus exploraciones, sino que controlaría otras quince mil quinientas hectáreas que corresponden a la concesión obtenida por la compañía minera Mayari S.A. Esta empresa –según Registros Públicos– tiene como gerente general a Raymond John Angus, un alto ejecutivo de Monterrico Metals, la casa matriz de Minera Majaz.
Para José de Echave, de la agencia no gubernamental Cooperacción, que un representante de Majaz forme parte de un proyecto más grande en Huancabamba y que esto no se revelara, "es un acto de deshonestidad y de poca transparencia con los comuneros que más de una vez se han sentado a dialogar con la minera".
Lo que para De Echave es un tema ético, para otros como la congresista Marisol Espinoza (PNP) puede dar pie a una investigación a nivel parlamentario.
Según la parlamentaria debe esclarecerse cómo se otorgó la concesión a Mayari, si –de acuerdo con su ficha en Registros Públicos– apenas tiene un capital de mil soles. "Cómo se le puede entregar una concesión tan importante a una empresa que debería demostrar solvencia para realizar sus operaciones. Nadie sabe qué experiencia tienen en exploración y explotación", dijo.
Javier Jahncke, coordinador de la Mesa Técnica de Apoyo al caso Majaz, exhortó a las autoridades del sector Minería a esclarecer la situación en la que opera Majaz en Huancabamba, pues según los pobladores de las zonas aledañas al complejo minero su presencia es ilegal. En opinión de Jahncke, Majaz debe explicar cómo hizo para obtener la aprobación de su evaluación ambiental si no tenía la autorización de las comunidades.
Objetaron su inscripción
El 26 de junio de este año la Superintendencia Nacional de Registros Públicos (Sunarp) rechazó el pedido de Majaz para que se reconociera legalmente su presencia en la comunidad de Yanta, bajo la modalidad de servidumbre minera.
Según la Sunarp, la minera Coripacha, antigua operadora en Yanta, no transfirió su derecho de servidumbre a Majaz, motivo por el cual la minera debe llegar a un nuevo entendimiento con la comunidad.
Sunarp señaló otro camino a Majaz: obtener la servidumbre legal ante el Ministerio de Energía, con el debido procedimiento administrativo.
Ismael Huayama, alcalde de Carmen de la Frontera, distrito adyacente al campamento de Majaz, ratificó que este 16 de setiembre habrá una consulta popular sobre las actividades de la minera.
Asesinan a minero cerca de empresa de Grupo México: sindicato
12 de agosto, 2007 - AFP
"Murió asesinado un minero por exigir sus derechos laborales", dijo el Sindicato de mineros de México en un comunicado.
México, DF. Un minero mexicano fue asesinado la noche del sábado en las cercanías de una empresa filial del Grupo México, en un enfrentamiento a balazos que el Sindicato de mineros adjudica a personal del consorcio, el cual tiene tres de sus subsidiarias en huelga.
"Murió asesinado un minero por exigir sus derechos laborales", dijo el Sindicato de mineros de México en un comunicado. Sin embargo, "la empresa se deslinda completamente de estos hechos violentos", respondió la firma.
Los hechos se registraron la noche del sábado cuando un grupo de obreros, que habían sido despedidos por la empresa Mexicana de cobre, filial del Grupo México en el estado de Sonora, acudieron a las instalaciones del consorcio para dialogar con sus compañeros que aún trabajan allí.
"Cuando llegaron, varios camiones con el logotipo de la empresa se plantaron frente a ellos, porros que fueron bajando de los camiones de Grupo México los recibieron a pedradas y poco después se escucharon ráfagas de fuego", explicó el despacho del sindicato.
De su lado, la firma aseguró en un comunicado que "un grupo de personas armadas" ajenas a la empresa atacaron sus instalaciones con el "posible propósito de parar las actividades en la mina".
"Tras huir, una persona fallecida es hallada en los vehículos" que abandonó el grupo de hombres, añadió Grupo México.
Tanto el Sindicato de mineros como la empresa se responsabilizan mutuamente de los hechos en el marco de un conflicto laboral que ha paralizado a tres de las 11 minas de la firma desde el 30 de julio.
Más de 3 mil mineros mexicanos, la mitad de ellos de la mina de Cananea, la más antigua de América del Norte, ubicada en el estado de Sonora, se mantienen desde entonces en huelga en demanda de mejores condiciones salariales, de higiene y seguridad. Grupo México, el tercer productor mundial de cobre, dijo la semana pasada que el paro le ha ocasionado pérdidas por 3.7 millones de dólares diarios.
Grupo Mexico despide a 2.176 trabajadores
11/8/2007 - http://www.elperiodico.com
La compañía minera mexicana Grupo México, tercer productor mundial de cobre, ha despedido a 2.176 empleados de los más de 3.000 trabajadores que llevaban 10 días en una huelga no anunciada ante las autoridades laborales.
Un representante de la empresa adujo que si una huelga está declarada oficialmente inexistente y los trabajadores a pesar de ello no acuden a trabajar en las próximas 24 horas se puede declarar extinguida la relación laboral. Por contra, el sindicato de mineros consideró sin efecto esta medida ya que, aunque la junta de arbitraje nombrada para mediar en la huelga la declaró inexistente el miércoles, los huelguistas obtuvieron un amparo de un juez contra esta decisión.
El paro se inició el 30 de julio en las minas de la compañía Minera México en la unidad Taxco (sur), especializada en plata; Mexicana de Cananea (noroeste), que opera desde 1899 y con una producción de 605.660 toneladas métricas de cobre en 2006, y la Unidad San Martín, en Zacatecas (noroeste), de donde se extrae oro y plata.
CARAVANA NACIONAL E INTERNACIONAL POR LA RESISTENCIA DE LA PEQUEÑA MINERÍA
14 de agosto, 2007
Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad - www.redcolombia.org
Las comunidades mineras del Sur de Bolívar y Nariño, los indígenas y afrodescendientes del Norte del Cauca y Chocó junto a los indígenas de Risaralda, han empezado a encontrarse para confrontar e intercambiar sus problemáticas a partir de la Audiencia minera celebrada el 11 de Noviembre 2006 en Medellín en el marco del Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos, capítulo Colombia.
Desde este encuentro se entendió el carácter nacional del conflicto que se viene presentando entre las comunidades mineras y la empresa AngloGold Ashanti y se ha iniciado una serie de reuniones en la búsqueda de solución al problema con la multinacional y por la defensa y permanencia en el territorio.
El pasado 23 y 24 de julio de 2007, las comunidades de Nariño, Cauca, Huila, Risaralda, Antioquia y Sur de Bolívar, reunidas en el primer Encuentro Nacional Agrominero Interétnico han reiterado su oposición a la presencia de las multinacionales en territorio colombiano y a la legislación vigente, construyendo caminos de lucha para la defensa y la permanencia en el territorio y el desarrollo artesanal de la pequeña minería.
La Caravana Minera
La Caravana Minera es una iniciativa que reúne a líderes pertenecientes a comunidades mineras de diferentes partes del país (Nariño, Chocó, Cauca, Bolívar, Risaralda), cuyos territorios han sido solicitados por la multinacional AngloGold Ashanti -Kedahda- para exploración o explotación. La Caravana hará un recorrido por varias regiones a nivel nacional, que están siendo afectadas por los intereses de la multinacional.
La Caravana tiene como objetivo visibilizar al interior y exterior de Colombia la problemática minera, los atropellos físicos y legislativos con los cuales la ETN viene expandiendo su dominio. Así mismo, fortalecer el movimiento contra la gran minería y defender la permanencia de las comunidades en sus territorios.
La Caravana estará compuesta a nivel nacional por dos líderes de Cauca, Bolívar, Risaralda, Chocó y Nariño, y por miembros de países involucrados económica o legalmente con la actividad de Kedahda. Por esto a nivel internacional participarán compañeros de Inglaterra, Estados Unidos, Canadá e Italia.
La Caravana saldrá de Bogotá el 17 de agosto y terminará el 4 de septiembre en Nariño. La Caravana será unitaria para permitir a todos los participantes conocer los diferentes lugares y situaciones en torno al problema minero y favorecer el conocimiento y coordinación entre comunidades y su articulación en el movimiento contra la gran minería.
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