MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Response to the Canadian Ambassador from the MadreSelva Collective: Mining in Guatemala

Published by MAC on 2004-11-05

Response to the Canadian Ambassador from the MadreSelva Collective: Mining in Guatemala, by Magali Rey Rosa

Prensa Libre

November 5, 2004

The debate over mining should focus on the impacts of this activity. Rather than comparing a southern country with a northern country, the debate should address the reality of the situation in Guatemala.

Yesterday, on this same page, the Canadian Ambassador, James Lambert, wrote an article in which he examines the experience of mining in his country. While the article is interesting, I do not think that it is appropriate to compare a country like Canada with a country like Guatemala.

In the first place, if we look at the size and population of both countries, Canada has more than 9 million square kilometers of surface, while Guatemala has a little less than 100 thousand square kilometers. The population of Canada is 31 million and that of Guatemala is 11 million. (2002) This means that Canada has 3 inhabitants per square kilometer, while Guatemala has more than 100 inhabitants per square kilometer.

Canada occupies third place amongst countries with the highest human development index; Guatemala places 121st . The deforestation of Canada is 0.1 % annually, in Guatemala it is approximately 10% annually.

In Canada, the indigenous population is 1.5%, in Guatemala, it is more than 50%.

We can say that Canada is a large, sparsely populated country with a small indigenous population, where most people live well.

Guatemala is a small, densely populated country, with a large indigenous population, where most people live badly. We could also include data on justice and impunity, education, access to healthcare services, etc, but I believe that I have made it clear that the differences between the two countries are profound, on many levels, and that it is thus not appropriate to attempt to compare them.

According to the United Nations, the increase in investment in mining industries has had a huge negative impact on the lifestyle of local communities around the world. Guatemalan communities who are opposed to mining in their area are aware of this reality. The survey published yesterday in the Prensa Libre testifies clearly to this.

I understand that one of the responsibilities of an ambassador is to look after the investments of companies from his country and therefore, as many of the transnational mining companies are based on Canadian capital, Mr. Lambert took the time to write an article on this issue.

But I believe that it is the responsibility of Guatemalans to ensure that the appropriate evaluations are carried out, because our country and our future are at stake. The debate over mining should focus on the impacts of this activity and should take the national (Guatemalan) reality in account rather than comparing a southern country with a northern country.

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