MAC: Mines and Communities

Guatemalan Constitutional Court Upholds Environmental Consults

Published by MAC on 2006-04-05

Guatemalan Constitutional Court Upholds Environmental Consults

by Sonia Pérez, Guatemala

5th April 2006

The Guatemalan Constitutional Court (CC) upheld the popular referendums carried out in Río Hondo, Zacapa and in Sipacapa, San Marcos in which the residents voted against the installation of a hydroelectric dam and a mining project. Mining company Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A., subsidary of Canadian Glamis Gold Ltd (, had asked for a restraining motion with the argument that the referendums were illegal because they weren't carried out in proper time. However, the Court definatively denied the motion, basing their decision in Agreement 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) concerning indigeneous persons in independent countries.

Thirteen townships of Sipacapa carried out referendums on June 18 of 2005, despite legal efforts to prevent them. The result was a rejection of the mining project in this territory. At least 2,600 residents partipated in the referendum, of which 11 townships voted against the mining company, one in favor, and one abstention. The ruling of the CC also upheld the popular consult held on June 3 2005 in Río Hondo, Zacapa against a hydroelectric project. In this referendum 2,800 residents participated, voting against the project.

"I believe that the Court`s ruling will return faith in institutions to the citizens, and that there are still decent people in this country," said Magaly Rey Rosa, environmental activist. "The ruling shows that the people of Sipacapa and Río Hondo are correct, and through the courts one can obtain justice," she commented.

"Guatemala has an incipient democracy, and with this ruling it remains clear that law prevails, and collective interests prevail over particular interests," said Mario Tema, campesino leader from Sipacapa. "Sipacapa said NO to the mining and exploitation, and as a result, they must respect this," he said.

"Still we haven't been notified of a ruling. We asked for the restraining motion, we don't know the result," said Milton Saravia, general manager of Montana. Saravia stated that the company would carry out a careful study of the resolution before stating their position.

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