OPEN LETTER TO:
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GUATEMALA
THE MINISTER OF ENERGY AND MINES
THE PRESIDENT OF SKYE RESOURCES/COMPAÑÍA GUATEMALTECA DE NÍQUEL, S.A.
We, the elected and appointed representatives of twenty Q’eqchi’ Mayan communities located in the township of El Estor in the department of Izabal and in the township of Panzós in the department of Alta Verapaz, gathered in El Estor on the day 7 B’e of our Mayan calendar, August 12, 2005
- In August 1965, the government of Guatemala granted to Exploraciones y Explotaciones Mineras de Izabal, EXMIBAL, a concession to mine nickel in an area of nearly 400 square kilometres, for a period of forty years. The mining project was abandoned by EXMIBAL in 1981, but in December 2004 the soon to expire concessions were returned to the government in exchange for new exploration mining licenses in the same area for a period of three years. Also, the Canadian owner of EXMIBAL changed the company’s name to Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, CGN.
- The granting of the new mining licenses was never consulted with our Q’eqchi’ Mayan communities and in repeated occasions we have declared our rejection of the reactivation of open pit nickel mining in our territory. Therefore, we support the representation claim lodged with the International Labour Organization that charges that the new licenses were granted illegally thereby violating our rights guaranteed in Convention 169.
- During the last six months we have dialogued with representatives of CGN in numerous meetings to explain our opposition to its exploration activities that endanger our crops and food security, our sources of water, our natural environment and our identity as Q’eqchi’ Mayans.
- Despite an agreement with the company to support a project of land titling and registry in the area of the mining licenses where our communities are located, CGN continues to pressure the Las Nubes community to renounce its rights so that its lands can be explored by the company.
- In the area of Cahaboncito in Alta Verapaz, without previous notice, CGN has repossessed lands that have been rented for decades by several communities, eliminating their chances to grow corn. Also, the exploration activities are already contaminating our rivers and creeks, harming our families for the lack of clean water.
- The exploration activities already have caused an increase in deforested areas. In the past several days, massive fish and aquatic bird kills have been reported in Lake Izabal close to the company’s plant.
THEREFORE, WE DEMAND
- The immediate suspension of the illegally granted license and of all of CGN’s mining exploration activity in the territory of the Q’eqchi’ Mayan communities affected by the mining project.
- The repair of the damages caused by exploration activities, planting of trees and reintroduction of lost species, to be paid for by CGN. Also, the areas devastated by the previous mining project must be returned to their original natural state and given to Q’eqchi’ Mayan communities. The abandoned compounds should be granted to institutions or organizations committed to fostering education, health and community development in the region.
- The company not to continue misleading, dividing and intimidating our communities.
- The land titling and registry project be advanced in the communal lands in our townships; and in the meantime, the historical land boundaries established by the Q’eqchi’ Mayan communities be respected until final legal title is granted to them.
The document contains the signatures and seals of the communities of Nueva Sacarila, Rubelpec, Sarabia Chacalte Lote 2, La Caoba, Selich, Agua Caliente Lote 9, Chinamocooch, Las Nubes, Sacarila, Santo Domingo, Sechina Lote 15, Nueva Jerusalém, Río Sauce Sexán, Rubelhu, and Agua Caliente Lote 4 in El Estor; and Lagarto, Santa María, Quebrada Seca, Cahaboncito Lote 8, Caquiha Lote 7 and Taquinco Searanx in Panzós.