Blog Entry

Communities Defend Public Health Against Mining and COVID-19 in Guatemala

The peaceful resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa, and Jutiapa in southeastern Guatemala has struggled since 2010 to defend the health of their communities from the Escobal mine. Since June 2017, they have maintained a 24-hour roadside encampment to prevent traffic from reaching the mine site, which halted operations shortly before Guatemalan courts ordered the mine suspended.

Consistent with their defence of community health and in response to heightened government measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19, including a daily curfew from 4PM to 4AM, the peaceful resistance decided over the weekend to temporarily disband the encampment in Casillas until the risk of infection has diminished.

It is with sadness that we have decided to dismantle the peaceful resistance in Casillas, due to the severity of the pandemic and the risks to groups travelling to and from their communities to the encampment for their shifts. We thank everyone who has accompanied us, and we will return with even greater strength,” said Moises Divas, Indigenous Xinka leader and Director of the Diocesan Committee in Defence of Nature.

Vancouver-based Pan American Silver, owner of the suspended Escobal mine, has made statements about suspended or reduced operations in Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru in light of the public health crisis. However, the company has been silent with regard to its activities in Guatemala.

In a public statement, the Xinka Parliament emphasized that communities would remain vigilant to any attempts by the company to transport materials to the mine site or otherwise take advantage of the public health crisis to advance its project.

In support of the peaceful resistance, organizations from Canada and the US have written to Pan American Silver to demand a halt to all activities in Guatemala. They are calling on the company to refrain from any efforts to reopen the Escobal mine, including work in the communities, at the mine, or with government authorities.

So far, the company has responded with a standardized statement, saying that ongoing care and maintenance at the Escobal mine continues and that the company will comply with government restrictions.

We will continue to update on reports coming from the communities and with follow up actions as needed. Read the original statement by the Xinka Parliament in Spanish, attached.

Authors: Earthworks – Institute for Policy Studies' Global Economy Project – MiningWatch Canada