Nine years ago, faced with threats posed by mining operations, communities in southeastern Guatemala organized a municipal consultation in the town of Mataquescuintla. The question was simple — do residents want mining? — and the answer was clear. Over 98% of participants expressed firm opposition to mining activities in the area.
Four years later, on November 27, 2016, residents in the nearby municipality of San Carlos Alzatate held a similar consultation with the same results. Nearly 99% said ‘NO’ to mining.
Along with other municipalities in the area, the residents of Mataquescuintla and San Carlos Alzatate have had to contend with the presence of the Canadian-owned Escobal mine ever since Goldcorp was granted an exploration licence in 2007. The mine was brought into production despite widespread opposition under the ownership of Tahoe Resources, who has since sold the project to Vancouver-based Pan American Silver. Affected communities were never asked if they wanted a mine before it was imposed, but have faced significant consequences for their opposition. Their municipalities have been militarized, while several leaders have been criminalized, attacked and even murdered.
Community-organized consultations are powerful displays of citizen participation, democracy, and community self-determination. Each year, the residents of Mataquescuintla and San Carlos Alzatate join neighbouring municipalities who have also carried out consultations on mining in celebrating the anniversary and marking another year of sustained struggle. MiningWatch joins other Canadian and U.S. organizations in expressing our solidarity with their continued resistance — it is a bright light in the fight to protect life, land, and Xinka rights.