Rights Action – MiningWatch Canada
[Note: we now know that Miguel Tzorín Tuy was not killed but only seriously injured and eventually recovered.]
(Toronto/Ottawa) Canadian non-governmental organisations are denouncing actions by the Guatemalan military and police that yesterday left two people dead in an effort to allow construction to proceed at Canadian mining company Glamis Gold's Marlin mine in western Guatemala.
Rights Action and MiningWatch Canada are calling for an immediate suspension of construction at the Marlin project so that the concerns of the local people can be addressed. They are also calling for a full investigation into the use of force to end a road blockade that had been preventing the transport of equipment to the mine.
Information has been difficult to get since the Guatemalan government has sealed off the area, but according to the Coordinadora Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas (Guatemalan National Council of Farmers Organizations - CNOC), Raúl Castro Bocel and Miguel Tzorín Tuy were killed yesterday - and many more injured - when the Guatemalan police and military took action to end the blockade, which had been in place since December 3, 2004.
“In the face of this tragedy, it is clear that Glamis must suspend operations at the Marlin site until a proper consultation process can be put in place to address the communities' concerns,” said Jamie Kneen, Latin America Program Coordinator of Ottawa-based MiningWatch Canada. “The mining concessions were improperly granted and this project was started, without adequate consultation with the affected communities, and the result has been widespread and growing opposition.”
According to Grahame Russell, Coordinator of Rights Action (a Canadian organisation with offices in Toronto and Guatemala City), “This repression was waiting to happen. The red flags were there since the beginning, but the company, the Canadian government, and the World Bank have been content to let it happen. The communities and the Guatemalan organisations have always said they needed to be consulted.” Russell adds that the deaths must be investigated if there is to be any sense of justice. “There needs to be a full investigation into how this happened, who gave the orders, and who knew what was going on.”
Daniel Vogt, President of the Asociación Estoreña Para el Desarrollo Integral (AEPDI) in El Estor, Guatemala, is concerned the violence will continue. “As long as the rights of the communities are not respected and they do not feel they have been properly consulted, the protests will continue, and if the government continues its hard line then these tragic deaths may not be the last.”
The Marlin mine project has a history of conflict with the local population, mostly Indigenous Maya (Mam and Sipacapense). It has been supported by the Canadian ambassador to Guatemala, James Lambert, notably in a November 4, 2004 op-ed in the Guatemalan Prensa Libre. It also has the backing of the World Bank. The private sector lending arm of the World Bank Group, the International Finance Corporation, has provided a $45 million loan to Glamis Gold for the Marlin project. In May 2004, Guatemalan organisations, supported by international organisations, called on the World Bank Group to delay a decision on its support of the Marlin mine in order to allow time for a number of outstanding issues to be resolved. The Guatemalan groups argued that more consultation was necessary and that large segments of the local population did not support the project. Instead, the World Bank Group approved the project on schedule in June 2004. The Bank argued that “the project enjoys the significant support of the local indigenous communities,” and that consultations with the local population had been adequate.
Glamis Gold is registered as a Canadian company, though it is headquartered in Reno, Nevada. It trades on both the Toronto (GLG:TO) and New York (NYSE:GLG) stock exchanges. It has had environmental and community relations problems at its mines in Honduras, where its San Martin mine has caused problems with relocation of local farmers and water contamination, and the USA, where its Marigold mine in Nevada has created substantial contaminant plumes under leaking tailings impoundments and waste rock dumps that are not being remediated. The plumes are moving toward the Humboldt River and drinking water supplies.
In addition to the tax advantages that come with registering in Canada, Glamis has also taken advantage of its Canadianness to file a claim against the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In July 2003 Glamis filed a Notice of Intent under Chapter 11 of NAFTA of a US$50 million claim against the United States for actions taken by the state of California intended to protect the environment and indigenous communities from the impacts of open-pit mining. The claim was submitted to arbitration in December, 2003. The company argues that it deserves compensation for the laws' impacts on its mining project in California's Imperial Valley.
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• Background summary of the situation prepared by Daniel Vogt, AEPDI
• Statement regarding yesterday’s events issued by the Coordinadora Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas (CNOC)
• Declaration of the Mayan National Congress: “Mining Licences in Mayan Territory: Yet Another Form of Foreign Invasion”, Iximché Junlaju Ajmaq y Kab’laju Noj (November 29-30, 2004)
• Background report from Sandra Cuffe of Rights Action
• Translations of several background newspaper articles.
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Rights Action (Canadian Rights Action Foundation) is a tax-charitable organization that funds, supports and works with community based development and human rights organizations in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, and educates about global development and human rights issues.