Protest outside Glamis Gold’s February 8 Special Annual Meeting in Vancouver. Photo courtesy Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
Canadian mining investment has been implicated in the violation of human rights and indigenous rights as well as environmental problems at Glamis Gold’s Marlin mine project in San Marcos in the western highlands of Guatemala. The project is operated by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Glamis, Montana Exploradora. It has been the focus of protests and violent repression by the Guatemalan government and now private security contractors and anonymous actors as well.
Guatemala’s struggle towards peace and democracy hinges on the implementation of the 1996 peace accords, which among other things recognised the existence and rights of the Mayan peoples by including the ratification of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries number 169 (often just referred to as “ILO 169”). The Convention recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to be consulted wherever development projects might affect them or their lands, sacred sites, and resource use.
Mayan and campesino (peasant or farmers) groups have been supported by the Catholic Church
Construction of Glamis Gold’s Marlin mine project in Guatemala. Photo courtesy Centro de Acción para el Desarrollo y el Derecho.
and environmental groups in opposing both the government’s granting of mining concessions without consulting the affected communities (mostly Mam and Sipacapense Maya) and the Marlin project itself. Glamis has received a $45 million (US) loan from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation for the Marlin project despite serious concerns over the concession process, the lack of consultation, and the potential for serious environmental damage from the mine itself. The Canadian Ambassador has been very vocal in publicly supporting the mining industry while dismissing any concerns that might be raised.
MadreSelva, a Guatemalan environmental group, commissioned independent hydrogeologist Robert Moran to review the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment. His report shows shocking inadequacies in the EIA as well as a refusal by the company to provide any further information or cooperate with his investigation in any way. The report is available as a PDF in English and Spanish.
While the Church, indigenous groups and environmental and campesino organisations have tried to engage the Guatemalan government and the World Bank in discussions on how to meet the requirements of ILO 169 and accommodate the communities’ needs in any development proposal, the government has responded with force.
Watching “development”: Marlin mine project in Guatemala. Photo courtesy Centro de Acción para el Desarrollo y el Derecho.
On January 11 the Guatemalan army and police attacked a blockade set up by the peasants of Sololá to prevent a pedestrian overpass from being dismantled to allow equipment to be transported to the mine. Protestor Raúl Castro Bocel was killed. The incident is still under investigation and there have been no arrests.
In response to this incident, as well as Glamis’ continuing pursuit of a $50 million claim against the US Government under Chapter 11 provisions of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement for not allowing it to mine on land sacred to the Quechan Indian tribe of California, Indigenous and non-indigenous solidarity groups picketed Glamis Gold’s special annual meeting on February 9. Photos and background can be found at the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs web site. The protestors handed out a flyer: Failure to Disclose Material Risk: Are you aware of how Glamis Gold Limited operates in Central America? Is your investment truly "Low Risk"?
More recently, on March 13, Álvaro Benigno Sanchez, a critic of the Marlin project, was shot dead by an employee of the Grupo Golan company providing “security” for the Marlin project while leaving a choral concert in the parish church of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos. Despite eyewitnesses having identified the attackers no arrests have been made. The victim was 23 years old, and leaves behind a pregnant wife and a 3 year old infant. Rights Action is collecting money to help the victim’s family.
On March 25, in Sololá, Carlos Humberto Guarquez, prominent member of indigenous rights group Fundación Maya, local mayor Dominga Vásquez, and her husband, journalist Alfonso Guarquez, received death threats in an apparent effort to intimidate them into dropping their opposition to the Marlin mine. Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action alert on this case. For details see Death Threats Against Community Leaders Opposing Glamis Gold in Guatemala.