33 Guatemalan Municipalities Give Thumbs Down to Mining



Date of publication: 
25 February 2009

GUATEMALA CITY – The 500,000 residents of 33 municipalities in western Guatemala expressed their opposition on Tuesday to the possible granting of mining licenses in their communities. The position of the area’s overwhelmingly Indian population was conveyed by the Council of the Peoples of the West, which includes communities in the provinces of Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, Totonicapan, Solola, Quiche and Huehuetenango.

In the community referendums conducted, residents said “No” overwhelmingly to mining projects, council members Milton Santos and Mario Lopez said in a press conference. “We don’t want to see anybody in our communities, because the people’s consent was not taken into account in granting the licenses,” Santos said.

Lopez, for his part, said mining exploration and production violated the rights of the people.

Opponents say mining causes both environmental and economic harm to rural communities.

The congressional Energy and Mines Committee voted on Jan. 22 in favor of a bill that seeks to overhaul Guatemala’s mining legislation. Congress, according to lawmaker Rosa Maria de Frade, is looking at providing tax breaks to foreign companies and eliminating the process of consulting with communities on potential mining projects.

The Catholic bishop of San Marcos, Alvaro Ramazzini, expressed his opposition at the press conference to mining exploration and production in Guatemala.

Ramazzini said he was “concerned” that a favorable vote was given to the pro-mining bill without taking into account community opposition. Since 2005, 21 Indian communities in Guatemala have voted in referendums to block mining in their respective territories.

In each of those cases, however, the central government simply ignored the results, giving foreign mining companies approval to press ahead with the projects.