Guatemalans say no to BC gold mines
The struggles of Guatemalans against the open-pit mining practices of Canadian mining companies continue unabated, despite lack of resources and lack of support from the Guatemalan government.
This past Friday, a group of Canadian and Guatemalan activists came together to discuss the environmental and social problems caused by BC mining companies in Guatemala.
From the vantage point of the city square, it's impossible to tell that San Miguel Ixtahuacán is at the centre of Guatemala's mining boom. A couple of vendors sell chicken, fries and pop, but most of the stands are empty, many of the businesses are closed and broken windows dot the municipal hall.
Just 20 kilometres away by dirt roads lies the Marlin project, "one of the first modern mining investments in Guatemala in years," according to Goldcorp Inc., the Vancouver-based company that owns the mine. Previously owned by Glamis Gold, and now property of Goldcorp, the Marlin project is a precedent-setting gold mining project in Guatemala.
Goldcorp is the third largest gold producer in North America, with properties in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, the U.S. and Australia. Goldcorp's fully owned subsidiary Montana Exploradora is leading the pack of companies cashing in on the mining boom that has swept across Guatemala since the mining code was changed to favour foreign direct investment in 1997.
Guatemala's appeal to global mining interests has much to do with the fact that here royalties from mineral extraction are only one per cent, shared between the state and the affected municipality. A project the size of the Marlin project operating in Canada would be subject to a royalty fee of 13 per cent of total production.
In addition to royalties, the Marlin project today means a couple hundred jobs in the region and Goldcorp has plans to greatly expand what is already a $298 million Cdn operation.
But a backlash has set in against the project. Local residents have voted overwhelmingly against expansion, and say indigenous farmers were left in the dark about the business dealings transforming their region. A protester against the mine was killed by military police while helping to blockade a road. And a recently released report of toxic runoff only bolsters the view of community leaders who say the project hasn't delivered the benefits, economic and otherwise, that would earn support for the big next push.