June 21, 2008
Goldcorp: Occupation and Resistance in Guatemala (and Beyond)
By Dawn Paley, Originally published in her blog in The Dominion, June 21, 2008
Goldcorp Inc.'s Marlin mine in Guatemala has been a hotbed of controversy since locals became aware of the presence of the company (then Glamis Gold) in their municipalities.
Adding weight to the resistance to the mine is a ruling made public on June 9th by the Constitutional Court in Guatemala, which has found eight Articles (or sections thereof) of the Mining Law to be unconstitutional. (fulltext of the ruling in pdf format).
Among the Articles deemed unconstitutional are 19 and 20, which allow mining activities to start while the corresponding paperwork is still being processed, Articles 21, 24 and 27, which allow mining activity to take place to unlimited depths of the subsurface, Article 75, which allows mining companies to discharge water from their tailings pond directly into surface water, as well as Articles 81 and 86.
Goldcorp has refused to comment on the ruling, as they are in this case unable to use their regular discourse about the importance of the rule of law."
Lawyers and environmentalists in Guatemala hopethat the ruling will prevent Goldcorp from discharging untreated waterfrom the tailings pond at the Marlin Mine (pictured) into local rivers, which the company had planned to begin doing in the next few months.
¡Viva la Consulta Comunitaria, Bajo la Represión!
The municipality of Sipakapa, a Mayan Sipakapense community, held a consulta (community referendum) three years ago this month, rejecting the activities and presence of the company and open pit mining in their territory.
Since the 2005 consulta in Sipakapa, more than 20 other municipalities that have been concessioned in the Guatemalan highlands have held pre-emptive consulta proceses, most recently in Tajamulco.
The consulta was undermined in a 2007 ruling by Guatemala's Constitutional Court -a product of an unconstitutionality suit filed by Glamis Gold against the validity of the consulta- that ruled that the consulta in Sipakapa was legal, but not binding.
The people of Sipakapa have brought their case in favour of the validity of the consulta to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights based in Washington DC. Thus far, the case has been accepted by the court.
In San Miguel Ixtahuacan, a Mayan Mam community consisting of about 45,000 inhabitants, a consulta is expected to take place in the next few months.
Repression by national and private "security forces" has been particularly harsh in San Miguel Ixtahuacan. A Sipakapense man was killed by mine "security" in 2005.
Police entered the community of Ajel in San Miguel Ixtahuacán last week and sprayed tear gas at women, children and men who were peacefully protesting because they "do not want the mining company or the presence of electrical wires and transformers to service the mine in their territories."
"It's all the same struggle"
North-South solidarity has brought the issues connected to the Marlin mine, and to large scale, open pit mining more generally, to light in Canada over the last few years.
Dustin Johnson, from the Gisbutwada (Killer Whale Clan) of the Tsimshian Nation, stated at a recent event in Vancouver held in support of the communities in resistance in Guatemala that "People see the value in this because their struggle in Mexico, their struggle in Guatemala, in Northern BC, in Northern Alberta, it's all the same struggle."
Protests and events with guest speakers from Guatemala and Honduras wereorganized in Toronto on May 20th, to coincide with Goldcorp's Annual General Meeting.
Dawn Paley is a freelance investigative journalist based in Canada. She has worked extensively with communities resisting large-scale mining projects throughout Latin America.