PBI-Guatemala visits ongoing La Puya blockade camp at entrance to open-pit gold mine

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On February 13, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Yesterday we visited the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya camp, composed of 12 communities of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo, which has been maintained for 8 years in front of the entrance of the Progreso VII Derivada mine.”

“In 2016, the CC [Constitutional Court] resolved an amparo [a remedy for the protection of constitutional rights] of the resistance by ordering the temporary closure of mining work due to lack of prior, free and informed consultation of the affected populations.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “Currently, the Resistance is awaiting the arbitration ruling dealt with by the International Center for Investment Dispute Arrangements (ICSID) on the complaint that Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) filed against the Guatemalan State following the resolution of the CC [Constitutional Court].”

Further context

Residents from the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc – an area known as La Puya – have been fighting against the Progreso VII Derivada-El Tambor mine located just north of Guatemala City since March 2010.

In 2012, the non-governmental organization Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA explained, “La Puya started, as many great movements do, with a single act of civil disobedience.”

“A woman, concerned by the sudden arrival of a gold mining operation in her community, decided to park her car sidewise across a dusty, rural road, stopping a convoy of massive mining machinery in its tracks. Others quickly joined her, taking a stand in defense of their water supply, farmland, health and environment.”

“This impromptu roadside gathering of community members became, essentially, a human roadblock, preventing tractors, dump trucks and other equipment from entering the Tambor mine site. Over time, the roadblock grew into the resistance movement known as La Puya.”

The mine is owned by Reno-based Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA).

The Peaceful Resistance of La Puya has stated, “[The environmental impact assessment] shows that the gold and silver are contained in arsenopyrite rock, which contains high levels of arsenic. Levels of arsenic in the water increased considerably during the time the mine was in operation.”

In July 2015, a Guatemalan court ruled in favour of La Puya, ordering EXMINGUA – the Guatemalan subsidiary of KCA – to suspend all activities at the mine until a community consultation was held. Then in February 2016, the Guatemalan Supreme Court ruled to provisionally suspend the mining licence due to a lack of prior consultation.

In December 2018, KCA filed a $300 million claim with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a World Bank arbitration mechanism.

The company cites community protests and unjust treatment by the state as a violation of the terms of the Free Trade Agreement between the Dominican Republic, Central America and the United States.

The El Tambor mine was previously owned by Vancouver-based Radius Gold.

The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) has highlighted, “Although Radius Gold sold its shares in the local Guatemalan subsidiary Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. (EXMINGUA) to KCA in August 2012, it retains an economic interest in the mine.”

NISGUA notes, “The company’s 2013 audited financial statements state that three quarters of the cost of the sale transaction will be paid to Radius once gold shipments commence from the property and that Radius also anticipates quarterly payments from KCA based on gold production.”

PBI-Guatemala began providing accompaniment to the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya in November 2012.

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