PBI-Guatemala accompanies Peaceful Resistance of La Puya at dialogue with state on World Bank arbitration process

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On July 16, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya in dialogue with state institutions in the framework of international arbitration process driven by the company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates.”

Brief timeline and context of trade agreement arbitration

In March 2012 residents from San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc – an area known as La Puya, just north of Guatemala City – set up a 24-hour a day blockade at the entrance of the Vancouver-based Radius Gold Inc. El Tambor mine.

By August 2012, the Canadian company sold El Tambor to US-based Kappes, Cassiday & Associates, but retained an economic interest in the mine (including quarterly royalty payments on the gold production from the mine).

On May 23, 2014, after two years of peaceful struggle, the communities in resistance to the mine were violently evicted by the police.

By February 2016, the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya won a Guatemalan Supreme Court ruling that provisionally suspended the mining licence because there had not been prior consultation with affected communities, as is required under Guatemalan and international law, in particular the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169.

Even after their eviction in 2014 and the court ruling in 2016, members of La Puya continued a 24-hour presence in opposition to the mine.

Then in December 2018, Kappes, Cassiday & Associates filed a $300 million claim with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a World Bank arbitration mechanism, claiming its investor rights under the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) had been violated.

On May 21, 2021, the court suspension on the mine imposed in 2016 was lifted, but authorization for the mine to begin operation has not been granted.

At that time, Prensa Comunitaria reported: “[The Peaceful Resistance] reaffirms its commitment to peaceful struggle for the defense of life and natural goods and territory.”

“Faced with this situation, they call on the population, to be vigilant in the face of any action by the mining company, which may give evidence of continued exploitation, since the operating licence remains suspended.”

On June 21, 2021, according to the World Bank ICSID website, “The Tribunal [hearing the claim] issued Procedural Order No. 7 concerning confidentiality matters.”

Commenting on the arbitration process last summer, PBI-Guatemala noted: “The Peaceful Resistance is forming legal alliances and solidarity across national and international organizations and groups. …Their objective is to make their voices heard in this exclusionary procedure and to create an antecedent that favors, not only the Resistance itself, but many other community processes that defend land, territory and water against projects which exploit natural resources. In this way they seek to prevent supranational arbitration processes from becoming the Trojan horse of mining and extractive companies.”

We continue to follow this situation closely.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya since November 2012.

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