PBI-Guatemala accompanies 11th anniversary of blockade that began against Vancouver-based Radius Gold owned mine

Published by Brent Patterson on

On March 5, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“#PBI accompanies the Peaceful Resistance La Puya on its eleventh anniversary (02 March 2023) for the struggle against mining exploitation that affects the territory and the health of the inhabitants, under the slogan “Taking care of the environment we take care of the lives of all”.

The event began with a commemorative mass to reaffirm the commitment to life with mother earth and with each of the communities in peaceful resistance and concluded with cultural and artistic acts.

More urban collectives and people in solidarity have joined this celebration of resistance.”

Background

Prensa Comunitaria has explained: “In 2011, the MEM [Ministry of Energy and Mines] issued an exploitation license to the entity Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala [the Guatemalan subsidiary of Vancouver-based Radius Gold], called Progreso VII Derivada, for the exploitation of gold and silver in an area located between the municipalities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, without consulting the communities. There are Kaqchikel and Xinka indigenous people in the area, who opposed the project from the beginning.”

On March 2, 2012, residents from San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc – an area known as La Puya, about 30 kilometres north of Guatemala City – set up a 24-hour a day blockade at the entrance of the Radius Gold Inc. owned El Tambor mine also known as the Progreso VII Derivada 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).

More specifically, Radius Gold says of this sale: “KCA agreed to repay approximately US$400,000 owing to the Company (US$100,000 paid upon signing and approximately US$300,000 to be paid once KCA has commenced shipment of gold produced from the property). Also upon commercial production, KCA agreed to make quarterly payments to the Company based on the then price of gold and the number of ounces produced from the property.”

On May 23, 2014, the communities in resistance to the mine were violently evicted by the police. Despite this, they resumed a 24-hour presence at the entrance to the mine.

In February 2016, the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya won a Guatemalan Supreme Court ruling that provisionally suspended the mining license 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.

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.

Current situation

In June 2022, Prensa Latina reported: “The Minister of Energy and Mines, Alberto Pimentel … stated that the Government will soon issue regulations for carrying out community consultations stipulated in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on indigenous and tribal peoples.”

“In addition, the pre-consultation stage is being prepared for the Progreso VII Derivada Mining project, also known as El Tambor or La Puya.”

The article also noted: “[Pimentel] also announced that the National Mining Policy is being prepared [and] would be finished in 2023, since he wants to finish it before the change of government.”

General elections will be held on June 25 this year.

In July 2022, a group of Congressmen wrote U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and highlighted: “Like the land defenders in El Estor, members of the Peaceful Resistance La Puya have suffered intimidation, criminalization, and aggression for years. Being aware that the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is paying close attention to this and other mining projects in the country, we call on the State Department to ensure that the Embassy advocates for communities’ free participation in the consultation process and speaks out against any aggression or repression targeting land defenders.”

On December 21, 2022, PBI-Guatemala posted on Facebook: “Yesterday, #PBI accompanied the La Puya Peaceful Resistance to the Ministry of Energy and Mines to present the delegates for the pre-consultation stage on the El Tambor mining project.”

And on February 27, 2023, Prensa Comunitaria reported: “A representation from San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, in the department of Guatemala, delivered a letter to the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) signed by approximately 2,500 people and 200 organizations from 16 countries in which they ask to guarantee the full participation of the communities affected by the Progreso VII Derivada mine, in the consultation that will take place around the project.”

That article adds: “Álvaro Sandoval, who is part of the communities involved in the consultation process ordered by the Constitutional Court (CC), pointed out that the Ministry is already beginning to exclude representatives from the areas of influence of the mine.”

And it further notes: “By delivering the letter to the MEM, Sandoval said they want to show that there are people who are watching the process at the international level.”

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


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