PBI-Canada observes march in Guatemala City against Oxec III dam designed by Toronto-based engineering company

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On May 10, the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón was present in Guatemala City outside the National Palace to express their opposition to the construction of dams, including the yet-to-be built Oxec III dam, on their rivers and territory.

Last month, Power Technology noted: “Oxec III is a 75MW hydro power project. It is planned on Cahabon river/basin in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. According to GlobalData, who tracks and profiles over 170,000 power plants worldwide, the project is currently at the permitting stage. It will be developed in a single phase. The project construction is likely to commence in 2025 and is expected to enter into commercial operation in 2027.”

In August 2017, Breakbulk Magazine also reported that the Oxec II dam was “designed by Hatch Ltd., the Toronto, Canada-based engineering firm.” That article also quotes Hooman Ghassemi, Hatch’s project manager for Oxec II. It then notes: “Ghassemi has been working on Oxec II since 2015 and has just finished the conceptual design for Oxec III.”

It’s not clear if Hatch, beyond the conceptual design of the Oxec III dam, will also be involved in the “design-build-engineering” of the dam, which includes all aspects of design services, construction services, and project management.

“We demand that the Oxec 3 licence be cancelled.”

More on Hatch and OXEC II

In April 2020, Ghassemi wrote in NS Energy: “What began as a discussion with stakeholders in 2014 would later become Hatch’s formal engagement by Energy Resources Capital (ERC), the developer, and Solel Boneh Guatemala (SBG), the general contractor.”

“Hatch would be engaged to deliver the conceptual design and detailed design-build-engineering for the Oxec II Hydroelectric Project, recipient of a 2019 Award of Excellence from the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC).”

Ghassemi also notes: “Hatch’s design of the cellular cofferdam [for the first stage diversion of the river] was recognised by the Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO) in 2017 with an award of merit in the Industry, Energy, and Resources category.”

Commenting on OXEC II, Ian Ainslie, a Hatch project manager based in Niagara Falls, Ontario, noted: “Hatch has been active in developing hydroelectric sites in Guatemala for over 20 years.” And Hatch’s managing director of power, Jim Sarvinis, says: “Projects like Oxec II are exactly why we do the type of work we do at Hatch.”

Maya Q’eqchi’ opposition to Oxec II

While Hatch Ltd. has highlighted their association with the dam, PBI-Guatemala has noted: “On August 27, [2017] the [Q’eqchi’] communities [of Cahabón] held a community consultation in which 26,537 people professed against the hydroelectric projects while only 11 people showed support. PBI observed the activities in coordination with other human rights organizations which according to community members contributed that no violence erupted despite high levels of tension.”

Seven dams

The Oxec II dam is one of seven dams. PBI-Guatemala has explained: “On the Cahabón River and its tributaries Oxec, Canlich and Chiacté, seven hydroelectric plants currently operate: Renace I, II, III, IV, Oxec, Oxec II, and Chichaic.” 

Oxec S.A. ownership

Who owns and finances the dams?

PBI-Guatemala has noted that “the hydroelectric project installed on the Cahabón river basin, operated by OXEC SA, [belongs] to the Energy Resources Capital Corp group (ERCC).”

In November 2016, Jeff Abbott, a freelance journalist based in Guatemala, also reported in Waging Nonviolence: “The Guatemala-based company Oxec S.A. owns the hydroelectric dams Oxec and Oxec II, with investments from Energy Resources Capital Corp, which is based in Panama. Oxec S.A. is owned by the powerful Bosch Gutiérrez family and is being built by the Spanish company Grupo Cobra, which is owned by Florentino Pérez, the president of Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid.”

Research would be needed to know more about Canadian and transnational capital that may be invested in Energy Resources Capital Corp.

The Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón since July 2017.

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