PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous Council of Olopa Chiquimula as it peacefully resists Canadian mining company

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The PBI-Guatemala Project has posted: “Yesterday [February 25], #PBI accompanies the Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous Council of Olopa Chiquimula in its eighth anniversary, which took place in a natural water birth. During the act, claims were made in defense of water and land through indigenous authorities and through their spirituality.”

Poster: Consejo Indígena Maya Ch’orti’ de Olopa Chiquimula.

In April 2023, the Regional Business and Human Rights Platform noted in their report Fourth Cycle of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Canada:

The Gold and Silver Extraction Project of the corporate structure of [the Vancouver, Canada-based] Gold Group Management Inc; that in Guatemala operate in a joint venture between Radius Gold Inc. and Volcanic Gold Mines Inc. through Minerales Sierra Pacífico S.A., did not comply with the consultation and prior consent procedures of the communities of the Maya Ch’orti’ territory of Olopa. In the face of opposition to the project, the defenders of the territory have suffered threats, criminalization, and processes of community division. Furthermore, the company, with the support of the Municipality of Olopa, has hindered the recognition of ancestral authorities to favor community authorities elected by the municipal council and try to limit the historical forms of Organization of the Ch’orti’ Mayan people.

Sierra Pacífico S.A. mineral project

Summary case information: Project name: Minerales Sierra Pacífico S.A (part of the Holly Banderas project)

Location: Olopá, Chiquimula, Guatemala

Companies involved: Gold Group is founder of Volcanic Gold Mines Inc. and Radius Gold Inc., all Canadian companies that they operate in Guatemala through the subsidiary Minerales Sierra Pacífico S.A. (Exploration company).

Financial entity: The Volcanic Gold Mines company is financed by shareholders; the main internal shareholder is Simon Ridgway and the external shareholder is True Independence LLC. In the case of Radius, the main external shareholder is the U.S. Global Investors Fund-World Precious Minerals Fund and the main internal shareholder is Simon Ridgway. They are looking for more financiers and shareholders for the development of the project.

Sector: Mining

Project Status: 4 exploration licenses requested (Arely, Ava, María Elena for which the Ministry of Energy and Mines -MEM- requests an extension of the Work Plan and Karen, in the cadastral opinion phase; the company has waived 6 applications in the 14 communities organized in the Ch’orti’ Mayan Indigenous Council of Olopa

Population or groups affected: The population of the Mayan Ch’orti’ indigenous people of the municipality of Olopa, Chiquimula.

Impacted natural environment: Cerros La Bandera, Cerro de Tituque and La Montañita; The water sources are: the Cayur ravine, the Lempa river and the Jupilingo river, in addition to the Espíritu Santo Natural Reserve.

Main human rights abuses: Right to information, consultation, right to freedom of expression and movement; rights at risk: to water, to life, to food; economic, social and cultural rights.

Organization responsible for documenting the case: Ch’orti’ Mayan Indigenous Council of Olopa/Extractive Industries Observatory

Organizations that subscribe to the report: Mayan Ch’orti’ Indigenous Council of Olopa.

Brief description of the relevance of the project:

Olopa is located in a border region of Guatemala with Honduras and El Salvador. There is a regional organization called “Plan Trifinio”, but it does not integrate the care of Mother Earth from the worldview of the indigenous communities, but rather from the extractivist vision of the authorities of the 3 countries involved.

Following the OIE investigation into another mining project that operates and impacts Chiquimula, more exploration licenses appeared from the Canadian company Minerales Sierra Pacífico S.A. They had to go to the Ministry of Energy and Mines to obtain information about the companies and their activities, because no information was disclosed in the territory impacted by these licenses. The company – from Gold Group – has already carried out exploration activities on private land, without informing, under deception and with the support of the municipality, saying that soil studies were being carried out for access to community water and the construction of tanks. distribution.

Due to the impacts already suffered with the imposition of other mining projects in Olopa, the Ch’ortí Mayan communities began to organize to inform themselves, formulate their demands to demand compliance with their rights and the rights of nature213. These communities are concerned about the number of licenses, and the impacts that all these metal mineral exploitations could generate if they are carried out, in addition to the acts of corruption that preceded the licenses.

Main human rights abuses:

The mining legal framework has not been built from the territories, nor consulted, and does not take into account the environmental, social and cultural impacts of mining exploitation. Decisions to grant environmental and mining licenses are made within ministries (such as the Ministry of Energy and Mines) without notifying the affected populations of the interests that exist over their territories. Reliable information is not shared about the impacts, benefits and reparations that exploration and exploitation activities could generate.

The Mining Law and environmental regulations favor the exploitation of territories by multinationals. In Guatemala, the right to consultation of indigenous peoples is systematically denied.

Right of access to information; right to consultation; right to free expression and peaceful mobilization

In the Ch’orti’ Mayan territory of Olopa, we have an antimony mining operation, the Cantera Los Manantiales mining company215. Faced with the actions of the Mayan Ch’orti’ Council to denounce all the illegalities and impacts generated by this mining activity (mainly on the water and health of the surrounding communities), the State and the company have responded with the criminalization and judicialization of the Mayan Ch’ortí’ authorities, events that break community harmony, increase violence and persecution. For this reason, the defense of the territory is strengthened to prevent further impacts on the ways of life of the communities and it is hoped that action will be taken legal against the company’s exploration licenses.

Actions of cooptation and community division are already being suffered. For example, the municipality prevents the recognition of ancestral authorities to favor community authorities elected by the municipal council and try to limit the historical forms of organization of the Ch’orti’ Mayan people.

Right to a clean environment

Right to water: The communities of the department of Chiquimula are seeing the loss of water resources due to the presence of numerous mining concessions, most of them in the exploration stage, but which are being exploited illegally, without an environmental license. This puts other human rights of the Ch’orti indigenous people at risk.

Right to life and a healthy environment: Linked to the right to water and the possibility of enjoying a healthy environment, the community of Olapa views with concern the mining advance that is articulated with negative impacts already visible in neighboring communities, due to the contamination of the air, soil and water.

Right to health: Exposure to heavy metals and other toxic substances, a product of mining activity, puts the population’s health at high risk, already precarious due to the little or no presence of state services, with differential effects on girls and boys. , women and older adults from the Ch’orti’ ethnic community.

Right to food: The communities have preserved their food traditions, based on agroecology, thanks to their ancestral knowledge, the conservation and exchange of native seeds and the use of medicinal plants, which have become an alternative for survival in the face of advance of the mining companies, stripping the forests and biodiversity of this Guatemalan region.

Cultural rights: As established in the international human rights instruments that Canada is obliged to protect and respect, in the territory where its mining projects are located, the indigenous right to identity is denied, their cultural integrity is affected , its spirituality, its practices based on reciprocity and the community and peasant economies of the region.


The documentation of the cases responds to a systematic follow-up of the case by the Ch’orti’ Mayan Indigenous Council of Olopa and the investigation by the Extractive Industries Observatory. Additionally, an investigation of secondary sources has been carried out on official pages such as those of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance. In addition, information on judicial processes has been obtained from indigenous jurisprudence. In the Las Pomas community, meetings were organized with the Ch’orti’ Mayan Indigenous Council of Olopa to expose the risks of mining and the community began a process of electing its representatives. The 14 communities of Olopa that are organized in the Ch’orti’ Mayan Indigenous Council of Olopa are in peaceful resistance against mining exploitation and defend their cultures, values, spirituality, physical territory, the community and its forests, hills, rivers, mountains. They protect the territory from development models that exploit Mother Earth and allow progress towards climate justice. They carry out social actions (such as community organization and the election of their authorities and representatives), political, legal (such as community acts for the rejection of mining activities in their territories) and communication. It is expected to be able to file a legal action for the exploration licenses in process in the Maya Ch’orti’ communities.

The full report in Spanish can be read at Cuarto Ciclo del Examen Periódico Universal de las Nacionales Unidas República de Canadá (Plataforma Regional de Empresas y Derechos Humanos, Abril de 2023).

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous Council of Olopa in June 2021, following their request, which is based on the serious increase in security incidents, defamation and criminalization processes they are experiencing.

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