Background

Highly controversial projectsMany communities who face the catastrophic impact that the extractive industry has on the environment and their health oppose these mining projects. They have been fighting a long-term and multi-faceted battle for their most fundamental rights, including their right to life and their right to be consulted about development projects that affect them. The Guatemalans that oppose these projects are the constant targets of attacks, threats and, all-too-often, assassinations.

Opposition to mining projects: the message is clear!

From 2005 to date, more than one million Guatemalans have spoken out against Canadian extractive industry projects, through more than 74 community referendums. Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources projects have nonetheless been approved by the Guatemalan government and continue operating, in spite of the fact that the affected groups have clearly expressed their opposition. The law requires prior community consultation and consent from those directly affected by such projects. However, the voice of indigenous peoples continues to be ignored and mining continues.

The affected communities are trying to mobilize the Guatemalan and Canadian justice systems, international law, human rights and environmental organizations and public opinion. They hold demonstrations and engage in non-violent actions resisting the industry that causes devastating effects on their lives. However, at the heart of the Canadian mining industry, impunity reigns and companies are not held accountable for allegations of human rights violations and environmental damage.

Goldcorp Inc. and Tahoe Resources Inc. are both Canadian mining companies registered on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). They own four mining projects in Guatemala aimed at extracting gold and other precious metals. Although the extraction of these metals leads to staggering profits for these companies, Guatemalan communities face an altogether different reality. This type of mining project signifies a genuine catastrophe for both the local people and the environment, largely due to the extraction methods used.The use of explosives, releasing toxic dust into the air; the use of extremely dangerous products as acid solvents to separate precious metals from ordinary rock; the use of extraordinary amounts of water that is then contaminated by the solvents… This process causes alarming environmental effects and serious public health problems that will last far longer than the duration of the mining activities themselves.

Some of the effects of Canadian mining projects in Guatemala:

  • Water sources and groundwater tables contaminated with arsenic and mercury, while other water sources dry up.
  • Dangerous levels of arsenic, copper, zinc and mercury in residents’ blood.
  • Sudden miscarriages and neo-natal deaths.
  • Respiratory and skin diseases.
  • Ecosystem deterioration, destruction of mountains and air pollution.