Mining in Guatemala

The Peace Agreements formally announced the introduction of new economic policies as the government sought foreign investment. In 1997, Guatemala’s mining regulations were amended to lower the rate of financial fees required from mining companies from 6 per cent to 1 per cent, and to exempt the companies from paying various taxes.6 In the 2000s, the new legislative framework and the increased value of precious metals, particularly gold, resulted in a proliferation of mining projects in Guatemala. There is now an abundance of gold and silver production, as well as nickel, lead, copper and zinc production.7 Over the years the Guatemalan government has issued hundreds of exploration and mining permits to private companies – many of which are registered in Canada – that are valid for 25 years and renewable.

GOLCORP is a mining company based in Vancouver. It is listed on the Toronto stock exchange (TSX) as well as the New York stock exchange (NYSE) and produces net profits of several billion U.S. dollars per year. The company carries out its mining activities mostly in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Chile and Argentina. In Guatemala, Goldcorp’s subsidiaries – Montana Exploradora de Guatemala and Entre Mares – have mining claims for three gold and silver mining projects: Marlin, Cerro Blanco and Chocoyos, in addition to holding several exploration claims.
 
TAHOE RESOURCES is also registered in British Columbia and is listed on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges. Tahoe Resources works primarily on the Escobal project in Guatemala, a gold and silver mine that previously belonged to Goldcorp. In fact, the ties between the two companies are rather tight because Goldcorp holds nearly half of the Tahoe Resources shares and the two companies were founded and administered, over the years, by the same business people.8

The mining activities of Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources in Guatemala have several common characteristics. The Marlin, Chocoyos, Cerro Blanco and Escobal projects were all established and/or operated without the Guatemalan government having obtained the free and informed consent of the surrounding communities. There is strong opposition to each of these projects. The native Maya populations, who have been feeling the effects of these gold and silver mines, have taken action in several ways to demand that their basic rights be respected and their environment be protected.9 Despite the rising tension and the catastrophic environmental and public health impacts that have been observed and documented,10 Canadian mining companies continue to operate.

The Marlin mine is an iconic example of the human rights and environmental abuses of Canadian mining in Latin America. More than 1 million ounces of gold have been mined there since 200511 despite all of the negative health impacts observed, controversies and immense opposition, and even after an international court on the protection of human rights ordered the Guatemalan government to suspend all activities in the mine.12

It should be noted that precious metals are rarely intended for a use that can be qualified as “necessary.” For example, nearly 90 per cent of the gold consumed in the world is used to manufacture jewellery and collectible coins.13 Still, in Guatemala as in other places, mining activities are extremely prosperous. The value of gold and silver on the world market has increased by more than 450 per cent since 200114. The profit margin, which sits at billions of dollars, is nearly four times higher than the production costs. Unfortunately, this industry is often extraordinarily profitable simply because the vital costs of the mining are assumed by the populations who feel the environmental impacts and the harmful effects on human health firsthand.15


  1. CORDAID, Mining Conflicts and Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala, septembre 2009, à la page 11. 

  2. McGill research group investigating Canadian mining in Latin America (MICLA), Guatemala Key Data, page consultée le 10 novembre 2013: http://micla.ca/countries/guatemala/ 

  3. Site web officiels de Goldcorp Inc : http://www.goldcorp.com/ ainsi que de Tahoe Resources Inc : http://www.tahoeresourcesinc.com/, consultés le 3 novembre 2013; The Globe and Mail, Goldcorp sells Escobal deposit to Tahoe, 23 août 2012, en ligne: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/goldcorp-sells-escobal-deposit-to-tahoe/article1371902/ ; Morningstar Research Inc 2013, Propriétaires principaux de Tahoe Resources Inc, en ligne : http://quote.morningstar.ca/Quicktakes/owners/MajorShareholders.aspx?t=THO&region=CAN&culture=fr-CA, page consultée le 20 novembre 2013. 

  4. McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America, “Guatemala: mining conflicts”, en ligne: http://micla.ca/countries/guatemala/ 

  5. Consultez au début de cette section la Liste des organisations vouées à la documentation des impacts et conflits reliés à l’industrie minière au Guatemala

  6. Goldcorp Inc, http://www.goldcorp.com 

  7. Commission Interaméricaine des Droits Humains, Mesures préventives MC 260-07, 20 mai 2010, en ligne : http://www.oas.org/es/cidh/decisiones/cautelares.asp 

  8. FEPS Fondation de l’Eau potable sûre, rapport Exploitation minières et la pollution de l’eau, rapport en ligne : http://www.safewater.org/PDFS/knowthefacts/frenchfactsheets/exploitationminierepollutioneau.pdf 

  9. Pourcentage établi à partir des valeurs de l’once d’or entre 2001 et octobre 2013, source : indices de la Bourse de Toronto http://www.tmxmoney.com/fr/index.html et Comptoir Change Opéra, Évolution du prix de l’or depuis 1995 : http://www.ccopera.com/or/evolution-des-cours/historique1955.html 

  10. Projet Accompagnement Quebec Guatemala, Entrevue avec Daviken Studnicki Gizbert du MICLA, revue d’actualité juin 2010.