The mining industry: forced onto the people

Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources’ mining projects in Guatemala were forced onto the indigenous peoples of the regions who were not able to exercise their collective right to free, prior and informed consent; a right that the Guatemalan government should have guaranteed.30 Several instruments of international law entrench this right, particularly International Labour Organization Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. In fact, governments are required to consult the people concerned in good faith each time they consider legislative or administrative measures likely to affect them directly, with a view to obtaining an agreement or consent with respect to the measures being considered.31

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The government of Guatemala’s has failed in its obligations, having ratified Convention 169 in 1996, to consult the peoples concerned and to obtain their consent before granting underground mining permits to mining companies. However, the Guatemalan government has never respected these mandatory consultative procedures in compliance with international law. The mining law in effect does not stipulate consultation of native peoples, or the need to obtain their consent. There isn’t any effective legal mechanism allowing citizens to oppose the mining projects imposed onto them. Recently, proceedings were initiated by the Western Mayan People’s Council with the constitutional court, Guatemala’s ombudsman for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).32 The community group is trying to have the mining law overturned because it was adopted without the consent of the peoples concerned and therefore, is in violation of the international law and the government’s legal obligations.

In response to the rapid expansion of the mining industry and their exclusion from the decision-making process, several indigenous communities have nonetheless decided to exercise their right to free, prior and informed consent. They organize townhall meetings fashioned after their traditional decision-making processes, during which an entire community is invited to vote on the mining of natural resources.33 The townhall meeting is public, the votes are duly counted, and the procedure is often observed and validated by external and neutral observers. The Guatemalan government, to date, still refuses to recognize the legitimacy and the binding nature of these townhall meetings, yet the results are clear. Aware of the serious dangers caused by the mining industries, communities are – by majority and sometimes unanimously – rejecting the mining megaprojects being forced onto them.34

To date, more than 74 townhall meetings on the mining of natural resources have taken place in Guatemala, giving standing to more than one million people regarding the mining industry in their regions. All of the Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources projects have been rejected by the native communities who will suffer the consequences of those projects.

  1. So far, more than 74 popular consultations on the exploitation of natural resources have been held in Guatemala, giving a voice to more than a million people regarding the extractive industries on their territories. All projects of Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources were rejected by indigenous communities that will suffer the impacts., Rechazan explotacion minera en 74 consultas comunitarias, March 23, 2013, en ligne:; Comision Paz y Ecologia (COPAE), Consulta Comunitaria, 2013, en ligne: 

  2. Organisation Internationale du Travail, C-169, Convention relative aux peuples indigènes et tribaux, 1989. 

  3. Mining Watch Canada, Des organismes autochtones guatémaltèques déposent une plainte à la CommDIH contre la Loi sur les Mines, 6 septembre 2013, en ligne : 

  4. Institut de Relations Internationales et de recherche pour la Paix, rapport préliminaire Las consultas comunitarias de « buena fe » y las practicas ancestrales comunitarias indigenas en Guatemala, janvier 2012. 

  5., Rechazan explotacion minera en 74 consultas comunitarias, 30 mars 2013, en ligne:; Comision Paz y Ecologia (COPAE), Consulta Comunitaria, 2013, en ligne: