On October 26, 2015, 12 members of the US Congress sent a letter to Guatemalan President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre to raise concerns about abuses related to the El Tambor gold mine in San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala.
The letter calls on the President to use his authority to uphold human rights and to ensure that the mine’s owner–the US-based company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA)–promptly halts its illegal operations.
You can read the letter here, courtesy of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC).
“On July 15, 2015, a Guatemalan court ruling ordered EXMINGUA [KCA’s local subsidiary] to suspend its mining activities at El Tambor,” the letter stated. “The court ruling clearly states that EXMINGUA has been operating without a valid permit from the municipal government, did not consult with affected communities before the project began in accordance with Guatemalan and International law, and that the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment was plagued with serious deficiencies.”
Congressional concerns echo ongoing issues that have been highlighted in the international community — many of you took action this summer to call on KCA to comply with the ruling, which was recently upheld on appeal by Guatemalan courts. Despite this legal victory for residents who live near the project, the company has continued its operations and stated it will not comply with the ruling.
“The company presented an invalid construction permit,” said Miriam Pixtún, a representative of a local opposition movement which has become known as “La Puya.” “It’s important that KCA respect the sentence rather than continue to promote corruption and impunity in Guatemala.”
The congressional letter sent to President Maldonado makes several recommendations for urgent next steps that the Guatemalan government should take: (1) ensure that KCA and EXMINGUA comply with the July 15, 2015, court ruling and immediately cease all illegal operations; (2) conduct a fair EIA and ensure that environmental concerns are addressed; (3) address issues of past violence and investigate the assassination attempt; and (4) take active steps to release wrongfully imprisoned community leaders and initiate dialogue with residents to peacefully resolve the conflict.
“The US government should hold US companies to the highest legal and ethical standards when operating abroad,” said GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones. “We applaud this action by members of the US Congress to raise concerns about the illegal operations of a US subsidiary, and echo the call for the Guatemalan president to ensure that proper actions are taken to halt mining activity immediately and protect affected residents.”
From March 2, 2012, until May 23, 2014, residents who live near the site of the El Tambor gold mine maintained a non-violent blockade at the mine’s entrance. They have raised numerous concerns, including the fact that the region receives little rainfall, and water sources naturally contain high levels of arsenic–a problem exacerbated by mining operations. The case has gotten immense national and international media attention for the movement’s commitment to non-violence and the successful blockade of the entrance for over two years.
On May 23, 2014, the peaceful resistance was violently evicted from the entrance to the mining project. Although there is no longer a physical blockade, community members have sustained a large presence in the area and continue to peacefully protest the El Tambor gold mine.
More information about the history of the La Puya movement is available here.
Thanks to GHRC for this.