The El Escobal Mine: a difficult judgement (Part I)

One year after the Guatemala Constitutional Court (CC) ordered the Guatemalan State to consult with the Xinca people on the issue of the El Escobal mine in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa, ACOGUATE has written on the order and its implications.

Since 2009, the people of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa have peacefully reisted the El Escobal mining project of Minera San Rafael S.A., until January 2019, a subsidiary of the US/Canadian Tahoe Resources Inc. The decisions on awarding the relevant licences were taken without consulting the local Xinca population who have, since then, been the targets of attacks by both the State and the company.

Since 2012 CALAS (el Centro de Acción Legal Ambiental y Social), CODIDENA (la Comisión Diocesana de Defensa de la Naturaleza), alongside other civil society organisations, have sought to close the mine through legal measures. In July 2017, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) ordered the suspension of mining activities, and that a community consultation (una consulta comunitaria) be carried out. This order was stuck in the courts, backwards and forwards between the CSJ and the CC and, in September 2018, the CC gave its final order that the consultation was to take place.

This decision was openly criticised by the Guatemala Chamber of Industry and by the President, Jimmy Morales but it ensured that the communities have the right to be consulted either to accept or reject the project.

With this ruling, the CC recognized that although Article 125 of the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala declares the exploitation and exploitation of minerals publicly useful, these activities are limited by the right to consultation of indigenous peoples.

Prior to this ruling, both the company and the Guatemala State were not only denying the existence of a Xinca ‘people’, rather also looking to divide the communities, assisted by the media. Since the ruling the approach has been different, with the company now recognising the Xinca people while also continuing to sow division.

Since January this year, the mine is now owned by the Canadian company Pan American Silver Corp, and the struggle continues but now with a different player, one that is intent on restarting operations.

The full piece, in Spanish, is here.

ACOGUATE is dedicated to offering accompaniment to provide protection and support to human rights defenders, whether individuals or organisations.

Formed in 2000, its mandate is to offer international accompaniment to Guatemalan individuals and social movement and human rights organisations that find themselves (or fear) under threat through the work they do to construct a democratic, multi-ethnic, pluricultural society, based on socio-economic justice, the respect for human rights and the fight against impunity. This accompaniment cannot be linked to illegal activities of any kind, nor includes violence. It is non-partisan and non-interventionist.

Categories: Environment, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Mining, Resource Extraction

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