Communities threatened by mining in Guatemala
December 14, 2011
Alfredo Pokus Yaquian
Ministerio de Energia y Minas
Diagonal 17 29-78, zona 11,
Colonia Las Carchas
Fax: 011 502 2476 3175
Re: Communities threatened by mining in Guatemala
I am deeply concern about situation in Guatemala.
Dear Minister, You are in a very right position to decide whether to allow a mine in Santa Rosa department, southeastern Guatemala, to begin extracting metals and minerals before 11 January 2011. I am informed that local communities have not been consulted about the plans regarding that yet.
I am also informed that the company planning to carry out the mining, Minera San Rafael S.A., is a subsidiary of Canadian company Tahoe Resources Inc. They already have a license to explore the site, located in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores. However, while this license must be renewed after two years, the license for exploitation, needed for extracting materials from the mine, is granted for 25 years. Those living next to the mine were not consulted before the exploration license was granted, in breach of Guatemala's obligations under international law.
Dear Minister , In addition, the communities and environmental organizations have been unable to see the Environmental Impact Assessment that was reportedly prepared to support the company's application for the exploitation license. On 1 December, environmental organization MadreSelva filed a freedom of information request with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources in order to gain access to this assessment.
Many of those living close to the mine make their living by selling crops. There is concern that the processes used in mining, which may involve the use of cyanide and other toxic chemicals, could lead to the pollution of the water they use to water their crops. Residents have told Amnesty International that one company has already expressed concern about continuing to buy their crops if the mining goes ahead at the proposed site.
On 29 November, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) published an official notice in the Diario de Centroamerica (the official state newspaper) and the national newspaper Nuestro Diario, announcing the request to approve the exploitation license. Neither of these newspapers is distributed in the department of Santa Rosa. The MEM has 30 working days from the publication of the notice to approve the license.
Dear Minister, I am expressing my deepest concern that the authorities have not consulted with the communities likely to be impacted by the operation of the mine in the department of Santa Rosa.
I am requesting that no exploitation license be granted to Tahoe Resources Inc. until there has been full disclosure of relevant information and a meaningful consultation with those potentially affected has taken place.
I am urging you for an assurances that the consultation on this mining project and future mining projects will allow for a careful examination of the impact on communities affected, in a manner that means the communities can participate effectively, and determine their free, prior and informed consent.
I express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account.
William Nicholas Gomes