Local Communities Upset with Guatemalan Mining Licenses

September 19, 2014

 

In an attempt to grow its economy, Guatemala is increasing the number of licenses it awards foreign mining companies looking to dig for coal, iron and other metals found in the country. However, the government is under fire for failing to consult with rural communities and indigenous populations that will be affected by the mining projects.

 

Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director of Amnesty International said, "The proposed legislation effectively side-steps the concerns of communities. It does not address the issue of consultation in any meaningful way. If enacted it would essentially mean that communities' views and concerns continue to be ignored. This is a significant missed opportunity".

 

In the past, mining licenses that were awarded without consulting with local communities was met with violent protests involving security guards for mining companies and the police.

 

According to international human rights standards, those potentially affected by mining projects must be consulted and adequately informed, and that projects on indigenous peoples' land should only proceed with their free, prior and informed consent.

 

Currently Guatemala's mining laws allow only 10 days for communities to challenge a license application. Rosas said, "Analyzing the implications of any mining project takes time, and 10 days to respond to license applications is not realistic for communities who might be affected and therefore need to examine the proposal carefully".

 

Guatemala has a long history of human rights abuses and many are concerned that the backlash to the mining projects may lead to more violence. In the past, protesters have been shot, killed and abducted. Though investigations were opened in many cases few were ever brought to justice.

 

Canada operates many of the high-profile mining companies in Guatemala.