UN Urges Restraint in Guatemalan Mining Protests

May 30, 2014

 

Last week violent clashes left 26 people injured and 13 police officers wounded when locals began protesting the US-backed Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) El Tambor gold project. The project is in the area of San Jose del Golfo and has been a source of tension for several weeks as locals protest what they believe will lead to a shortage of water supplies and the fact that local residents were never consulted before the project was allowed to proceed.

 

Because of the recent violence, the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights urged the Guatemalan government to begin talks with the local resistance movement to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

 

The gold mining project was originally begun in 2012 but has faced consistent disruption from locals who are enraged at the environmental damage the mine may cause. Locals claim the continuation of the gold mining operation will have a negative impact on air quality, flora, fauna, top soil and the availability and quantity of water.

 

The Guatemalan government is enjoying the increase in mineral investment over the past 15 years but interest is waning as protests and uncertainty continue to mar ongoing projects. Companies are eager to exploit the gold reserves known to exist in the Central American country but not if the government cannot guarantee safety. And the protesters are doing everything they can to show how difficult it will be if miners come to their land.

 

The government did concede some when it proposed a two-year moratorium on new licenses until an improved legal framework can be implemented. However, for companies already engaged in mining operations the thought of losing everything due to protests and violent clashes is having a ripple effect throughout the industry as other companies rethink their strategies.