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The Mayan Sipakapense Council of Guatemala, member of the Council of Western Peoples, has denounced the Montana Exploradora mining company for usurping more areas of indigenous territory. The company is a national subsidiary of Canadian Goldcorp and owner of the Marlin open pit gold mine in San Miguel Ixatahuacán, San Marcos department.
In parallel, new Guatemalan polls indicate that national sentiment towards mining is strongly negative. In popular and community consultations, local communities have been saying NO to mining for several years, in response to the complicity and lack of action by the Guatemalan government.
The Mayan Sipakapense Council explained and provided formal details about their property rights over a 153 sq. kilometer land in San Marcos department, recorded in the Property Records. It also adds that the Mayan people have been inhabiting these lands since before European colonizers arrived, and that international law regarding indigenous peoples protects them.
“In 2003, without prior consultation, the State granted an exploitation license to a Canadian mining company over our territory. As a consequence, Marlin Mine is operating today, owned by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala – Goldcorp”, reads the press release issued by the Mayan Sipakapense Council on January 14. The population of Sipacapa municipality is among the most affected by the mine, despite it being located in San Miguel Ixtahuacán. These two municipalities from San Marcos department are the main characters in the struggle against Goldcorp.
This mine, with serious environmental and social impacts (such as the persecution of the resistance leaders) is part of an area granted in concession to the Canadian transnational corporation for 25 years and covers 20 sq. kilometers.
“Continuously threatening persecution and using a strategy to criminalize the defenders of the territory and capture our municipal and community authorities, the company has usurped another area of our territory called “Los Chocoyos”, of Pie de la Cuesta village, in the Cuilco River Basin”.
In December, the Mayan Sipakapense people submitted a constitutional protection appeal before the Appeals Court of Guatemala Department in order to “suspend the “Los Chocoyos” license and demand “an immediate withdrawal of all workers of the mining company”. “We will not allow more abuses and looting”, states the press release, and adds that “property laws force the Guatemalan government to protect our rights through judicial and military institutions, and the absence of said governmental actions is a proof of their failure”.
On May 20, 2010, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decided to grant five precautionary measures to protect Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán inhabitants, affected by the activities of Marlin Mine. The Commission also demanded a suspension of the mine´s works. However, then Alvaro Colom´s administration decided not to respect the IACHR´s request.
Meanwhile, also on February 14, Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre published a poll that establishes that those who have voiced objection to mining activity amounts to 66 per cent of the population. And in the capital of the country, Guatemala city, this rejection has grown by 11 per cent in the past years.
Prensa Libre commissioned company Prodatos to conduct the poll that directly asked the population: “Are you in favor or against mining in the country”. According to the newspaper, there are 283 mining exploitation and 76 mining exploration licenses in force in the country. There are 451 processes of application for exploration licenses, 144 for exportation licenses and 6 for mining recognition licenses. The body regulating national mining policies is the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
A two-and-a-half year process of work which resulted in a meeting with several thousand Brazilian peasants; “a process that didn´t start now, and that won´t end here”, said Itelvina Massioli, national leader of the peoples´ struggle for land, agrarian reform and food sovereignty, in interview with Real World Radio after the 6th Congress of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).
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