Friday, September 13, 2013

Communities in Totonicapán and Quetzaltenango hold community referenda on mining

"The Council of Ancestral Authorities of the 31 communities of Momostenango welcomes you to the good faith community consultation" (All Photos: NISGUA)
On Sunday September 1, the municipality of Momostenango held the third community consultation in the department of Totonicapán. In all three referenda in Totonicapán, as well as two additional referenda in the department of Quetzaltenango, community members overwhelmingly rejected mining projects in their territories.

In Momostenango, 51,667 people, 99.88%, voted No to mining
While there are no mining projects currently operating in Totonicapán, there are 17 concessions for mineral exploration held by Entre Mares and Montana Exploradora, Guatemalan subsidiaries of Canada's Goldcorp Inc. Goldcorp currently owns and operates the Marlin Mine, an open pit gold mine, which has been the source of human rights abuses and tension over lack of respect for indigenous rights, as well as negative impacts on clean water supplies and public health. Goldcorp also holds 40% of shares in Tahoe Resources' controversial Escobal silver mine in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa.
Two boys show off their inked thumbs - a sign of their participation in the referenda
Since 2005, nearly a million people in more than 78 municipalities across Guatemala have held community referenda on large-scale development projects.

Despite a clear mandate, neither the government nor the companies have respected community decisions. In response to this systematic and historic exclusion of indigenous people from decision-making processes, the Western Peoples' Council (CPO) recently filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for failure to consult with indigenous peoples on projects and policy decisions that impact their territories. 

During a September 3 press conference, Lolita Chávez, member of the CPO in representation of the K'iche' Peoples' Council, explained indigenous peoples' opposition to the large-scale development model imposed by the government: “The government says that we are an obstacle to development, but we believe that your laws and your state are an impediment to the path of our people.”

Read NISGUA's press release: Guatemalan Indigenous Organizations File Complaint over Mining Law with Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

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