Latin America Advisor

Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

What’s at the Root of Mining Criticism in Guatemala?

In a referendum last month, residents of the Guatemalan town of Asunción Mita rejected mining activity in the area. Bluestone Resources’ Cerro Blanco gold project in Guatemala is pictured. // File Photo: Bluestone Resources.

Residents of the Guatemalan town of Asunción Mita, near the border with El Salvador, on Sept. 18 voted against mining activity in the area. Canada-based Bluestone Resources, which owns the nearby Cerro Blanco gold project, called the referendum illegal, a viewpoint backed up by Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mines. Additionally, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled Sept. 26 that the referendum was nonbinding. Some lawyers and activists argued that the vote was legitimate as it was held in accordance with the municipal code. To what extent could the referendum hinder mining activities in Guatemala? What is at the root of local opposition to mining in the Central American country? How well are Guatemala’s government and mining companies working with local communities, and what practices could lead to better outcomes for both sides?

Salvador Paiz, president of FUNSEPA and board member of FUNDESA in Guatemala City: “Even though certain activists would like the referendum in Asunción Mita to be legally binding, the Constitutional Court has ruled that it is not. In essence, no municipal code can grant itself legal faculties over mining rights, which are the domain of the Ministry of Energy and Mines. That being said, the latest events in Asunción Mita raise valid and important questions about the development of the mining industry in Guatemala. No side should have a veto or impose its will. Rather, we need to come to an agreement, as a nation, as to the standards to which we will hold ourselves accountable regarding community relations and consultation, environmental matters, overall royalties and…”

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