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Proyecto Minero El Escobal, Guatemala

The Xinka Indigenous and campesino populations in the Guatemalan departments of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa in resistance to the Escobal mine.


Spanish version (see below the english version):  La mina de plata Escobal, operada por Minera San Rafael, subsidiaria de Tahoe Resources entró en operaciones en 2014 a pesar de una gran resistencia popular en el sureste de Guatemala. Debido a la resistencia y la violación de derechos indígenas, la mina ha sido suspendido desde junio de 2017.[1] 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Proyecto Minero El Escobal, Guatemala
State or province:Santa Rosa y Jalapa
Location of conflict:Departamentos de Santa Rosa, Jalapa y Jutiapa
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Zinc
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Escobal mine is an underground silver-gold-lead-zinc mine. As of January 1, 2017, measured and indicated mineral resources for the Escobal deposit include 367.9 million ounces of silver at an average grade of 323 g/t. Proven and probable mineral reserves include 267.5 million ounces of silver at an average grade of 351 g/t.

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Project area:4000
Level of Investment:500,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:55000
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:Pan American Silver Corp. (PAS) from Canada - Actual owner
Tahoe Resources from Canada - Owner until 2019
Minera San Rafael, S.A. from Guatemala - Local subsidiary
Goldcorp Inc from Canada - Exploration works until 2010
Relevant government actors:Gobierno de Guatemala incluyendo el Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARN), Municipalidad de San Rafael Las Flores, Policía Nacional Civil, Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM),
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:PAST: Centro de Acción Legal Ambiental y Social de Guatemala (CALAS), Comité en Defensa de la Vida y la Paz de San Rafael Las Flores, Movimiento Juvenil de Mataquescuintla (MJM), Colectivo Madre Selva, La Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (UDEFEGUA), Comunidad indígena Xinca.
Supporters: Mining Watch, Amnistía Internacional (AI),Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), La Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (UDEFEGUA)

ONGOING: Parlamento Xinka, Comisión Diocesana en Defensa de la Naturalez (CODIDENA), Resistencia Pacifica de Santa Rosa, Jalapa y Jutiapa, Red Organizada de Jóvenes de Oriente (ROJO), Protection International, AcoGuate

International organizations and movements:
Mining Watch Canada, Amnesty International, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, Earthworks, Institute for Policy Studies – Global Economy Project, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), Mining Justice Action Committee, Mining Justice Alliance, Students for Mining Justice UBC, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), CDHAL
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Youth groups, Elected officials
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts, Mine tailing spills, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Other Environmental impactsEntre los principales daños a la biodiversidad y al paisaje están los causados a la Laguna de Ayarza, un lago volcánico asentado a 2.5 kilómetros rio abajo de la mina.
Increase in cost of land resulting in decrease in access to land
Damage to homes located in close proximity to the mine, tremors, damage to roads from heavy traffic, light pollution, drying of wells and streams, contamination of ground and surface water.
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:Due to the violence generated by the Escobla mine coffee growers from Mataquescuintla made contact with buyers and roasters in British Columbia, Canada and are now organized in a “Resistance Coffee” growing group that is exporting directly to Canada.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Despite widespread opposition, which was met with violent repression, the Escobal mine went into operation in early 2014. However, the mine was suspended in June 2017, first due to direct action by impacted community members and later by order to the Supreme Court, which found the government discriminated against and failed to consult with the Xinka people. The Constitutional Court upheld the ruling in September 2018 and ordered the mine remain suspended during a consultation with the Xinka.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Código Municipal, Decreto 12-2002, que establecen el derecho y la obligación de consultar a los pueblos indígenas y/o a la población sobre los asuntos de trascendencia que les afectan.

Convenio 169 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT), sobre Pueblos Indígenas y Tribales

Ley de Minería guatemalteca de 1997

[16] Disputa minera militariza región en San Rafael Las Flores
[click to view]

[11] Mining license approved in wake of violence, investigation into murder pending
[click to view]

[12] Difamaciones a la Resistencia pacífica de El Escobal para justificar posible Estado de Excepción
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Análisis de Estudio de Impacto ambiental del proyecto minero El Escobal,San Rafael las Flores, Santa Rosa del Colectivo Madre Selva
[click to view]

Polanco, Luz (2012) "La minería en Guatemala (El caso de Goldcorp: de la Mina Marlin al Escobal)" Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Securities Commissions Asked to Investigate Ahead of Jan. 8 Tahoe, Pan American Silver Merger
[click to view]

[11] Mining license approved in wake of violence, investigation into murder pending
[click to view]

[12] Difamaciones a la Resistencia pacífica de El Escobal para justificar posible Estado de Excepción
[click to view]

[16] Disputa minera militariza región en San Rafael Las Flores
[click to view]

[click to view]

[18] Tahoe’s Escobal Mine Starts Commercial Production
[click to view]

[20] CSJ suspende licencias de operación de minera San Rafael
[click to view]

[21] Guatemala’s Highest Court Orders Tahoe’s Escobal Mine to Remain Suspended
[click to view]

[22] Xinka Parliament condemns Pan American’s interference in consultation process
[click to view]

[23] Discrimination against Xinka puts consultation on Escobal mine at risk
[click to view]

[24] Statement From The Authorities Of The Xinka People Regarding The Ministry Of Energy And Mines Non-compliance With The Constitutional Court Order
[click to view]

[1] Securities Commissions Asked to Investigate Ahead of Jan. 8 Tahoe, Pan American Silver Merger
[click to view]

[15] Canadian Centre for Internacional Justice
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Radio Canadá Internacional : Recordando a la activista anti-minera Topacio Reynoso en Toronto
[click to view]

[click to view]

James Rodríguez, Foto Reportaje "El Escobal Mine in San Rafael Las Flores"
[click to view]

Twitter del Parlamento Xinka
[click to view]

Facebook del Parlamento Xinka
[click to view]

Facebook Si a la Vida
[click to view]

CODIDENA short-video "Pasos de la Resistencia"
[click to view]

Flickr de Earthworks 
[click to view]

[click to view]

17 enero 2017. Resumen Cl. Durante la noche del pasado lunes 16 de enero de 2017, sujetos no identificados entraron en la casa de Laura Leonor Vásquez Pineda en Mataquescuintla, Departamento de Jalapa, en el oriente de Guatemala y la asesinaron a balazos en la cabeza. Laura militaba en el Comité de Defensa de la Vida de San Rafael Las Flores y participaba en la resistencia pacífica ante el proyecto minero de oro y plata “El Escobal” de la Minera San Rafael, propiedad de la multinacional canadiense Tahoe Resources.
[click to view]

Other comments:Impactos específicos a las mujeres: "Las mujeres asumieron el rol de informar a la población los impactos de la minería pero también para hacer respetar los Derechos de la población. Por esta razón recibieron amenzas, hostigamientos, sobrellevaron las preocupaciones y temores, estuvieron de cara a los militares, incluso arriesgando su vida. Uno de los casos de hostigamiento es el de Teresa Muñoz, lideresa contra quien se emitió orden de captura. Tuvo que huir de su casa y pasar siete meses escondida hasta que fueron retirados los cargos y puedo regresar.
“Ver que el gobierno manda estado de sitio a nuestros pueblos, y nos pone una orden de captura, y tener que dejarlo todo y salir caminando en la montaña buscando ayuda y apoyo, es lo más duro que me ha tocado vivir en la vida”, comparte Teresa Muñoz."
Meta information
Contributor:Fundación Neotrópica, Earthworks, Institute for Policy Studies – Global Economy Project
Last update12/12/2019
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