Category: Cerro Blanco
Published: Friday, 23 September 2022 17:57
Urgent Communique from the Municipal Commission Specific to the Consultation on Mining
The members of the Commission recognized and designated by the Municipality of Asuncion Mita, Jutiapa to organize the Municipal Consultation on Mining petitioned by citizens of our municipality, are facing the undemocratic backlash of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) through a statement dated September 19, where it took a position against the Municipal Consultation, a historic event that clearly marked the determination of the people against the installation of metallic mining operations through a consultation carried out under article 64 of the Guatemalan Municipal Code.
- That today, September 21, 2022, at 3:45 pm, we were notified about an injunction against the Commission specifically created to organize the municipal consultation filed by Juan José Monroy González, assisted by lawyer Orlando Raúl López Salguero, on behalf of the association Mita Avanza,
- That the people of Asunción Mita have already exercised their right to be consulted as per the political constitution of the republic and the municipal code, and the overwhelming results should be considered indicative for government authorities in the licensing process. Moreover, the consultation is binding for the municipality according to the municipal autonomy principle established in the political constitution of the republic.
- That we are not surprised by the statement published on September 19, because the people of Asunción Mita know which side the government is on. The government is using the law not to protect its people but to favor big business.
- The statement published by the Ministry of Energy and Mines states that the consultation, which the rejection of mining projects, "lacks a legal basis" and therefore "it lacks the authority to recognize the validity of the results". In this sense, we argue that said institution lacks the knowledge of the laws or intends to give that impression as the consultation was based on article 64 of the Municipal Code and not on the 169 convention of the ILO where the ministry has jurisdiction and advantage against indigenous communities.
The people of Asunción Mita identify themselves as mestizo or ladino. In addition, as 27% of the registered inhabitants of Asuncion Mita participated in the vote, the expectations in the consultation were exceeded, therefore, the consultation results are binding for the municipality on the issuance of construction licenses or other permits under its competency for the development of mining projects.
- We regret and publicly and fully reject the few misinformed citizens of Asuncion Mita, whose particular interest is to generate disinformation for the local population while supporting mining projects that may negatively impact the natural resources of our municipality in the future.
- That the mining companies, up to the moment, have not proven to be rational, responsible, or friendly with the environment. They have not respected article 125 of the political constitution of the republic of Guatemala, on the contrary, they used it to delegitimate the consultation process.
- Also, we reject any attempt by mining companies and the ministry of energy and mines to pressure the municipal authorities and to disregard the sovereignty of the people of Asuncion Mita.
We communicate to the people of Asunción Mita that the consultation is legal because the notification to the commission regarding the injunction was delivered three days after the consultation took place. In addition, there is relevant jurisprudence in three previous consultations in the municipalities of Mataquescuintla, San Juan Tecuaco, and Jalapa set a relevant legal precedent to declare the consultation legitimate, where the Constitutional Court dismissed injunctions presented to delegitimize the consultations and declared the results to be binding.
Asuncion Mita, September 21, 2022
Municipal Commission Specific to the Consultation in Mining
Category: Cerro Blanco
Published: Thursday, 22 September 2022 12:20
A municipal referendum was held on September 18 in Asunción Mita, Guatemala, that will impact the future of the Cerro Blanco mine. The question on the ballot aske
d people if they were in agreement with the presence of mining projects that would affect the natural resources in their territory, and the answer of the people was a resounding no.
Asuncion Mita is the capital of the eastern department of Jutiapa in Guatemala and is home to the Cerro Blanco mining project. Local communities and environmental organizations have long been concerned about the environmental impacts of this project on shared waterways in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. But years of frustrations about the lack of information on the project by government authorities and lack of prior consultation by company officials led local organizations to exercise their right to call a local referendum as outlined by article 64 of the municipal code.
According to the Municipal Code, any community can request a referendum from municipal authorities, on any issue that affects the public interest, if 10% percent of the registered voters sign a petition addressed to local municipal authorities. Once the petition is received, the local municipal council is obliged to put a process in place to consult the population. At least 20% of the registered voters must participate in the referendum for it to be binding.
From tunnel to open-pit mining: deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Assessment
In 2007, ENTREMARES S.A., a subsidiary of Goldcorp, obtained an exploitation license from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Yet, this Ministry had initially rejected the same environmental impact assessment (EIA) twice due to inconsistent information affirming that there would be no impact on the environment and the population.
Fifteen years later, the Ministry received an updated EIA presented by its new owner, Bluestone Resources. The 3545-page update details an open pit rather than a tunnel mining extraction process. Julio González, from the Guatemalan MadreSelva environmental collective, explained that “instead of an update, a process to present the EIA for the new, different project should have been open."
The company has publicly stated that there is local support for the project and that any opposition comes from external sources.” But last May, local organizations collected more than 4,000 signatures from registered voters to request municipal authorities of Asunción Mita to carry out a Municipal Consultation, as per art. 64 of the Municipal Code.
Historically, communities closest to mining projects suffer the worst consequences. At Cerro Blanco, the company has proposed a filtered tailings storage facility will be built in dangerous proximity to communities that would be banned in many countries as it risks being too steep and wet compared to mining industry standards.
An analysis of the Environmental Impact Study of the Cerro Blanco mine carried out by Dr. Steven Emerman, an expert in mining waste systems, recently published by the Heinrich Boll Foundation confirms the concerns expressed by environmental organizations. Dr. Dina Lopez, a retired vulcanologist from the University of Ohio, has also expressed concerns about the heat management models presented by the company in an ecosystem characterized by the prevalence of thermal waters; and Dr. Vladimir Pacheco, an expert on mining closure plans, said that he has concerns that the Environmental Impact Study does not present a closure plan, instead, it plans to start the process four years before the mine closes.
Mining operations’ solid and liquid waste will contaminate shared watersheds, worsen current water scarcity, and increase environmental vulnerability in Central America, says Jose Mario Lopez, of the Central American Alliance on Mining, a regional organization that supports mining-affected communities in the region and has been key in sharing advice to local organizations for the consultation process.
Salvadoran and Guatemalan Catholic Church representatives also issued statements of support advocating the protection of water as well as supporting the consultation process. According to González, "Pope Francis Laudato Si (2015) has been a considerable source of inspiration within the religious sectors in Guatemala.”
Preparing an EIA for a major extractive project always requires consulting the affected communities, but the lack of informed consultation in the extractive industry is a driver of socio-environmental conflicts in Guatemala. As González stated, “impunity and the trade of private interests is a characteristic of the mining industry.”
The Guatemalan Constitution (1985), ILO 169 (ratified in 1996), the Municipal Code (2002), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) all recognize the rights of Guatemalan citizens to be consulted on important matters that could affect their lives and territories.
Sowing division in the communities
Following the results of the consultations where 28% of the registered voter participated and of those who participated 89.3% voted against the mining projects in their territory.
Bluestone Resources and the Ministry of Energy and Mines responded by issuing a public statement declaring the referendum illegal and not sanctioned by the government of Guatemala, however, local activists said that neither the ministry nor the company has jurisdiction over local consultations. “If the company wishes to have the referendum overturned, it must find a pro-mining group to initiate an injunction through a local court,” said Armando Teo, a local community organizer.
In that sense, a legal precedent established by the Guatemalan Constitucional Court in 2012 may be on the environmentalist's side as it ruled that these municipal consultation mechanisms are important because they make it possible to strengthen local democracy, promote transparency in the public administration, and are tools for citizens to exercise their democratic rights.
While Bluestone Resources attempts to obtain support from locals by investing in infrastructure, scholarships, and promises of employment, development, and economic growth, the company should realize that this approach risks sewing divisions as those who benefit from the mine’s presence will continue to find ways of criminalizing the will of the people.
Category: Cerro Blanco
Published: Wednesday, 21 September 2022 16:06
Different environmental and ecofeminist organizations, ecclesial movements, and regional activist alliances participated as international observers in the municipal consultation held this past Sunday, 18th of September in the municipality of Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, Guatemala. The consultation was related to the presence of metal mining projects in Asuncion Mita, home to the controversial Cerro Blanco mining project that poses environmentmental threats for both Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities.
The International Observation Mission was made up of the National Roundtable Against Metal Mining in El Salvador (Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica en El Salvador, MNFM), the Ecofeminist Movement of El Salvador (Movimiento Ecofeminista de El Salvador, AMAES), the Central American Alliance On Mining (Alianza Centroamericana frente a la Minería, ACAFREMIN), the Central American Network for the Defense of Cross-border Waters (Red Centroamericana por la Defensa de las Aguas Transfronterizas, RedCAT) and the Mesoamerican Ecological Ecclesial Network (Red Eclesial Ecológica Mesoamericana, REMAM).
Results released by the Municipal Commission in charge of the the consultation shows that 87.98% of those who cast ballots voted against metal mining projects and only 10.63% expressed were in favor. The Commission is made up of representatives of the municipal government of Asunción Mita, the Catholic Church, civil society organizations, and representatives of the mining company Elevar Resources, who resigned from their positions shortly after the establishment of the commission. However, the observation missions were able to verify on site that the company assigned prosecutors during the voting process, covering the 6 voting centers designated for the population to cast their vote.
Based on the procedures and results of the community consultation in Asuncion Mita, the aforementioned international observers delegations, express
- We recognize the validity and legitimacy of the municipal consultation process of residents in Asunción Mita, department of Jutiapa, Guatemala, held this Sunday, September 18, 2022. The local communities expressed by vote that they did not agree with the installation and operation of metal mining projects in any of its modalities that impact resources and environments natural in their municipality.
- As international observation missions, we identified some operational irregularities, but these do not call into question the transparency and forcefulness of the results obtained in the municipal consultation process, nor we idenfied improper actions by members of the Municipal Commission outside the provisions or legal requirements which would imply invalidating the results of the votes and the will of the 7,481 participants who voted against the metallic mining projects.
- We denounce actions of intimidation and harassment registered against the different international observation missions that subscribe to this communique, during the development of the municipal consultation. Said acts were committed by people who are linked to the mining company and who, among other things, tried to block the work of the international observers and induce a vote in favor of the mining company in the different voting centers.
- The municipal code of Guatemala establishes that a municipal consultation is binding if 20% of the registered voters of the municipality participate. The Municipal Commission of Neighbors of Asunción Mita reported that during Sunday´s vote, 27.91% of the registered voters participated.
- Guatemala has carried out 180 municipal consultations on metallic mining projects. There are also several constitutional resolutions which recognize these as truly democratic processes. According to these rulings, such as the one issued in the department of Jalapa, municipal consultations are legitimate. We believe that the position of the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala, in its attempt to invalidate the overwhelming results in Asunción Mita and reveals the interests of the Guatemalan government to promote extractive industries, even if this is against the will and welfare of the people.
- We demand from the Republic of El Salvador states its position on the cross-border mining issue highlighted by the Cerro Blanco porject, and urge it to activate a bi-national dialogue comission as soon as possible, along with its Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to effectively enforce treaties such as the Trifinio Plan. The Trifinio Biosphere Reserve is a trinational, protected border area in Guatemala, Honduran and El Salvador. It is urgent that the Salvadoran government promote regulations that guarantee mining-free borders with a shared basin approach and give priority to the negotiation of a Treaty of transboundary waters.
- We alert the international community about possible criminalization actions against environmental and human rights defenders of Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, Guatemala, and we urge the Guatemalan government and the company Bluestone Resources INC to respect the decision of the people of Asuncion Mita who rejected metallic mining projects in their municipality.
San Salvador, September 21, 2022
Translated by: Giada Ferrucci