Guatemala: Mayan gold

As prices for raw materials, and especially gold, have reasen through the roof in these last few years, Guatemala has again become the focal point for new mining projects.

In the past companies there were companies like EXMIBAL, controversial for its part in the violence during Guatemala's civil war. Now more and more it is multinational corporations that are keen on the gold that lies beneath the land of local Mayan communities.

One such example is the Marlin project near Sipakapa, in the department of San Marcos. Despite protest of the local population the project was started, and is operational since 2004. The communities in the vicinity are protesting against it, claiming mining activity pollutes the land they use for agriculture, but are not even heard by their own government.

Another project is that of Sky Resources, a Canadian company and its subsidiary CGN (Compañia Guatemalteca de Niquel) in El Estor, on the border lake Izabál. The existing nickel mine was closed years ago due to insufficient profit. Due to the increasing prices plans were made to reopen the mine for exploitation. Although this project is still in its initial stages, local communities were already confronted with the consequences. In January 2007 a number of local people were forcibly from their homes and drive from their lands by a hundred man strong police force. Houses and crops were burned afterwards to prevent people from returning. A video of the eviction can be seen here.

Other Central American countries are also confronted with the same problems.The Canadian company Goldcorp Inc. has had a mining project since 2001 in Valle de Siria in Honduras. After a number of years people are finding that the mining activity has polluted the water supply with heavy metals, and in other places has completely dried up.

CATAPA, together with VGC (Vlaams Guatemala Comité), supports these farmer communities and local organisations in their struggle against these illegal practices of mining companies in Guatemala.