Indigenous Mam campesinos set fire to a pickup truck and an exploration drill rig on June 12 at the Marlin gold mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán municipality in the western Guatemalan department of San Marcos, according to media reports. The protesters said the mine—operated by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.—had illegally placed its equipment on their land, endangering their water supply, and that they had been asking for two weeks for the company to move the equipment.
According to the Canadian-based Rights Action organization, as of June 19 Goldcorp had successfully pressured the Guatemalan government into bringing charges against seven local residents in relation to the incident. There have been reports of other efforts to intimidate organizers. Javier de León, a leader of the Association of Integral Development of San Miguel Ixtahuacán (ADISMI), said he received two threatening text messages by cell phone on June 12. (Reuters, June 15; Rights Action, June 15, June 19)
Indigenous Guatemalans have demonstrated repeatedly against the Marlin mine since it began operations in 2005 with a $45 million loan from the World Bank. In January 2005, campesinos in Sololá department tried to block the passage of equipment for the mine through their territory; public security forces shot one protester dead. In March of that year, two guards for the Marlin mine killed San Miguel de Ixtahuacán resident Alvaro Benigno.
San Miguel de Ixtahuacán residents aren’t alone in opposing the mining operations. At a June 19 meeting with legislative deputy Rosa María de Frade, the mayors of 11 municipalities in San Marcos department said they opposed granting any concessions to Montana Exploradora. “All that [the Marlin mine] has created is confrontation between brothers, and deceptions, and the lands of the humble people of San Miguel Ixtahuacán have been taken over,” said Sipacapa mayor Delfino Temaj. De Frade was promoting reforms to the mining law that she said would protect the environment while ensuring payments of royalties to local communities. “Montana can give us royalties of 50%, but we reject it,” Temaj said. He wondered “what we can do with the money in our pockets if the water sources are dried out.” (Prensa Libre, Guatemala, June 20)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 21