Guatemala: residents dispute Goldcorp charges

The Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc is continuing to press charges against five indigenous Mam in connection with a June 12 incident in which a pickup truck and an exploration drill rig were set on fire at the Marlin gold mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán municipality in the western Guatemalan department of San Marcos. An arraignment was scheduled for the San Marcos courts in the city of San Marcos on Sept. 7. According to the Canadian-based Rights Action organization, 98% of crimes go unpunished in Guatemala.

Goldcorp’s Guatemalan subsidiary, Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, says that residents of the Saqmuj community, part of the villages of Agel and San José Nueva Esperanza in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, were armed with rocks, sticks and pistols during a dispute on June 11 over the presence of the equipment in Saqmuj, and that they burned the equipment the next day. The company also accuses the parish priest, Father Erik Gruloos, of leading the armed residents, and insists that it had bought the land where the equipment was placed.

Saqmuj residents deny that they had pistols. They say that after a discussion on June 11, Montana’s general manager, Marco Meneses signed a note agreeing to return for negotiations at 9 am the next morning. When Meneses didn’t show up on June 12, the residents became upset, and unidentified people started the fires around noon. The residents also claim that Montana’s purchase of the land from some community members was illegal, because sales that affect the entire community have to be approved by the entire community. (Rights Action alert, Sept. 3)

On Aug. 14 Goldcorp announced that the Marlin mine in Guatemala had become the first mining operation in Central America to be fully certified under the International Cyanide Management Code for the Manufacture, Transport and Use of Cyanide in the Production of Gold (“the Cyanide Code”), a voluntary industry program developed under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program. “Marlin’s certification highlights Goldcorp’s ongoing commitment to maintaining the highest possible standards of environmental stewardship,” said Goldcorp president and CEO Chuck Jeannes. (Goldcorp press release, Aug. 14; Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador, Aug. 14)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 6

See our last posts on Guatemala and the mineral cartel in Latin America.