El Tambor Mining Conflict in Guatemala

The “El Tambor” mining project, also known as “Progreso VII”, operates through the Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. Company (Exmigua), a subsidiary of the Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) Company, and is located in the municipalities of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo, in Southern Guatemala. Local residents allege that the gold and silver extraction was damaging water sources. A process of dialogue among companies, government and residents, beginning in 2013, was paralysed and residents who had organised a sit-in at the mine entrance, attempting to keep out the heavy machinery, were violently removed by the military (PrensaLibre 2014a; PrensaLibre 2014b).

Conceptual Model

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksPollution reduces available/usable freshwater. Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources provokes discontent with the state.Pollution, and degradation of ecosystems, such as coral reefs.Pollution / Environmental DegradationAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal GroupsChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State Grievances

Conflict history

In 2011, the Guatemalan Government approved the gold and silver mining concession for the El Tambor mine for the Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. Company. The local population, because of fears that the mining would cause the same damage as in other zones of the country, began expressing their disagreement and concern, above all considering the pollution that mining activity would have on their water sources. The environmental impact assessment had already been approved by the Ministry of Energies and Mines, and the mining extraction license had already been granted, without having consulted in a free, well-informed prior manner with local residents, as prescribed by international standards on indigenous rights.

Environmental Impact Assessment joint evaluation

Beginning in June 2013, a series of meetings were held between representatives of the communities affected by the El Tambor mine, the President of the Republic, representatives of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Environment and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Governance, to review and jointly evaluate the Environmental Impact Assessment, and therefore consider the mitigation measures adopted by the mining company.

Eruption of violence

Nevertheless, in these meetings, no agreement was reached. In 2014, the National Dialogue System hosted new meetings among the parties in conflict in order to reach an agreement. However, on 23th of May 2014 at dawn the company’s machinery came to the mine’s entrance and, along with the police, began removing the community demonstrators (PrensaLibre, 2014a). The situation became violent, with 23 demonstrators wounded and 15 police agents as well (PrensaLibre, 2014a.).

United Nations condemnation

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had sent its representatives to verify due compliance with the established protocols about the use of force in this type of situations, condemned the way the government used force for this activity: “The number of persons hurt reveals a failure to adequately apply protocols on the use of force in accordance with human rights”. The High Commissioner also called for resumption of the dialogue attempted in 2013 (Telediario, 2014). At this time residents remain present at the mine entrance and are demanding resumption of the dialogue and negotiation among companies, residents and the government (PrensaLibre, 2014b).

Actors

Actor
Participation
Functional group
Geographical scale
Local residents of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo
Local residents of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo
Participation
Functional group
Civil Society
Geographical scale
Internal grassroots
Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A.
Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A.
Participation
Functional group
Commercial
Geographical scale
Internal national
Government of Guatemala
Government of Guatemala
Participation
Functional group
Public
Geographical scale
Internal national
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Participation
Functional group
Public
Geographical scale
External
Conflict Party
Conflict Resolution Facilitator

Conflict resolution

In summary, the conflict resolution modes range from peaceful conflict resolution, to violent military repression against the opposition. The former include peaceful mobilisations by residents, to bring political pressure on decision-makers. Further, impartial agencies such as United Nations mechanisms facilitate dialogue and negotiation among the parties in conflict. And finally, the use of military force has been a factor exacerbating the conflict and hardening both parties’ positions, and continues to this day. The dynamics of the conflict depend at this time largely on the possibility of resuming the dialogue among the parties.

Resilience and Peace Building

3

Dialogue

A series of meetings were held between community representatives and government authorities to review the environmental impact assessment and jointly consider the mitigation measures to be adopted by the mining company. Subsequently, the National Dialogue System hosted new meetings among the parties in conflict in order to reach an agreement. Nevertheless, no agreement was reached and the use of military force has halted any dialogue.

2

Mediation & arbitration

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the government’s use of force against demonstrators and called for a resumption of dialogue.

1

Social inclusion & empowerment

Prior consultation with local residents is required during the planning of mining projects as prescribed by international standards on indigenous rights. However, this requirement was not upheld.