Marlin Mine Conflict in Guatemala

Marlin mine, owned by the Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A. company, a subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc. of Vancouver, Canada, is located on Guatemala's western high plateau. The Marlin mine has been controversial since it was built in 2004, and the Mayan population has denounced its alleged human rights abuses and socio-environmental damages since 2007, including isolated cases of violence (On Common Ground Consultants, 2010; COPAE 2011). Despite a pronouncement by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IHRC) to the Guatemalan Government, recommending suspension of these mining activities, they continue to this day.

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

Marlin Mine is in San Miguel Ixtahuacán and part of Sipacapa, San Marcos department. The Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala issued the mining license to develop and operate the Marlin Project on 27th of November 2003. The project began its construction phase in the second quarter of 2004 and concluded in the third quarter of 2005. Production of gold and silver began the fourth quarter of that year. Marlin Mine has operated through Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, a subsidiary of Goldcorp, since 2009, a Canadian company.

Precautionary measures granted by the IHRC

In May 2010, the Inter-American Human Rights Court (IHRC) granted precautionary measures to the members of 18 Mayan indigenous communities affected by the mining activities of the Marlin mine. The IHRC requested the Guatemalan government to suspend the mining activities until the IHRC would make a final decision respecting the lawsuit of the communities. The application for precautionary measures states that in November 2003, the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted a gold and silver mining license for 25 years to the Montana Company. Applicants state that the mining concession and the beginning of extraction involved no free, well-informed, full prior consultation with the Mayan communities. The Mayan communities also complained about the pollution of the water sources.

Lack of consultation

In 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples concluded that, in the case of the Marlin Mine, no consultation had been conducted pursuant to applicable international standards such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Among other factors, the Rapporteur criticized the Guatemalan Government's non-involvement in the company’s “consultation” processes and its failure to ensure independent supervision of the consultation (On Common Ground Consultants, 2010).

IHRC's push to guarantee access to clean water

In December 2011, after examining the additional information contributed by the government and the petitioners, the IHRC notified its decision to modify these precautionary measures and asked the Guatemalan Government to adopt the necessary measures to ensure that members of the 18 Mayan beneficiary communities have access to safe water supply for human consumption, domestic use and irrigation, and that water sources are not polluted by the mining activities.

Water pollution

The Peace and Ecology Pastoral Commission (COPAE) of the Diocese of San Marcos, in its reports on monitoring activities, highlighted the high concentrations of copper, aluminum, manganese and arsenic, as well as nitrates in the rivers, concluding that mining operations are worsening the quality of these waters; this agrees with the findings of a parallel study by the University of San Carlos de Guatemala (COPAE, 2010).

A smoldering conflict

Nevertheless, the mine continues operating and the conflicts continue smoldering. Up to 2011, several violent events had occurred regarding Marlin Mine operations and the local people’s opposition (Mining Watch, 2011; Amnesty International, 2011). In June 2014, the IHRC decided that the facts denounced in 2007 may violate rights protected by the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. The IHRC considered that the Court of Constitutionality confirmed the validity of the consultation implemented by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A. in Sipacapa on 18 June 2005 under Guatemalan law, despite a negative community decision about operation of the Marlin Mine, and the Guatemalan Government providing no answers to the outcome of the community consultation.

Actors

Actor
Participation
Functional group
Geographical scale
Peace and Ecology Pastoral Commission (COPAE)
Peace and Ecology Pastoral Commission (COPAE)
Participation
Functional group
Civil Society
Geographical scale
Internal national
Mayan Indigenous Communities
Mayan Indigenous Communities
Participation
Functional group
Civil Society
Geographical scale
Internal grassroots
Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A.
Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A.
Participation
Functional group
Commercial
Geographical scale
Internal international
Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala
Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala
Participation
Functional group
Public
Geographical scale
Internal national
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People
Participation
Functional group
Public
Geographical scale
External
Conflict Party
Conflict Resolution Facilitator

Conflict resolution

Public protests and legal actions

The modes of conflict resolution in this case have been primary strikes and demonstrations by the local population opposing mining activity and appealing to national and international public opinion. It has also been fundamental to appeal to judicial authorities, especially international human rights bodies, specifically the IHRC and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, obtaining significant legal backing for the local people’s defense of their rights.

Violence and initimidation

There have been isolated cases of violence and intimidation by private security teams hired by the Montana Company (On Common Ground Consultant, 2010; Amnesty International, 2014). In a press release responding to the publication by Amnesty International, the company answers the accusations by claiming progress in its community relations.

National dialogue

Among others, they mention an Agreement on Additional Voluntary Royalties, studies, weekly visits by the communities to the company and their participation in a national dialogue established by the Government of Guatemala since December 2010. Yet, the dialogue did not decrease the tensions on a local level (Amnesty International, 2014).

Resilience and Peace Building

4

Dialogue

A national dialogue established by the Guatemalan government since 2010 has included the participation of the Montana Company. Yet, the dialogue did not decrease the tensions on a local level.

3

Mediation & arbitration

Local communities opposing mining activity have appealed to international human rights bodies such as the IHRC and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Consequently, significant legal backing for the local people’s defense of their rights has been obtained.

1

Social inclusion & empowerment

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