Guatemala must suspend mining operations on Mayan territory
Mining Story 331

Guatemala must suspend mining operations on Mayan territory

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John Ahni Schertow
March 25, 2010
 

Several Mayan communities and organizations have presented a Constitutional Petition to the government of Guatemala, calling for the immediate suspension of all mining activities taking place on Mayan land–including Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine and HudBay Mineral’s Fenix project.

The Petition was presented to the Secretary General of Guatemala on March 2, 2010, following a formal request by the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Committee of Experts to suspend the activities while they investigate reported violations of international law in the Country.

Rights Action explains, “The Committee is an executive body that carries out independent technical reviews of the national practice of States’ compliance with international obligations that are part of ratified ILO conventions. In this undertaking, it evaluates the information sent by States, employees, and workers, creating recommendations to guarantee effective compliance with the conventions.”

Guatemala is one of twenty countries to have ratified the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, more commonly known as ILO Convention 169 (C169).

States that ratify the Convention are obligated to respect “the integrity of the values, practices and institutions” of indigenous peoples, and to support the “full development of these peoples’ own institutions”.

Further, says Cultural Survival, the Convention states that “Special measures” for the protection of indigenous peoples “shall not be contrary to the freely-expressed wishes of the peoples concerns; and that any other measures which “may” affect indigenous peoples directly must be preceded by consultations with the “representative institutions” of the peoples concerned, undertaken “in good faith… with the objective of achieving agreement or consent to the proposed measures.”

Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala have been rarely if ever consulted by the government or by corporations like Goldcorp and Hudbay who are actively exploiting minerals on indigenous lands. Also, in many cases, such as with Goldcorp, Indigenous communities have continuously stated that they want the company off their land permanently, because the economic, social, and environmental consequences far exceed any short-term benefits they may or may not get from their presence. The harm they bring with them is simply too great.

This month’s Petition also follows an important legal precedent that was set by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala in December 2009. As reported by Survival International, “The Court ruled that all the rights provided for in the Convention have constitutional status.”

“The ruling is a success for Guatemala’s indigenous peoples, the Maya, Garifuna and Xinca, giving them greater control over projects that affect them. It is also significant for tribal peoples across the world, showing the growing strength of Convention 169,” Survival comments.

Concerning the Petition, it also means Guatemala is now obligated by its own Constitution to suspend all mining operations on Mayan Territory. As of March 2, the government has thirty days to do so.

For more information about ILO Convention 169, please visit http://pro169.org

What You Can Do

Rights Action is calling on the International Community to support the Mayan’s Call for the suspension.
The have authored a sign-on letter which they are asking people to send no later than April 2nd. A copy of the letter and contact information can be found at http://www.rightsaction.org/Alerts/Guatemala_mining_ILO_032410.html

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