Court Gives Mayans Victory Over Guatemalan Government and Mining

Rick Kearns
8/31/14

A Guatemalan court has ordered that the Mayan community of Sipacapa has the right to be consulted for any mining or energy project and that the Los Chocoyos mining permit, issued to the Entre Mares Company in 2012 by the Energy and Mining Ministry, is illegal.

The Protection Tribunal of the Guatemalan Court of Appeals issued the protection order in favor of the Sipacapian Mayan Council (SMC) in March but did not formally notify the SMC until July.

“This judgment states the obligation of the Guatemalan government to respect the indigenous people’s right to information and consultation before granting mining permits in indigenous territories, in accordance with both United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and International Labour Organization Convention (ILO) 169. Otherwise they are illegal,” said Esperanza Pérez of the SMC in a July 23 press conference.

The Los Chocoyos mining permit was issued in 2012 to Entre Mares of Guatemala, a subsidiary of the transnational mining Goldcorp Inc., without consultation of the indigenous municipality of Sipacapa.

According to the SMC’s press statement of July 23, after the government granted the permit in 2012, the SMC “…observing and knowing the societal prejudices and environmental consequences that this type of industry generates, such as the theft, sacking and displacement of…indigenous communities, on December 11 sought legal protection against the Guatemalan Government for the issuing of the Los Chocoyos mining permit, arguing that it was a violation of the right of prior consultation based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention 169.”

Maximiliano Ambrosio of the SMC asserted at the press conference that the judicial decision was very important for the Sipacapa community.

“We filed the petition considering the devastating consequences mining activities bring both on community level and to our environment and daily lives. And now, we have received a judgment in favor of the people of Sipacapa which means our territory belongs to us,” Ambrosio stated.

The Court also recognized the SMC as having standing in the case, according to Attorney Deny de Leon of the Commission for Peace and Ecology (COPAE).

“It is a historical and an important political moment when the state of Guatemala through this judgment recognizes the proper organization of the indigenous communities, a collective right, and in this case represented by the SMC,” said de Leon at the press conference.

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