The Guatemala government has said that it will suspend Goldcorp’s Marlin mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacán to make way for a full investigation of the health, environmental, and human rights impacts of the controversial mine project.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the suspension on May 21, following the release of a new study by the University of Michigan and Physicians for Human Rights that found elevated levels of mercury, copper, zinc, arsenic and lead in the blood and urine of people living in the vicinity of the Canadian-owned mine.
The independent consulting group On Common Ground also released a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) detailing Goldcorp’s “systematic failure to address grievances in the communities” and, among other concerns, the company’s refusal to “protect and respect” Indigenous rights.
“We applaud the decision of the Government of Guatemala to honor its international human rights obligations and suspend operations at the Marlin mine,” said Kristen Genovese, a senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “The Marlin mine has always been the source of conflict in the communities. At this critical time when tensions are running high, we urge the government to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all involved.”
The conflict Genovese mentions has been throughly documented in the past by independent journalists, NGOs, activists and occasionally by the mainstream press. Most recently, it was observed by the Permanent Peoples Tribunal in Madrid, the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and by James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.
In March, the International Labor Organization (ILO) also submitted its own formal request to suspend the Marlin mine and other projects in Guatemala to conduct their own investigation. The government later said that it would not comply with the ILO’s request.
“We are encouraged that the Guatemalan government is taking the Commission’s decision seriously,” said Jamie Kneen, the Communications Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. “We also ask that the government acknowledge the communities’ concerns and investigate, for example, where exactly the contamination is coming from and what can be done to improve the current situation.”
Indigenous Peoples have also welcomed the decision; however, according to Javier de Leon, President of the Association of the Integral Development of San Miguel (ADISMI), it has come with the possibility of reprisal. “The communities affected by the Marlin mine applaud the Government’s decision to comply with the Precautionary Measures of the IACHR… Nevertheless, we are worried about the threats that we have received. We have been told that there will be consequences for defending our rights.”
ADISMI is calling for the international community to monitor the situation.