Australian mining company Oceana Gold finally pays $8 million compensation to the state of El Salvador

Reported by Voz [1]

The Australian mining company Oceana Gold has finally paid compensation of $8 million to the state of El Salvador, complying with the ruling in favour of El Salvador by the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)

In October 2016, after seven years of a multi-million dollar dispute promoted by the mining company, ICSID adjudged in favour of El Salvador and ordered the company to compensate the country to the tune of $8 million for the costs incurred in the litigation.

Minerales Torogoz, an intermediary, gave notice that it had arrived at a “friendly settlement with the Republic of El Salvador” and paid “$8.97 million to the Republic’s Office of the Attorney General. This represents the full payment of the tribunal’s decision.”

Héctor Berríos

The mining company confirmed that the Attorney General’s Office was committed to “cease immediately all work associated with the execution of the tribunal’s decision. Additionally, the Attorney General is committed to reverse any actions carried out to date”, referring to recovery of payment actions undertaken by the Attorney General.

Oceana Gold also committed itself not to seek the annulment of the tribunal’s decision once the Attorney General’s Office had complied with its commitment. Moreover, it confirmed that it has no plans to continue with mining activity and the land in San Isidro may therefore be used for agricultural projects, other enterprises and for sustainable living.

In the department of Cabañas it is still demanded that the El Dorado Foundation and Minerales Torogoz withdraw from the lands of the affected communities, particularly from the Municipality of San Isidro. Héctor Berríos[2] (shown here) of MUFRAS-32 said that it seemed suspicious that after announcing the “friendly settlement” the Company also announced that it won’t be withdrawing from the territory where it had generated so many negative impacts such as rupturing the social fabric, drying up the sources of water that supply the communities with this vital liquid, etc..

According to Berríos, the anti-mining struggle must not let its guard down; he felt sure that this might be another of the company’s strategy. The social and environmental activist stated that the company could be killing time until the 2018 elections in the hope of a favourable outcome in the Legislative Assembly, in which a majority of right-wing legislators might be achieved; this could reverse the Law of Prohibition of Mining approved in March 2017.

Voz is an application that allows NGOs and social movements to publish reports, photos and videos on a geospatial database accessible at a global level. It is managed by Doug Specht who also manages this website.

[2]  Héctor Berríos is featured in the El Salvador interview section of this website.

La minera australiana Oceana Gold finalmente pagó la compensación de $8 millones al Estado salvadoreño

Reportado por Voz [1]

Recientemente la minera australiana Oceana Gold finalmente pagó la compensación de $8 millones al Estado salvadoreño, dando cumplimiento al fallo a favor de El Salvador, emitido por el Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones (CIADI), del Banco Mundial. En octubre de 2016, tras siete años de dirimir esta millonaria disputa promovida por la minera, el CIADI le dio la razón a El Salvador y ordenó a la compañía compensar al país con $8 millones por los gastos que incurrió en este litigio.

A través de un comunicado, Minerales Torogoz, informó que llegó “a un arreglo amistoso con la República de El Salvador” y pagó “$8 millones 97mil  a la Fiscalía General de la República. Esto representa el pago pleno y total del laudo arbitral.

La minera afirmó que la Fiscalia General de la República se comprometió a “cesar inmediatamente todos los esfuerzos destinados a la ejecución del mencionado laudo. Adicionalmente, la Fiscalía General se compromete a revertir cualesquiera acciones realizadas hasta la fecha”, refiriéndose a las acciones de cobro que emprendió la Fiscalía.

Héctor Berríos

OceanaGold también se comprometió a no solicitar la nulidad del laudo arbitral, una vez la FGR haya cumplido su parte. Además, aseguró que no tiene planes de continuar con las actividades mineras y el terreno en San Isidro se utilizará para proyectos agrícolas, de emprendimiento y vida sostenible. En el departamento de Cabañas se mantiene la exigencia para que la Fundación El Dorado y Minerales Torogoz se retiren de los territorios de las comunidades, particularmente del municipio de San Isidro.

Héctor Berríos[2] (en la foto) de MUFRAS-32, dijo que le parece sospechosa la actitud de la empresa que luego de anunciar un “arreglo amistoso” también anuncie que no se va a retirar de los territorios en donde ha generado afectaciones negativas como rompimiento al tejido social, secó fuentes de agua que abastecía a las comunidades del vital líquido, etc.

De acuerdo con Berríos, no se debe bajar la guardia en la lucha anti-minera; pues asegura que esta podría ser otra estrategia de la empresa. El activista social y ambiental afirma que la empresa pudiera estar haciendo tiempo, de cara a las elecciones del 2018, a la espera de correlación favorable en la Asamblea Legislativa, en donde si se logra mayoría de legisladores de derecha; se pudiera revertir la Ley que Prohíbe la Minera aprobada en marzo 2017.

[1]  VOZ es una aplicación mutliplataforma que permite a ONGs y movimientos sociales publicar informes, fotografías y videos en una base de datos geospacial accesible a nivel global. Se adminstra por Doug Specht que también administra este sitio web.

[2]  Héctor Berríos se aparece en la sub-sección ‘Entrevistas, El Salvador’ de este sitio web.

The Valley of Despair

In April this year [2018] Rights Action published an article entitled ‘Goldcorp’s Valley of Death in Honduras’. The article was written by Martin Calix under the heading ‘The Valley of Despair’ for ContraCorriente, a digital media for journalism in Honduras producing in-depth articles on the reality of life in Honduras and in the region. The original article in Spanish can be accessed at:

Martin Calix is a Honduran writer and author of several books such as ‘Partiendo a la locura’ (2011), ‘45’ (2013), ‘Lecciones para monstruos’ (2014) and ‘El año del armadillo’ (2016).

For Rights Action the article was translated by Lori Berenson.

The article relates to the legacy of Goldcorp’s mining in the Siria Valley, Honduras. For myself and ‘The Violence of Development’ website, the article brought back memories of a short interview I conducted in 2009 with Purificación Hernández of ASONOG about changes to the Law of Mining in Honduras at that time. This has relevance to the contamination caused by Goldcorp’s mining activities in the Siria Valley of Honduras which is the subject of the article, but for some reason it had not been uploaded onto the website at an earlier date. So, this month’s additions to the website include the Spanish version of the 2009 interview and the English translation – rather belatedly.

The much more recent article by Martin Calix follows. I am grateful to ContraCorriente for permission to reproduce the article here.

The Valley of Despair

By Martin Calix, Published 4 April 2018

Acid rain is not a myth. The inhabitants of the Valley of Syria, located about 120 kilometers from Tegucigalpa, know it well. The communities of Cedros, El Porvenir, and San Ignacio – three municipalities in the easternmost part of the Francisco Morazán department – were affected by the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.’s open pit mining, another variant of the extractivist model. With the contamination of the waters of their rivers, the rain had to fall at some point, like a biblical prophecy.

The voraciousness of an extractivist model that is causing poverty and sickness for generations has led to an imminent moral collapse. The idea that mining companies are merciful and bring economic development is as easily demystified as a straight line of domino pieces must fall.

Cristi lives here. She is eighteen months old. She doesn’t know that she is sick, she doesn’t know that her hair is falling out. She is completely unaware that a future filled with uncertainty awaits her.

Aneli is Cristi’s mother. At 18 years of age, she is also losing her hair. Their health problems began at birth. Both were born ill, they were born with the brand of mining companies within their bodies, a brand that came to the valley at the beginning of 2000 and installed itself in the waters of the rivers and water sources that the valley communities have always used. They used the waters from these rivers well before Goldcorp Inc. arrived. They used the water during the eight years of mining exploitation at Goldcorp’s San Martin Mine, and they continue to use it during the seven years following the mine’s closure.

This closure was regarded as highly irregular by many human rights organisations such as OXFAM, the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC) and the Institute of Environmental Rights of Honduras – and by affected communities.

In 2002, the “Minerales Entre Mares de Honduras” mining company (subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc.) extracted 129,435 ounces of gold which meant the removal of approximately 2.5 million tons of earth in just 12 months. Multiply this by their 8 years of operations.

Taking into account that in 2002, the price of one ounce of gold was 310 dollars – it is presently more than $1,200 –, the company’s income in that year (2002) is estimated in 40.1 million dollars, with a payroll that covered fewer than 200 employees.

According to Honduras’s Mining Law, mining companies only pay 6% of their total exports in taxes, an amount that does not suffice to repair the environmental damages caused by this activity.

The Goldcorp mining company, which also has projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Canada and the United States, exploited fourteen thousand one hundred hectares in the Siria Valley area, and although the company declared the closure of the San Martin mine in 2008, they have other concessions approved for exploitation for a total of four thousand four hundred hectares in the municipalities of Mapulaca, Lempira (1,700), Distrito Central, Francisco Morazán (1,400), and Marcovia, Choluteca (1,300), according to information revealed by the Observatory of Natural Assets and Human Rights.

–Have you taken her to the doctor?

–No, and she stops speaking. Aneli doesn’t talk much, just one syllable responses. She says “no” and returns to her self-absorbed state – perhaps provoked by the camera, or perhaps provoked by having to respond to an outsider – and her loving gaze focuses on her daughter’s face.

Oneida, the mother of Aneli and grandmother of Cristi, might be sick too. She doesn’t say so, there’s no need. Her children were born sick because she consumed the water that had been contaminated by heavy metals. She seems to be more interested in understanding my family origins, where my last name is from, since there are people in her home town, Pedernal, with the last name Cálix. She hides from my questions and the camera. I don’t try harder. I know that I have invaded the fragile daily lives for her and her family.

The women from the Siria valley were always invisible. They were never included in any statistical charts, none, except maybe for the electoral census. Women like Oneida, or Aneli, have been relegated to fulfilling their eternal roles: caring for children, doing housework, being devoted housewives who take care of their husbands. Their husbands and sons, campesinos transformed in workers-miners with the advent of mining in the area, became the fundamental building block of a company that would convert their communities into lands inhabited by desolation.

The exact same thing happened in San Ignacio. Other women would say the same thing. That the only things that multiplied in their lives were severe illnesses. In San Ignacio, the case of five women affected by contamination has been documented. Some of these women had been involved in cleaning and cooking for the company, and others doing the same in their homes. Five women who had to face surgery to have their uteruses removed. It was that or death.

–What did they tell you?

–Nothing. They just removed it.

Sulay is 52 years old. She has a deep gaze and an evasive smile. She is one of the five. Her body was contaminated by lead, arsenic and thallium she says, because she washes the clothes of her husband who used to work in the mine. Miguel, her husband, arrives on horseback. It’s a good day – he was able to ride “Clown”, a white horse that is a cross between a Spanish horse and a Peruvian mare – after having spent four months unable to do so, due to a problem in his spinal column. “Clown” dances, follows him wherever he goes, and pretends to sleep. The horse seems to enjoy this relationship as much as Miguel does, which I observe but fail to understand from afar.

Miguel is one of the thirty-five former Goldcorp Inc. (Entre Mares) workers who joined together in 2009, after the San Martin mine closed its operations. They came together to ask for compensation from the Honduran government for their health problems, since Goldcorp failed to give it to them. Now they are suffering illnesses that have deteriorated their bodies due to exposure to contamination during the gold and silver extraction process. Spinal columns with arthritis or displaced discs, and different types of cancer are part of the general clinical picture narrated by these former miners, who also report that others have already died.

It is hard to calculate the number of cases of women who had miscarriages due to contamination – said the former miners and their partners. They say they were seen by the Honduran Social Security Institution but they lost their files there. They were then seen in the Viera Clinics, where their records were changed, to make it seem that they were healthy. Other analyses were done by an Italian scientist they told me about, but they do not show me any medical results, as if it were enough to give an oral version in a country where we only believe what we see – and what we see is a deep abyss.

Miguel had operated heavy machinery, those huge dump-trucks and back loaders that you see in magazines, in National Geographic programmes and on the Internet. And he shows me one of his fellow workers in a photo he found through google on his cell phone. They laugh, and it’s not clear why they laugh. They don’t know it, but in some ways, they had learned to be miners. They liked it. It gave them dreams. It gave them the hope of getting their families out of poverty.

Rolando puts away the cellphone with the pictures of the dump truck. He says that almost the same thing is happening to him. His spinal column has weakened with time, and at 47, there are days in which his body does not function, and he must stay in bed.

– My blood pressure is always at the point of giving me a heart attack, and he inhales his cigarette and answers a phone call that distances him from the conversation.

Marilu is Rolando’s wife and she is also ill. She has headaches and her back hurts. She explains that her daughters have respiratory illnesses that can’t be cured. They say that these are the types of illnesses that the doctors don’t explain much of anything about.

In the community of San José de Palo Ralo, a few kilometers from the urban center of San Ignacio – although “urbanity” is more of a euphemism to describe a couple of paved streets — is where two women, two sisters live: Maritza who is 28 and Maria who is 41. Both are single mothers. While pregnant, both consumed contaminated water from a well built by the mining company with the authorization of the Secretary of Natural Resources, on the property where their entire extended family lives, a family with many women and small children. There are older men, and some young people, but most have decided to put their bets on the American dream, and they have left already, years ago they started to leave.

Maritza and Maria are the mothers of children who were born sick. Jefferson, Maritza’s son, has respiratory problems. Maria’s son Anthony has a growth problem, a problem speaking – I don’t understand it well but his mother gets lost in a labyrinth trying to understand his speech—and he was also born with physical disabilities that don’t allow him to walk, although Maria is hopeful that it can be resolved with an operation.

Anthony and Jefferson –both age six—stopped going to the doctor. They lost access to their doctors’ appointments because their mothers couldn’t handle the cost of traveling to Tegucigalpa from their community in a small hamlet of San Ignacio. Maritza couldn’t keep paying the one thousand two hundred Lempiras ($50) in transportation costs so that her son could be cared for in the Teaching Hospital.

–The Valley means life for us, but for some organisations it means coming, taking some pictures, because that’s the possibility of justifying some budgets. People are tired – someone tells me, explaining that I can put on paper what they said but not give names. I promise that person, that I won’t tell, but by their expression I understand that they don’t believe me.

The women in the Siria Valley were always invisible. They were never included on any statistical chart. Goldcorp Inc. only hired a few of them to take care of domestic chores for the company’s foreign executives. To wash their clothes. To cook for them. To maintain clean the lodging house that has now been transformed in the San Martin Tourism Centre, that costs forty five dollars a night, and no guest, for any reason, can bring a camera to take photos or videos.

–It is prohibited to take pictures.

–And what is fun about the place?

–I don’t know. I just know that they don’t let you take pictures.

  • Goldcorp video (3 minutes): “Goldcorp’s San Martin Mine Reclamation in Honduras”:
  • Rights Action comment: Please watch this corporate propaganda film that contrasts grotesquely with the reality on the ground, as documented in this article, film, and elsewhere.

At some point, because nobody remembers dates well in a shared history with much greater implications than the notion of time, the Environmental Committee of Siria Valley denounced water contamination in the rivers that cross through the valley, justifying the accusation in testing done on the water.

In 2009, the Catholic Agency for Oversees Development (CAFOD) carried out two investigations, under the responsibility of Dr. Adam Jarvis and Dr. Jaime Amezega, of the University of Newcastle, about the levels of acidity in the tributaries in the valley area. The studies showed that the water had a pH of 2.5 to 3 as well as high levels of cadmium, copper and iron. These results are included in the document “Records of Negative Effects of Mining in Central America: San Martin” published by CEICOM.

Environmentalists explained that Goldcorp Inc. responded by putting up Tilapia nurseries. They said that the waters weren’t contaminated, however later they had to hire workers with machinery from the San Ignacio municipality so that they could do them the favour of burying the fish, to hide all remains.

Prior to Goldcorp’s arrival the valley’s economy was principally agriculture. But livestock started to die. The corn wouldn’t grow anymore. Now they grow cane as pasture for the livestock. The only thing you can see down the long dirt roads that link together the valley’s communities are starving animals, living on large extensions of infertile land where even weeds have a hard time growing. There is an imposing, looming wall that the heap leach mining left behind. There are rivers whose waters are suspected to drag down gold, but also the metals that have sickened the life of the communities.

The banners of political parties that are now in electoral campaign wave on the electrical posts of the new local energy system. They show the smiling faces of candidates who offer the same promises they’ve been incapable of fulfilling for more than 20 years. A bridge – or more exactly, the idea of one – destroyed by the growth of the ferocious river over which it lays, and whose official approximate cost was close to the rash amount of six million lempiras. Small whitewashed mud houses are a home to numerous, anonymous families, that resist the idea of dying or leaving, because life in the valley is the only thing they know of, even though the valley doesn’t have much to offer its inhabitants.

–Young people are a lost case. They only know how to drink and take drugs –says the motorcycle-taxi driver who transported me.

–What drugs?

–Marijuana, cocaine…

–And where do they get it from?

–This is now a drug corridor. And those who don’t take the drugs go to the United States.

–But the boys have other options, they play sports, play soccer -and the girls?

–They get pregnant, take care of the house, drink and take drugs. Here there are thirteen year-old girls who are pregnant.

This thirty-two year old has been in the United States six times, and has spent several years driving a motorcycle taxi to feed his family. He has three children, with different women, he tells me. The first one he fathered when he was thirteen and then he wasn’t prepared, he didn’t know what to do. Now he is thinking of trying to go north again. There is no work. There is no health. And as usually occurs when misfortune comes as a package, educational opportunities are also scarce.

The person with a good understanding of educational problems in the valley is Teacher Jesus. She has worked as a teacher since 1987. She teaches 21 boys and girls in first grade in the José Trinidad Cabañas school. The school has a population of approximately 350 boys and girls from the El Pedernal community in the municipality of El Porvenir.

Teacher Jesus is fifty-three years old and suffers from dermatological problems since 2009, the year in which Goldcorp Inc. said they closed down their operations. But she no longer treats the allergy and lacerations that grow during the hot season; nobody knows what time of the year this season will occur because the climate has changed drastically in the valley area. She and her students are sick. She knows it. But she also knows that there is little to be done now. Although her gaze is firm, her eyes get watery when she says things that I barely understand. Perhaps the sadness of knowing she lives in a community that barely stands a chance.

The current new challenge facing the valley’s communities is that of avoiding the increased advance of the extractivist model that threatens the only water sources that remain uncontaminated: its thermal waters. To install a thermal energy generating company, eight thousand hectares of the valley have been given in concession to the “12 tribe” company and whose concessionary company is the Israeli Ormat Technologies.

After going to the valley, I realize that these people have given me a lot by telling me their stories, and I haven’t left them anything, just this text that will be published digitally, therefore the possibility that they’ll read it is remote. However, the truth that weighs more than all of the gold and silver of the mines that surround the valley is that the Honduran government has an enormous, even unpayable debt in moral reparations to these Siria Valley communities. Here, where the motto of “better life” is just an empty box.

Mining company takes advantage of the crisis in Nicaragua

Written by Alfredo Carias
Published 15 August 2018 by ACAFREMIN (Central American Alliance Against Mining) –
We are grateful to Alfredo Carias for permission to reproduce this article here.

In the midst of the socio-political crisis which hit Nicaragua in 2018, the mining company Cóndor Gold took advantage of its influence and various legal spaces to obtain an environmental authorisation to continue exploiting the natural resources of the Santa Cruz de La India community.

The people of the Mina La India community did not recognise the dubious public hearing process carried out by Cóndor Gold which it claims validates the opening of an opencast cleft of approximately 600 meters in the zone. This would put the security of the families who live in the area at risk. “Once again the people of Santa Cruz de La India are not giving in and are not selling themselves. So we say: Get out Cóndor Gold; our awareness is stronger than your false promises”, explained Olmán Varela, a representative of the National Environmentalist Movement Against Industrial Mining (MONAFMI).

Despite the community’s rejection of the mining project, the company has received the environmental permit from the Nicaraguan authorities for the construction and operation of a processing plant that will have the capacity of 2,800 tonnes a day, an authorisation not considered transparent by the community.

Heizel Torres, a mining expert of the Centro Humboldt, complained that the government of Nicaragua modified the environmental regulations to the benefit of the mining companies by eliminating the environmental impact studies, as was evident in the Mina La India case. This arbitrary act by the government violates due process which should be the right of a community – the right to establish a free, prior and informed consultation seeking the consent or not of the community before the start of an extractive project which may affect health and ecosystems in the area.

As a consequence, the population of Santa Cruz de La India rejected the approval of the environmental authorisation granted to the Cóndor Gold mining company and in a public statement demanded the immediate departure of the company from the community.

The resistence of the Mina La India community dates from 2015, when the company entered the area and provoked a social conflict between the people and the company, leading to confrontations with peaceful protests and huge marches and even the persecution and criminalisation of environmental defenders by local authorities acting under the company’s orders.

The social and environmental conflict rose to an international level due to MONAFMI’s complaint to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH), in which it was revealed that they had suffered threats and harassments for defending their communities. Their statement was made due to the lack of an internal resolution to the problem on the part of the Nicaraguan state.

Mining sector socio-ecological conflicts in Guatemala, 2005 – 2013

A paper published in the journal of The Extractive Industries and Society analyses ecological distribution conflicts (EDCs) related to the mining industry in Guatemala. The paper was written by Bernardo Aguilar-Gónzalez, Grettel Navas, Carole Brun, Andrea Aguilar-Umaña and Paloma Cerdán for the Fundación Neotrópica in San José, Costa Rica – ( – and is generally cited as: Aguilar-González, B. et al ‘The Extractive Industries and Society’ (2018).

The paper presents results of a UNDP research programme in Guatemala that analyses EDCs generated by the mining industry between 2005 and 2013. First it places the Guatemalan conflict situation in the context of Central America. The analysis that follows this introduction covers the main social and ecological consequences of these conflicts, the role of the State and the effectiveness of actions taken by extractive companies through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. 

Rather than include the whole paper in this website (where we try to make issues as short and accessible as possible), Bernardo Aguilar-González, the Executive Director of the Fundación Neotrópica, has kindly given us permission to use selected extracts and diagrams from the paper, for which we are very grateful. These extracts follow. The whole paper can be found at:

Key words: ecological distribution conflicts (EDCs); Guatemalan mining industry; Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas); Marlin Mine; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes; community consultations of good faith; role of the State.

The paper follows the line of research on EDCs that has been led by the Autonomous University of Barcelona through the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas – The EJAtlas documents EDCs and this documentation has allowed a statistical political ecology analysis to be made by the researchers. Figures 1 and 2 for instance make use of the EJAtlas documentation.


Of all Central American conflicts documented up to 2015 (Figure 1), the majority are registered in Guatemala with 27.5% of the 80 conflicts included until then, followed by Panama (18.8%) and Honduras (17.5%).

Figure 2 shows us the registry of 80 conflicts up until 2015 in Central America. From these, 29% were conflicts related to mining activities – more than a third of them appear in Guatemala. Conflicts related to water management are 24% of the total. These include conflicts related to hydroelectric projects. Those categories that relate to the appropriation of biomass and physical space, mostly by plantation activities and for biodiversity conservation, are 25% of the total. Conflicts that relate to tourism are 9% of the total, mostly concentrated in Costa Rica. Fossil fuel energy shows 9% of all conflicts while the record also shows conflicts from logistical infrastructure development (related to the Panama Canal and to projects such as Nicaragua’s Grand Canal); and real estate development (5%) (Navas, 2016).

EDCs in Central America have been increasing in numbers in the last decades, coinciding with the increase in neo-extractive activities. Data from the EJAtlas shows this trend with peaks in 2006-2007 and 2011-2013.

The EJAtlas also shows a trend which is basic to understanding the diverse roles that the State plays in Central America. Costa Rica and El Salvador show the highest rates of what the Atlas calls environmental justice successes – see Table 1. These are cases where projects have been stopped from happening. In these countries courts have declared mining projects illegal and both have banned open pit mining largely due to the action of civil society organisations.

Table 1  Environmental Justice Successes as of 2015 relative to number of conflicts according to the EJAtlas

Guatemalan mining has evolved historically in parallel with the transformation of its social metabolism and the unfair appropriation of environmental space by the Spanish, ladino oligarchies, and later by transnational-local economic groups which concentrate power and wealth. ….

In 2003 an exploitation license for gold, silver, zinc, lead, iron, copper and mercury was granted to the transnational Glamis Gold Ltd in the department of San Marcos as ‘Proyecto Mina Marlin’. Glamis Gold is the owner of the Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora Guatemalteca S.A.. The inhabitants of Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán (largely Maya-Quiche, Sipakapense and Maya Mam peoples) and environmental organisations manifested their rejection of the mine. They were concerned about the environmental impact, the lack of popular participation from the communities that surround the project and the violation of indigenous territories of collective property already protected by international legislation. In the spirit of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169 (ratified by Guatemala in 1996), on June 18th 2005, the first self-organised community consultation about the acceptance or rejection of the mining project in their lands took place in Sipakapa. Thirteen communities participated. The results were 2,448 votes against the mine, 35 in favour, 8 null and one left blank (van de Sandt, 2009; Yagenova and García, 2009; Laplante and Nolin, 2014).

The beginning of the operation of the Marlin Mine in 2005, marked another fundamental change in the scale of production of metallic mining in Guatemala. The mine evolved to produce 96% of all mining sales in the country between 2005 and 2011. The operation of this project also generated an increase in the intensity and radicalization of the opposition by indigenous communities and civil society organisations to mining projects in Guatemala (Yagenova and García, 2009; Nolin and Stephens, 2010; Laplante and Nolin, 2014). ….

[Readers of The Violence of Development website will be aware of numerous other articles relating to the operations of the Marlin Mine in Chapter 5 of the website.]

At a macro level, the overall contribution of the mining and quarries sector to the Guatemalan economy is expressed in the contribution to the GDP. ICEFI (Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales) criticises this contribution as very low. During the period studied it went from 0.61% in 2005 to 0.85% in 2014 (ICEFI, 2014). ….

At the local level, the informants in this study representing the industry stated that many positive economic, social and environmental impacts come through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. They include help to schools, investments in infrastructure, etc.. Some informants criticise these actions as generating dependence on the companies and a privatisation of public services that should be offered by the State or local governments. These actions are used to justify the occupation of environmental space. Additionally, CSR actions are criticised as granting the power to foreign companies to disproportionately influence decision-making at the local level and to cover up human rights violations (ICEFI, 2014; Laplante and Nolin, 2014; Aguilar-González et al, 2015). ….

The criminalization of social protest was also identified as a social impact. Along the same lines, threats, murder attempts and murders of those who oppose mining projects. This type of impact is currently a constant in Latin America being reported by OCMAL (Observatory for Mining Projects in Latin America) and by Global Witness. ….

Another social impact documented in conflicts with greater intensity is the forced displacement by the State with the help of the Guatemalan army, police and companies’ security forces, leading to high indices of violence, violations of human rights ….

Also the competition for territory includes vital elements like potable water. The pollution through chemicals and toxins like cyanide and mercury lead to the contamination of subterranean and superficial water sources. ….

The pollution of water, air, soil, deforestation, etc., were clearly identified environmental impacts ….

Governments … have claimed that mining activities have a strong positive impact in the economy of the country, generating economic and social development on a local as well as a national level. Studies by technical institutions such as ICEFI have shown that there is no evidence to substantiate this claim (Molina, 2015). ….

Sectors of civil society also condemn the role of a State that has been a promoter of extractive industries and not a regulator, by favouring and promoting the interests of this business sector (national and transnational companies), through the creation and adoption of laws. ….

The Mining Law does not require that the indigenous people be consulted before the approval of exploration or exploitation licenses for mining projects. …. there are no existing mechanisms in the current national legislation to guarantee the participation of the communities and the effective implementation of Convention 169 in mining activities and others. Therefore, especially the indigenous communities have developed their own processes to express their position about the projects that affect them. These are known as ‘community consultations of good faith’, ….


Aguilar-González, B., Navas, G., Brun, C. (2015) Estudio sobre la conflictividad generado por proyectos de extracción minera en Guatemala. PNUD, Guatemala.

ICEFI (2014) La minera en Guatemala: realidad y desafíos frente a la democracia y el desarrollo. Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales, Guatemala.

Laplante, J. Nolin, C. (2014) Consultas and socially responsible investing in Guatemala: a case study examining maya perspectives on the indigenous right to free, prior and informed consent. Soc. Nat. Resour.: Int. J. 27 (3), 231-248.

Molina, L. (2015) Economist Researcher ICEFI (Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales). Interview 25 March 2015.

Navas, G. (2016) Caracterización de la Conflictividad Socio-ambiental en América Central según el Atlas Mundial de Justicia Ambiental del proyecto EJOLT. Fundación Neotrópica Project Report, San José, Costa Rica.

Nolin, C., Stephens, J. (2010) “We have to protect the investors”: ‘development’ and Canadian mining companies in Guatemala. J. Rural Commun. Dev. 5 (3), 37-70.

van de Sandt, J. (2009) Conflictos Mineros y Pueblos Indígenas en Guatemala. Universidad de Amsterdam, CORDAID, Amsterdam, Holanda.

Yagenova, S., García, R. (2009) Guatemala: el pueblo de Sipakapa versus la empresa minera Goldcorp. OSAL 10 (25), 65-77.

Pan American Silver Pressured to Shut Down Community Interference in Guatemala – Indigenous leaders in Guatemala and their allies take a stand against corporate greed in their community.

by Jen Moore, an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), May 06, 2021

The following commentary by Jen Moore was produced by and by the Institute for Policy Studies. For over ten years, Jen Moore has been researching, writing and collaborating closely with the struggles of mining-affected communities and allied organisations in Latin America, Canada and other parts of the world. has been tracking inequality-related news and views for nearly two decades. A project of the Institute for Policy Studies since 2011, the site aims to provide information and insights for readers ranging from educators and journalists to activists and policy makers. We are grateful to the IPS for permission to reproduce Jen Moore’s commentary in The Violence of Development website.   |

Key words: Inequality; privatisation; corporate power; Escobal silver mine; Xinka Indigenous people; Pan American Silver corporation; prior consultation.

In the wake of a shooting attack, death threats, and fear of further violence against members of the peaceful resistance to Pan American Silver’s Escobal silver mine in Guatemala, nearly 4,000 people are calling on the Vancouver-based company to halt all community activities in the Central American country.

In mid-April, activists delivered a petition to Pan American Silver urging the company to respect the Indigenous Xinka people’s right to be freely consulted without violence and threats, and to immediately cease interference in their communities. Indigenous leaders such as Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Kukpi7 Judy Wilson and Winona LaDuke, former UN Special Rapporteurs Michel Forst and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and influential authors Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein signed the petition.

The petition underscores standing concerns from Xinka communities that Pan American Silver’s ongoing community relations activities are acts of bad faith that threaten the integrity of a court-ordered consultation process and put their security at risk.

Pan American Silver’s Escobal mine has been suspended since June 2017, first as a result of direct community action and then by court order for discrimination and lack of prior consultation with the Xinka people.

Most recently, on April 14, unknown assailants fired shots at the home of one of the Xinka representatives elected to participate in the consultation. This follows a January attempt on the life of community leader, Julio González, as well as death threats against community members.

Even though Pan American Silver is not currently extracting minerals at the Escobal mine, it continues to operate in Xinka communities. According to its 2019 Sustainability Report, the company is “engaging with community leaders, government agencies, and NGOs.”

In September 2020, the company announced the launch of a “participatory monitoring program” in the municipality where the mine is located. In response to a letter sent to Guatemalan authorities and signed by nearly 200 organisations concerned over the recent attacks and threats against defenders, Pan American Silver wrote that it continues “community relations activities to respect any existing commitments…”

While such community activities may seem innocuous to an outside observer, the Xinka Parliament of Guatemala and the peaceful resistance movement has decried the company’s community work as coercive, in violation of the “free” nature of the consultation and the Constitutional Court suspension order, and a main driver of increased tension and violence. In their joint statement in October 2020 with the Ministry of Energy and Mines – the authority responsible for the consultation process – officials agreed to inform Pan American Silver that the Xinka consider the company’s activities to be acts of bad faith that threaten the integrity of the consultation. Nonetheless, Pan American Silver has so far failed to acknowledge and act in response to Xinka demands that the company suspend all community relations activities to do its part to preserve their right to freely and safely participate in the consultation process.

The Escobal mine has been suspended for nearly four years. The consultation process failed to budge from 2018 to 2020 due to illegalities and discrimination against the Xinka until October 2020, when the government finally agreed to accept the Xinka’s appointed delegates to the consultation process. The pre-consultation process, during which time the procedure for the consultation will be determined, is currently scheduled to begin on May 21.

El Salvador’s mining ban under threat

In December 2021 the International Allies Against Mining (IAAM) bulletin suggested that under President Bukele the country’s metal mining ban is coming under threat which represents bad news for the Salvadoran environment. Extracts from the IAAM’s bulleting are provided below.

Key words: metal mining ban; President Nayib Bukele; Office for Energy, Mines and Hydrocarbons; Canadian government; water privatization.


Since the assassination of the 4 anti-mining activists in Cabañas in 2009, the country of El Salvador had managed to escape the conflicting relationship of its neighbouring countries that often appear in the list of the most dangerous for human rights defenders. On the contrary, the government of the FMLN made shy efforts to improve access to information, access to justice and to have minimal mechanisms of dialogue and consultation with social and environmental movements that pushed for a robust agenda of sustainability for the environmentally beleaguered country.

This amicable relationship changed with the government of Nayib Bukele, who took office in 2019. Since then, the president, who has managed to monopolize control of all the branches of government, has waged a nasty war against political opponents and has recently led a frontal attack against journalists and environmental activists.

  • This year has registered serious losses for the environmental agenda in the country:
  • environmental permits have been issued without proper environmental impact studies;
  • court decisions protecting ancient heritage sites have been reversed;
  • communities affected by the monoculture of sugarcane have denounced a rapid increase of death by kidney failure due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides;
  • and for the first time in a decade 4 water defenders have been arbitrarily arrested for protesting the digging of an illegal well by a property developer.

‍Of particular interest to activists is the creation of the Office for Energy, Mines and Hydrocarbons which will ensure the low cost production of thermal energy, mostly for the mining of bitcoin, Bukele´s pet project, regulate fossil fuels and exploit the mineral resources of the country.

Shortly after the creation of this office, the ministry of the environment announced a wide consultation led by the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, a non-profit agency financed by the Canadian government to promote responsible mining around the world. This has raised the alarm of environmentalists, who quickly organised a press conference to denounce the government’s intentions to repeal the mining ban.

Coupled with the threat of mining, the Salvadoran legislative assembly voted on December 22 [2021] to approve a General Law on Water Resources that environmentalists denounced as a privatizing law which favours public-private partnerships to the detriment of the human rights perspective and the focus on priority for accessible domestic use.



Honduras: Guapinol 8 finally released

Taken from ENCA 84, newsletter of the Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA)

By Jill Powis* 

The eight Honduran water rights defenders, who had been in pre-trial detention for two-and-half years, were finally released in February 2022, after some bizarre legal shenanigans.  They had been accused of crimes against the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares (ILP) in a case condemned as politically motivated by a range of legal and human rights experts.

The Guapinol 8 were arrested after opposing a huge open-cast iron oxide mine which has polluted rivers relied upon by over 42,000 people (see ENCA 75 and 78).  The mine is owned by Lenir Pérez, already notorious for human rights abuses related to his mining explorations in La Nueva Esperanza, Atlantida department, and his wife, Ana Facussé, daughter of the late Miguel Facussé, the palm oil baron associated with the murder and intimidation of land rights defenders (see ENCA 56).

The mine is located in the Bajo Aguán region, in the Montaña de los Botaderos Carlos Escaleras National Park, in Tocoa municipality. Despite the Park being protected territory, the state altered the boundaries of the Park’s no-development (‘nucleus’) zone in 2012 to accommodate the mine, which went ahead without any community consultation, in violation of the law.

On 7 September 2018, during a peaceful demonstration against the mine, one of the protesters was seriously wounded by shots fired from a car reportedly belonging to ILP. This was never investigated, but the authorities brought charges against the protesters for the alleged kidnapping of the ILP’s chief contractor as well as damage to ILP property. The case was condemned because of its many irregularities, such as the fact that the contractor repeatedly changed his testimony, while independent video evidence showing that the protest was largely peaceful was ignored.

At their trial, which finally took place on 9 February 2022, six of the Guapinol 8 were found guilty in a verdict described as “outrageous” by Amnesty International.  Unexpectedly, the next day, the Supreme Court issued a judgment accepting appeals filed months earlier that challenged the constitutionality of the charges and the pre-trial detention. However, it was only 14 days later, with much foot-dragging (and after an additional ruling by the national Court of Appeal closing the case) that the local courts finally released the remaining six.

Honduras’ new president, Xiomara Castro, had called for the Guapinol 8’s release at her inauguration in January, and so the delays by the local courts could be seen a means of showing contempt for her regime.


* From 2011 to the end of 2013 Jill Powis served as a human rights accompanier with PROAH (Honduras Accompaniment Project) which accompanied a range of threatened organisations in the country including COFADEH and COPINH.


Vulcan Materials Company and Gales Point – an editorial from Belize

The following editorial by Ed Boles is from The Belize Ag Report, a monthly agricultural report. We are grateful to The Belize Ag Report and to Dr Ed Boles for their permission to reproduce the article in The Violence of Development website.

The Belize Ag Report, #45 Spring 2022

Spring 2022, Issue 45

Guest Editorial By Ed Boles, PhD Aquatic Ecologist

Representatives of Vulcan Materials Company (VMC), headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, visited Belize on a fact finding mission in December, 2019, and alerted many people of the Stann Creek District coastal area that the company intended to purchase the 6,000 hectare (15,000 acre) White Ridge Farm.

They sent down a company team to conduct test borings of the karst and granite rock in early 2020. Their goal is to establish a foothold in Belize with a working aggregate mine and ship the mined materials from the karst hills of White Ridge Farm to southeastern United States. Their intention is to strip away the forest and soil, continually blast the limestone hills, breaking them apart, crushing rocks into graded sizes of aggregates required for roadbeds, fill, concrete and asphalt mixes, and other construction uses in the US where limestone deposits are now less available.

The material is to be transported over land and into the inner channel off the coast just south of Gales Point by a massive conveyer bridge suspended above the land and water. The conveyer bridge will be transporting crushed and sorted aggregates to Panamax self-loading ships waiting at anchor in the deeper waters of the inner channel. Dredging will be required to accommodate the 228 meters (748 ft., or longer) vessels with 13.5 to 14 m (44 to 46 ft.) draft, and the area will need to be large and deep enough to turn these vessels.

The scale of the project and the removal of karst features/ aquifers is not compatible with the sustainable use of this area that conservation NGOs and residents have been envisioning and striving toward for three decades. The VMC mission is “to provide quality products and services which consistently meet our customers’ expectations; to be responsible stewards with respect to the safety and environmental impact of our operations and products; and to earn superior returns for our shareholders.”

The first guiding principle listed on the VMC website is integrity, stating “We will work constantly to earn the respect and trust of all parties we interact with by acting fairly and honorably. We will observe high ethical standards and obey all laws and regulations.” Areas within the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard states have few locally available aggregate resources remaining. These areas are supplied from quarries in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico just south of Playa del Carmen, shipped to US ports by the VMC fleet of Panamax-class, self-unloading ships, and moved by barge and rail to market locations.

Public protests against the mine continue, as do protests and court cases in many areas of the US where VMC operates. Now this multi-billion-dollar company has set sights on the limestone deposits in Belize right next to the largest Hawksbill sea turtle nesting beach and largest congregation of manatees in the western Caribbean. Scraping away the forest and soil from a karst deposit imposes many impacts, including increasing the rate of stormwater runoff and erosion of the disturbed landscape and heavy sediment loads entering streams and the river. Karst water supplies are vulnerable to unwise land use activities that change the vegetation and geology of an area and can impact water users located at large distances from the water source. Deforestation and soil removal reduces the infiltration of rainwater into the ground that ultimately recharges aquifers. Unfiltered water from mining sites that enters groundwater resources from the mining pit or sink holes can greatly reduce groundwater quality. Ground vibrations created by rock blasting and heavy equipment can loosen small particles within fractured rock and conduits, increasing turbidity within groundwater, which can show up in people’s wells. Given the larger caverns and conduits within karst aquifers, groundwater moves much faster than occurs in other rock types, and any pollutants and pathogens in contaminated water are transported long distances compared to other aquifer forming rocks. Disruption of a groundwater conduit by mining activities can change the flow path of a large volume of groundwater, causing water to be redirected to discharge outlets in other locations, drying up damaged streams. Mine pit dewatering, the water being pumped out so mining can continue, can change local groundwater hydrology by lowering the water table, creating a cone of depression, similar to the effects of a large well on surrounding groundwater. Water bodies, springs, and wells within the cone of depression created by a mine pit penetrating the saturated zone can reduce inflow and may go dry due to the changed flow of groundwater. Many sinkholes often occur within the cone of depression caused by a limestone pit mine.

The continual blasting and drilling and the continual movement of materials over the conveyer bridge will create patterns of vibrations that may affect manatee, sea turtles, and other wildlife in the area. Besides the impact on wildlife, these sounds will become a continual set of noises within the landscape, particularly those areas within a few miles of the mine.

Ultimately, we are not sure just what the impact will be on the wildlife within the surrounding land and waters…until it starts to happen. The United States does not produce enough limestone to satisfy its consumption rate, importing mainly from Canada, Mexico, and China. This explains the strong interest in setting up the first of what could become several mines in Belize. Many limestone sites in the US are off limits to mining, having been developed into housing complexes, parks, protected areas, important aquifers, and other uses. It is also now harder to establish mines in new places within the United States because people do not want quarries near their residences.

VMC has been in litigation with many communities affected by their mining activities spread around the United States because of the impacts given above and more. Because of this increasing resistance to mining in the US, those impacts, including damage to groundwater resources, air quality reduction from dusts, noise pollution from blasting and heavy equipment, habitat loss, disruption of scenic vistas, and the overall degradation of the landscape are being exported to other countries, out of sight and out of mind to the many people who will be traveling over road beds made from the pulverized karst hills of Belize.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Boles, adjunct faculty member of Galen University, is known all over Belize for his expertise in conservation. He has spent over 30 years conducting rapid ecological assessments of watersheds and wetlands; promoting protection and restoration of steep slope, riparian, and wetland forests as critical components of watershed management; helping standardize water and watershed assessment methodologies and protocols; encouraging environmental research projects that inform conservation initiatives; and involving Belizean and international youth in these activities.

Vulcan Materials Company and Gales Point – a follow-up

In the May 2022 additions to The Violence of Development website, we included an article entitled ‘Vulcan Materials Company and Gales Point – an editorial from Belize’. The editorial was written by Dr Ed Boles. Since May, there has been some correspondence between Dr Boles and the Vulcan Materials Company. We are grateful to Ed Boles for his permission to reproduce the contents of three emails in The Violence of Development website.

In the website, the editorial appears before this correspondence and should of course be read, or remembered, before this exchange of emails and opinions which is made up of:

  1. 2nd August letter from you to various contacts regarding the Vulcan Materials Company’s project of aggregate mining in the Stann Creek District.
  2. 5th August email response from Janet Kavinoky of Vulcan Materials Company.
  3. Ed Boles’ 15th August response to Janet’s response.


In turn the three emails follow.

On Tue, Aug 2, 2022 at 7:16 PM ‘ed boles’ via wrcontact <> wrote:

Dear Colleagues,

As a concerned citizen of Belize, I am providing information about Vulcan Materials Company (attached), a multi-billion dollar aggregate mining company in the United States, and its purchase of White Ridge Farm in the Stann Creek District of Belize.  Their intent is to blast, pulverize, and ship Sugar Hills, a limestone formation, to the southeastern US for use as road fill. Blasting shall disrupt local hydrologic systems in the Southern Lagoon area, threatening the largest concentration of Caribbean manatees, as well as Central American River Turtles, American Crocodiles, and other fauna. The crushed material shall be carried by a conveyer bridge that passes over an important Hawks Bill Sea Turtle nesting beach to waiting cargo ships in the dredged out center of the Inner Channel behind the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Spokes persons for the current Belize Government have stated that no strip mining shall occur in this area.

However, Vulcan Materials is persistent and maybe even desperate to open their first mine in Belize.  The Mexican Government temporarily shut down the Vulcan Calica Mine south of Playa del Carmen in February and again on May 5, 2022, this time closing it due to the extensive damage the mining operation was causing to the local environment and the water table. This mine was producing 12 million tons of crushed limestone for the US market. In response these shutdowns, Vulcan has two lawsuit against the Mexican Government for $1.1 and $1.5 billion USD and the International Center for Investment Disputes shall be issuing a decision. Ten US republican senators are urging US President Biden to protect Vulcan and put strong pressure on Mexico. Vulcan Materials has a long history of litigation within many areas of the United States where they operate mines, so this is nothing new to their legal team and their US political support.

This web address,, takes you to the site where Vulcan Materials describes benefits of having this company within Belize. The attached document tells a very different story, reviewing the scientific literature describing ecological and social impacts of limestone mining and taking a close look at the Vulcan site near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The Calica Mine in Mexico is an indicator of what can happen in Belize if this corporation gets set up in our small country. If the Government of Belize had to take action against Vulcan for violations of their agreement and failure to protect the environment, as is occurring in many places where Vulcan is operating, we too could face a billion dollar plus lawsuit backed by a powerful and well-funded group of corporate lawyers. If this mega corporation gets a foothold in our small country, our world renowned ecological resources and cultural/social identity may change forever.

The Vulcan team arrives this month to begin groundwork to get the mine eventually opened. The word needs to get out. The people need to know who we are up against and what the real stakes are, the real cost we and our great grandchildren shall have to bare. If this is of concern to you, please help us spread the word. Forward this document to anyone who may be interested in helping us protect our country from this corporate resource grab. We need all the assistance and support we can muster against this threat that if realized shall impact our ecosystems, water resources, ecotourism, economy, and cultural integrity. We need to collectively speak out.

Please share this with your Belize networks. Thank you for your attention and your concern.

Ed Boles

Aquatic Ecologist


On Friday, August 5, 2022 at 11:31:24 AM GMT-6, Kavinoky, Janet <> wrote:

Dear Dr. Boles,

Thank you for including us on this note to share with us for the first time your concerns on The White Ridge Project. As we move forward, we are committed to maintaining transparent, open lines of communication with stakeholders to share project facts and respond to questions and concerns.

In this spirit, we wanted to set the record straight on certain claims made in your email and attached draft report. In our view, these claims are inaccurate and unfortunately, even if unintentionally, misleading.

It is misleading to try and quantify or detail environmental impacts before an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been conducted for The White Ridge Project. Vulcan Materials Company has not yet finalized a purchase of the White Ridge Farm property. If Vulcan purchases the White Ridge Farm property, the project will undergo a rigorous and scientifically thorough EIA, conducted to World Bank standards and consistent with all Belizean regulations. That report will discuss scientific findings on any environmental impacts and a comprehensive plan on how best to address them. All relevant updates on the EIA process, including opportunities for stakeholder input, will be posted to our website and Facebook channels.

We are committed to developing The White Ridge Project as an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable limestone quarry. We will act as responsible stewards of the unique flora and fauna on the White Ridge Farm property. This is how we operate across each and every one of our hundreds of sites in North America, and how we will operate in Belize, should we develop the project. Consistent with our company-wide commitment to environmental stewardship and ethics, we will only proceed with this project if it can be demonstrably proven that it can be done in a way that takes into account the overall environment and surrounding ecosystems. We will continue to have open, ongoing conversations with stakeholders on the number of wide-ranging economic and environmental benefits this project can have for the Gales Point community and the nation as a whole.

We have a decades-long history of successful and productive operations in Mexico. Our operations have contributed greatly to the local economy and local education, having been recognized on numerous occasions for our environmental stewardship. Over a 14-year-period, the Mexican government repeatedly awarded our operation with its “Clean Industry Certificate” – the highest official environmental award given by the government of Mexico to businesses operating in Mexico. We hold, and always have held, all authorizations and permits required by and granted under Mexican law to operate safely and environmentally responsibly in Mexico. When appropriate, we have defended our rights as consistent with the law, as is the case with the in-progress NAFTA arbitration filed in mid-2018. We encourage you to read the facts on our environmental conservation work in our most recent SAC-TUN sustainability report.

As the EIA process determines environmental data and needs surrounding this project, we will continue to work with local leaders and the community to support public health needs, education, welfare, and jobs for the citizens of Gales Point and the surrounding areas.

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns. We hope to maintain an open line of dialogue with you moving forward.



Janet F. Kavinoky
Vice President, External Affairs & Corporate Communications
Vulcan Materials Company

Corporate Office: 1200 Urban Center Dr, Birmingham, AL, 35242
Mailing Address: PO Box 385014, Birmingham, AL, 35238-5014
Desk  205-298-3023  |  Cell  205-757-5643  |


15 August 2022

To: Janet F. Kavinoky

Vice President, External Affairs & Corporate Communications
Vulcan Materials Company
1200 Urban Center Dr.

Birmingham, AL, 35242

Dear Ms. Kavinokyj,

Your response to my email and attached document does serve to open lines of communication. In that same spirit of sharing facts, I would like to address those claims you consider to be inaccurate if you will identify the ones to which you refer. I offer an extensive list of impacts caused by limestone strip mining as revealed in an internet search of the literature, a task to which any EIA consultant would appreciate already being compiled, except for more recent and less accessible documents.

It is difficult to visualize an environmentally and socially sustainable, large-scale strip mine or open pit mine, and just what would make it so. Records of your corporation’s extractive mining operations across the United States and in Mexico, including fines, litigation, community protests, and headlines, describe Vulcan as something other than a responsible steward of those ecosystems where you have established mines. The reports I read on the Calica mine, or SAC-TUN, also tell a very different story. When the Mexican Government responded to abuses of your mining privileges, not rights, by finally shutting down the mine, the Government must then defend itself against a $1.5 billion-dollar lawsuit in an international court. This recent history also raises alarm as to what we might expect to happen in Belize, given Vulcan’s reputation. Our small country could not defend itself against even trumped-up charges in an international court. Why should we have to? Why assume that risk to us and future generations?

Besides, Vulcan is clearly not a suitable industry for Belize, not at the scale being considered, and certainly not for export. We are building an economy based on agriculture, tourism, technological services, and light manufacturing. We are working to reduce impacts to our beautiful country, not to open the door to companies wanting to scrape away our headwater forests and mine our aquifer bearing hills, changing water table levels and stream flow patterns, shattering our tranquility, eroding the local culture and biodiversity, polluting our coastal zone, and driving away tourists. A large-scale limestone open pit mine producing aggregates for export by large, deep-draft freighters, requiring huge, dredged harbors is not part of our vision, indeed it is a plan that is being met with growing opposition. Did you not hear Minister Hyde’s announcement? No license shall be issued. This is backed up by our Blue Bond agreement, and in growing numbers by our people. Vulcan is not welcomed in Belize. We are not your replacement for SAC-TUN.

Thank you for considering these above points and issues. I look forward to a constructive dialog.

In Stewardship,

Ed Boles

Aquatic Ecologist

U.S. sanctions nickel miners in El Estor, accused of bribing Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei

Rights Action

November 22, 2022


We are grateful to Rights Action ( for informing us about this article (below) in the Guatemalan Prensa Comunitaria which here includes first the Rights Action introduction followed by the article.

“U.S. sanctions Solway executives, for running “multiple bribery schemes over the years involving Guatemalan politicians, judges and officials…” and “illegally giving cash payments to public officials in exchange for support of […] mining interests.”

Notably, the U.S. and Canadian governments today maintain full diplomatic, economic and security relations with the corrupt Guatemalan regime, including President Alejandro Giammattei who is singled out for receiving a million-dollar bribe from Solway executives.

Endemic corruption and illegality characterize the operations of all large-scale mining operations in Guatemala, as documented in the recently published “TESTIMONIO: Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala”, though it appears the U.S. government is only sanctioning Swiss company Solway due to the Russian investments in it.


Below: Prensa Comunitaria article


U.S. sanctions nickel miners in El Estor, accused of bribing Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei

By Héctor Silva Ávalos, Prensa Comunitaria, November 18, 2022


The Treasury Department in Washington announced, November 18, that it has applied sanctions contemplated in the so-called “Magnitsky Act” to the companies Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, Mayaníquel and Pronico, to the Russian citizen Dimitri Kudryakov and to the Belarusian Iryna Litviniuk, executives of Solway Investment Group, the Swiss-Russian company that exploits, with the sanctioned Guatemalan companies, the “Fenix” nickel mining project in El Estor, Izabal.

The U.S. Treasury does not mince words: it sanctions Kudryakov and Litviniuk, the Solway executives, for running “multiple bribery schemes over the years involving Guatemalan politicians, judges and officials…” and “carrying out corrupt acts in support of Russian influence-peddling schemes by illegally giving cash payments to public officials in exchange for support of Russian mining interests.”

The Russian, the Belarusian, and Solway’s three Guatemalan subsidiary companies in El Estor and Puerto Barrios have been sanctioned for “corruption schemes…pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.” According to a Treasury Department statement, it “targets perpetrators of serious abuses around the world.”

The trade and financial implications of these sanctions are profound. Under U.S. law, the federal government can now freeze and block “all property of the persons described,” whether those in the United States or “any entity owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate…by one or more blocked persons.” In addition, with some exceptions, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is charged with enforcing the Magnitsky Act, prohibits transactions by U.S. persons with those sanctioned.

The latter, in essence, means that any company doing business with Solway miners and their sanctioned Guatemalan affiliates and partners could also be sanctioned by the United States.

“The consequence would be economic implications to those sanctioned. I understand that the majority of clients in Europe have businesses in the United States”, considers Juan Francisco Sandoval, the former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) of the Public Ministry, whom the Giammattei government, through the current Attorney General Consuelo Porras, drove into exile.

In 2021, Sandoval’s FECI initiated a criminal investigation in which a witness claimed that Mayaníquel, one of the sanctioned companies, delivered a million-dollar bribe to President Giammattei in Guatemala City.

Solway is the Swiss-based company, fueled by Russian oligarchs’ capital, to which the State of Guatemala illegally granted the concession to exploit the Fénix Mining Project, a nickel mine in El Estor, Izabal.

For years, with the tolerance of the governments of first Jimmy Morales and then Alejandro Giammattei, the mine operated despite the fact that a resolution of the Constitutional Court (CC) prohibited it from doing so because it did not comply with environmental requirements or consultation with the Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous communities living in the exploited area.


The names of Russian Kudryakov and Belarusian Litviniuk appear in dozens of internal Solway emails in which both executives were informed of illegal activities carried out by the mine in El Estor. In some emails, they requested actions related to a scheme to conceal evidence of environmental contamination of neighboring Lake Izabal, to follow and harass community leaders opposed to the mine and critical journalists, or to give bribes to public officials – the latter referred to by the Treasury Department in the sanctions released on November 18.

When journalistic investigations, among them several published by Prensa Comunitaria, revealed the abuses of the Swiss-Russian mine and its relations with the companies that are now sanctioned, they alleged, among other things, that they were independent companies. However, the Treasury Department assumes that they all have a common thread, the Russian Kudryakov. The three Guatemalan companies designated by OFAC, says the statement, “are owned or controlled directly or indirectly by Kudryakov”.

The shadow of the Fenix Project’s mining activity in El Estor has publicly haunted President Alejandro Giammattei since the Guatemalan public’s attention ceased to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021.

In June 23 of that year, Sandoval’s FECI interviewed a witness who presented evidence that a group of foreigners, several Russians and a Kazakh-Israeli, related to Mayaníquel, had arrived in April 2021 in Guatemala City, where they were received, among others, by Antonio Malouf, then Minister of Economy of the Giammattei government.

During that trip, according to this witness, the foreigners delivered a million-dollar bribe to the President in his house in Zone 15 of the capital.

Sandoval opened a file and started an investigation that came, as none before since he began his term, very close to the president. But Attorney General Porras, whom Giammattei had re-elected, took it upon herself to close the file and initiate a criminal prosecution against Sandoval that led to his exile in June 2021. Currently, Porras’ Public Prosecutor’s Office maintains 100 active files and four arrest warrants against the former head of FECI.

Today, from Washington, Juan Francisco Sandoval understands that the sanctions announced by the Treasury Department validate the investigation he initiated. “They give credibility to facts that I was documenting in Guatemala prior to my departure. Consuelo Porras, instead of supporting the investigation, dismissed me and two months later issued an arrest warrant against me for that investigation,” said the former prosecutor to Prensa Comunitaria.

The State Department communiqué does not mention any Guatemalan official, but it does lash out, in general, against the “corrupt” people related to the miners. “We stand with the people of Guatemala and support protecting their country’s natural resources from foreign exploitation,”[1] said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson, adding, “We will use our tools to help ensure that corrupt profiteers face consequences for stealing from the Guatemalan people.”

A U.S. official familiar with OFAC’s sanctions process, who spoke to Prensa Comunitaria on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so publicly, said, “Mr. Giammattei would have to read these sanctions very carefully. His name is not on there, but the message seems pretty clear.”

The Treasury sanctions come the same week that a group of congressional Democrats called on President Biden’s administration to be more forceful against kleptocracy in Guatemala, and shortly after an internal government report exposed Pentagon and State Department negligence in investigating the misuse of U.S.-donated military equipment that the Guatemalan government used to intimidate and repress the CICIG, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City and the Q’eqchi’ who opposed the nickel mine in El Estor.




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Note :

[1]  Just in case readers haven’t noticed the amazing height of hypocrisy in this statement by the US Treasury Under-Secretary, I have highlighted it here. His comments are stunningly brazen given that US based transnational corporations have been extracting Guatemala’s natural resources for well over a century. What he means by protecting the resources from foreign exploitation is that the US will do all it can to protect those resources from exploitation by companies from countries other than the United States in order that they can be exploited by US based corporations.

Illegal mining poisons water supply in northern Costa Rica

By Martin Mowforth

At the beginning of March this year (2023), the government of Costa Rica declared a state of emergency in numerous districts in the north of the country due to the contamination of the drinking water supply with mercury used in the illegal extraction of gold in Crucitas. Two weeks earlier the Municipal Council of San Carlos had also declared an emergency in several northern border communities. The ban on water usage affects four aqueducts and all artisanal wells in the area. Since September (2022), the national Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers has provided potable water by tanks and trucks in the affected area.

Crucitas is located close to the border with Nicaragua and the Río San Juan which divides the two countries. At the start of this century, the Canadian company Infinito Gold created an open pit mine to extract the considerable gold reserves there. The company did so despite Costa Rica’s moratorium on open pit mining, although then President Oscar Arias controversially reversed the ban citing ‘national interest’ reasons for doing so.

In November last year (2022), samples of water for human consumption collected by the Ministry of Health showed levels of mercury above internationally accepted standards. The maximum admissible level of mercury in water is 0.001 milligrams per litre. In one school in Crucitas, a sample registered 0.053 mg/L. The regional director of the Ministry of Health, Luis Diego Ugalde Jiménez, described the situation as “very worrying. The water should not be consumed; nor should it be used for cooking or bathing. … We have a genuine environmental emergency here.” Mercury can severely affect the human nervous system.

After significant protests, in 2010 the Costa Rican courts overturned Infinito Gold’s permit on environmental grounds. Infinito Gold turned to the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) seeking $400 million in damages and lost profits. It took ten years for the ICSID to give a mixed judgement in 2021 which gave both parties to the dispute some gains but decided that the legal costs incurred in the case should be equally shared.

The other effect of the 2010 permit cancellation was the creation of a modern-day gold rush to the Crucitas area, especially after Infinito Gold’s estimation of the quantity of gold in the Crucitas area (1.2 million ounces) became public knowledge. Thus small-scale, illegal mining in the area has persisted since the cancellation of Infinito Gold’s permit and the Environment Ministry (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energia) estimated that in 2018, $197 million worth of gold was exported from this area.

The illegal miners make widespread use of mercury and cyanide in the process of separating the gold from the ore. In their attempts to counter this illegal mining, the Costa Rican police have now established a permanent patrol at Crucitas, and this has had some success in combatting the illegal practices. But the emergencies just declared clearly demonstrate that the problem is far from solved.

At the government’s press conference announcing the state of emergency, President Rodrigo Chaves said that they also had reports of water contamination with cyanide in the area. Chaves also said that despite the presence of 155 police personnel in the area, it is not sufficient to prevent the illegal mining.


  • Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, 30 enero 2020, ‘Situación de la Explotación Ilegal de Oro en Crucitas y las Afectaciones Ambientales Asociadas’, San José.
  • Alejandro Zúñiga, 4 June 2021, ‘Costa Rica and the controversy at Crucitas’, Tico Times.
  • Delfino, 23.02.23, ‘Grito al cielo’, Reporte Delfino
  • Astha Garg, 23.02.23, ‘Illegal Gold Mines Force Costa Rica to Declare Water Emergency’, Tico Times, San José
  • Vinicio Chacón, 02.03.23, ‘Gobierno declara emergencia por contaminación por mercurio de fuentes de agua en Crucitas’, Semanario Universidad
  • Tico Times, 03.03.23, ‘Water Crisis Rocks Costa Rica’s North: State of Emergency Declared’, Tico Times, via AFP