La Puya: celebrating 5 years of peaceful resistance against a Kappes Cassiday & Associates subsidiary

By Amy Porter

July 2017

This article was written especially for the newsletter of the Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA) and appears in ENCA 70 (July 2017).

 Amy Porter has worked as Amnesty International UK’s Country Coordinator for Guatemala and recently with two NGOs in rural Guatemala. She has spent much time

accompanying the La Puya Peaceful Resistence.

 Key words: gold mining; Guatemala; peaceful resistance; Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); female human rights defenders; police violence; arsenic in water.


On 5 March 2017, members of the Guatemalan community-led, anti-mining movement, Resistencia Pacífica La Puya (Peaceful Resistance of La Puya), celebrated five years of maintaining a 24-hour blockade at the entrance of the Progreso VII Derivada gold mine. The mine is operated by EXMINGUA, a subsidiary of the US-based company, Kappes Cassiday & Associates.


While extractive projects in Guatemala are as controversial as ever within the communities they affect, companies have complained of a moratorium on new licences. The number of licences granted has dropped drastically, from 51 new licences in 2007 (33 for exploration and 18 for extraction), to just five in 2015 (3 for exploration and 2 for extraction).[1] Although discussed by government, a moratorium was never officially adopted, and the current Morales administration declared its opposition to such a measure.[2]


In a report published in January 2017, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) noted that there are currently 24 licences in place for exploration in Guatemala, and 274 for extraction, for mining, oil and natural gas projects. [3] The report mentions only once, in passing, the issue of indigenous community resistance to extractive projects, and blames the industry’s limited contribution to Guatemalan GDP for the lack of new licences.


Founded in 2002, the EITI is facing a crisis of legitimacy, having failed to lend sufficient weight to social and environmental issues.[4] Otto Haroldo Cu, president of the Observatorio Nacional de Transparencia (National Observatory for Transparency) and an advisory member of the EITI, stated in 2015: “the fact that extractives count for less than 2% of the country’s GDP should make us stop and think … 78% of municipalities with active mining licences registered were engaged in some kind of conflict in 2010. Is this an adequate trade-off? Is this the kind of development that we want for our country?”[5]


The EXMINGUA website boasts that the La Puya mine has brought “development, growth, jobs, progress and wellbeing for hundreds of families residing in San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo, the bordering municipalities”. [6] Members of the communities, however, feel differently. Responding to the lack of information offered by the local or national authorities, or the mining companies themselves, they established a peaceful blockade in 2012.


The movement’s five-year milestone is an opportunity to celebrate their achievements; in 2016, a judicial order brought mining at the site to a temporary halt. It is still in effect. However, it is also a stark reminder of the long and costly struggles that rural communities in Guatemala face to gain control over issues on which they have a legal right to be consulted. Members of the La Puya resistance are determined to maintain their blockade until the mine is closed, for good.


Many of the key activists who have kept the La Puya blockade running are women. Female human rights defenders face particularly great risks of intimidation, threats and harassment. Between 2012-2014, 1,688 attacks on female human rights defenders were reported in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.[7] In June 2012, Yolanda Oquelí, an activist at the La Puya site, survived a shooting. No-one has been arrested for the attack.


On 5 March, the 5-year celebrations at La Puya got underway with a protest march to the mine led by local youth. Cries of “Sí a la vida, no a la minería!” (Yes to life, no to mining!) rang out along the route. Over 300 people joined the day’s celebrations, which included a community lunch, running races, and speeches.


It was against this backdrop of community spirit and fierce resilience that ENCA member, Amy Porter, spoke with Felisa Muralles and Marta Catalán, two of the many women who have formed the backbone of the La Puya Peaceful Resistance movement. Muralles is from the community of San Pedro Ayampuc, and Catalán from San José del Golfo, the two villages which border the mine site. They reiterated their determination to see the mine closed, and shared how the peaceful resistance has been a source of both unison and division within the communities.


What was the objective of setting up the La Puya Peaceful Resistance movement?

FM: The intention was not to let the mining companies work here. We are fighting to get them off this land.

MC: The resistance started on 2 March 2012. For a short time, we had known that they wanted to put a mine here, close to the communities, and that’s when we started the protest site – because they hadn’t informed us about anything. And today we’re here celebrating 5 years. We were motivated to defend the water and the environment for future generations.


Were you surprised when you found out there was going to be a mine?

FM: In 2011, we didn’t know what it was going to be. There was no consultation, no information; they said it would be other things, never a mine. … They said they had bought the land to cultivate: pineapple, papaya, fruits. They started to build roads in and we still didn’t know it was going to be a mine. Until a group got organised and asked the Ministry [of Energy and Mines] whether there was a licence for extraction here, and finally they gave the information that yes, there was an authorised project here.


What do you feel you have achieved in the last 5 years?

FM: First, we’ve raised awareness with a lot of people, to recognise that mining is truly bad; we’ve shown them the proof. And we have learned how to better look after nature, the trees, the water.

MC: I think we’re the only resistance movement at the national level … which hasn’t had any deaths. We had some injuries when the [police] crackdowns happened, and we have had people get prison sentences. We have united to help each other. In the most difficult times, there’s always somebody at your side.


What have been the biggest obstacles?

FM: There have been so many obstacles. We’ve been victims of much criticism, and of police violence against us … they’ve used excessive violence to try to displace us. But they didn’t manage.

MC: At first … the mining company saw all the people here, and seeing all the women, they said that we had come here to prostitute ourselves, that we had abandoned our children, that we neglected them. A lot of things like that … They put around names of people, once they even put my Dad’s name, saying that he was seeing another woman; but of course he wasn’t, it was just to try and discredit the resistance movement. It didn’t stop us.


Has the gold that has been extracted here benefitted the local people?  

FM: Hardly at all, because the royalties are only 1%. For every Quetzal* that they give, 50 cents go to the central government and 50 go to the local authorities. Last year, they paid royalties of Q305,000 ($42,000 USD) for the entire year … In 2014, they only reported from September to December, and they only gave Q6,000 ($818) to the municipality for everything they extracted. The benefits for the communities are minimal, there’s just contamination, destruction and problems … even families fighting amongst themselves. They say this is development, that’s its improvement, but that’s completely false.

[* Guatemalan currency]


Is the community very worried about the water contamination?

MC: Yes, we’re very worried … The levels of arsenic are naturally high here, but in 2015 when [the mine] was working a lot, the levels increased greatly, from 0.052 milligrams to 0.099 milligrams per litre of water … The Ministry of Health accept that this is because of the [mining] works, and asked [the local authorities] to do something. Supposedly, in San José del Golfo they put in filters, but the contamination levels haven’t decreased.[8]

FM: The municipal authorities, at least in San Pedro Ayampuc have not done anything, they say they don’t have money. So, the authorities got sanctioned … then they pay the fine with money that belongs to the town … and we’re still drinking contaminated water.


I noticed that there’s a water park close by, up there on the hill?

MC: Yes, it’s the strangest thing … there’s always water up there. In my house, we have water every 48 hours. When there’s water, we have to fill up a lot of containers … It shouldn’t be like this. When these companies come, they use millions of litres of water and don’t pay for it; we pay to be given water when they want us to have it. This water is ours [it’s not for] companies who come to contaminate and destroy.


Could you tell me about the family divisions?

MC: There are many divisions between parents and children, brothers and sisters … even in mine, I have an aunt who doesn’t speak to me … because as the municipal authorities see us in a bad light, and one of her daughters works there, it bothers her and we don’t speak.


What do you want from the Guatemalan government?

FM: What we want is for them to remove the mining projects, that they stop testing for more projects, and that [the companies] go back to their own countries and destroy them, and let us in Guatemala live here in peace.

MC: Really, I don’t expect anything, but what we would like most … is that they would think about the harm it’s doing, and please not give out any more licences.


What types of alternative development would you like to see?

MC: I would like to see sources of employment come from within the community. Because we know … how to care for Mother Earth, which gives us food. I dream of a Guatemala without mines, monocultures or transnationals.

FM: Better development would perhaps be training us how to look after the land, cultivate organically, and make irrigation systems. That would be good development for these communities.


Do you feel that international solidarity is helpful?

MC: Yes, because we’re not the only people feeling this way, there are others outside of Guatemala. If it was only in Guatemala, I think the government would always do what they wanted. So when people from abroad come to know what is happening here, the government distances itself from these things. For us, it’s very helpful that people from outside come and take away the information.

FM: Yes, it helps a lot, because I understand that when people come here they take away the message and publicise it, so the companies see that we are not alone, that yes, [people] in other countries very far away have their eyes fixed on Guatemala, on our struggles. I think this helps a lot to raise awareness, and it spreads the news of what’s happening here.




[1] EITI, 30 December 2016, Informe EITI Guatemala, 2014-2015

[2] Central America Data, 9 February 2016, Good News for Mining Sector in Guatemala [accessed 17.05.2017]

[3] EITI, 30 December 2016, Informe EITI Guatemala, 2014-2015

[4] Oxfam, 23 February 2016, Oil, gas and mining transparency initiative facing crisis of relevance and legitimacy

[5] EITI, 17 July 2015, Falling extractives revenues in Guatemala amidst political turmoil [accessed 17.05.2017]

[6] [accessed 20.05.2017]

[7] [accessed 20.05.2017]

[8]  According to the World Health Organisation, the maximum permissible level of arsenic in water should be 0.010 milligrams per litre.

Marlin Mine closes 2017

Statement by FREDEMI and PLURIJUR

FREDEMI – San Miguel Ixtahuacán Defense Front

PLURIJUR – Pluricultural Justice Association of Guatemala
July 4, 2017

Government and company repression feared at community protest against harms and losses caused by Goldcorp’s “Marlin” mine, from 2004-2017

FREDEMI (San Miguel Ixtahuacán Defense Front), representing communities in resistance to Goldcorp’ Marlin mine, and PLURIJUR (Pluricultural Justice Association of Guatemala) denounce that Goldcorp has, after 13 years of operations, left a legacy of health and environmental harms, family and community divisions and violence, against the collective rights and well-being of the Mayan Mam people of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Mayan Sipakapan people of Sipakapa.

One of the Goldcorp mine entrance blockades
Photo @ FREDEMI, July 1, 2017.

We are happy that as of May 30, 2017, mining operations ended, including the use of explosives that so harmed and terrified our communities and children.  Moreover, the explosives kept on causing structural damages to our homes and buildings.

But, since the suspension of mining, Goldcorp has refused to pay for harms and losses it has caused since 2005, as corroborated by a Verification Commission set up by the Mayor’s office.  In April of this year, we formally presented over 200 personal and community files, documenting the harms and losses.  Three times – April 5, May 11, June 4-5 – we had meetings, and each time Goldcorp refused to accept any responsibility. Thus, on June 26, 2017, we began a peaceful blockade of the entrances to the mine, demanding that the Guatemalan government and Goldcorp engage in serious discussions about how to repair the harms and losses they caused.

We have been subject to threats and acts of intimidation by private security hired by Goldcorp and the National Civilian Police, including an incident when a police officer put his pistol to the head of one of our community members.  We fear a violent reaction in any moment.
We call on national and international solidarity to support us as we protest peacefully in favour of the complete reparation of all harms and losses caused by Goldcorp, from 2004-2017.

More information


Copyright © 2017 Rights Action, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:

Rights Action

Box 50887


Washington, DC 0


ICSID Tribunal Finds in Favour of Government of El Salvador in Arbitration Process

Reproduced by kind permission of CIELCentre for International Environmental Law

There are No Winners in Pacific Rim Mining Company vs El Salvador

Investor-State Arbitration Subverts Democracy

October 14, 2016

Cabañas, El Salvador / Washington DC / Ottawa / Melbourne

Civil society groups worldwide that have allied with Salvadoran communities and organisations working on mining and environmental issues reacted to today’s decision by the controversial International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on the seven-year old case of Pac Rim Cayman vs. El Salvador, stating that “there are no winners” in this case.  On Friday, October 14, the tribunal announced their decision that Pac Rim’s lawsuit was without merit and hence that El Salvador will not have to pay the company the $250 million that it sought.

In 2009, Pac Rim Cayman LLC brought an “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) case against El Salvador at the World Bank Group’s arbitration venue, ICSID.  The company, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian-Australian company OceanaGold, sued El Salvador for alleged losses of potential profits as a result of not being granted a mining concession for a gold project. The government of El Salvador did not issue the concession because the company failed to meet key regulatory requirements.

“The fact that Pac Rim – now OceanaGold – could sue El Salvador when it has never had a license to operate, is an abuse of process,” says Manuel Pérez-Rocha of the Institute for Policy Studies. “That these suits take place far from any transparent, independent court system demonstrates why we are opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other so called free trade agreements.”

This case is part of what led the Government of El Salvador to decide not to issue new mining permits.  That decision has widespread support in El Salvador; a recent poll of the University of Central America (UCA) indicates that 79.5% of Salvadorans are against any gold mining.

The civil society groups from the four countries, which came together in 2009 as International Allies, praised the communities in El Salvador that have opposed the mining company and have rallied the Salvadoran public and government to oppose new mining projects despite heavy pressure from the mining company.  They expressed disgust that El Salvador had to pay over $12 million to fund its defense in a case where the mining company never fulfilled all the legal or environmental requirements for a mining license.

“Irrevocable damage has already been done to communities in El Salvador,” says the Salvadoran Roundtable against Metallic Mining (La Mesa).  “Pac Rim’s presence in El Salvador has fomented local conflict, which has led to threats, attacks, and assassinations. We want OceanaGold, and all the misery it has caused, out of El Salvador, and for the government to enact a prohibition on any metal mining.”

“By allowing transnational companies to blackmail governments to try to force them to adopt policies that favour corporations, investor-state arbitration undermines democracy in El Salvador and around the world,” says Marcos Orellana of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “Regardless of the outcome, the arbitration has had a chilling effect on the development and implementation of public policy necessary to protect the environment and the human right to water.”

“This is one of now far too many examples of Canadian mining companies making use of international arbitration to bully governments when their mine projects lack community consent and have not met legal or regulatory requirements. In contrast, communities have no effective means to hold these same companies to account for the systematic and serious harms resulting from their operations”, says Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada.

“What we have now is a clear example of what is wrong with investor-state-dispute-settlement clauses, whether they are inserted in domestic laws or bilateral or multilateral investment agreements. El Salvador’s experience confirms the threats to human rights and the environment that occur when corporations bring a suit to tribunals like ICSID,” explained Robin Broad, professor at the American University.

“A mining company that calls itself responsible should not be using mechanisms like ICSID to force governments to do its bidding.  Countries like El Salvador have a right to say no to mining without fear of a massive lawsuit”, said Keith Slack of Oxfam America.

“At a time of water scarcity, it is unconscionable for the global trade and investment regime to deny governments of water-stressed countries like El Salvador the policy space to protect local watersheds and ensure the realization of the human right to water,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

“It was morally reprehensible for Oceana Gold to demand $250 million USD from the Salvadoran people. This is a staggering amount for a cash-strapped country that could be much better used for education, health care, or other social services. This amount would fund the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador for more than one decade. The legal costs alone are enough to pay for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people,” says Emeritus Catholic Bishop Hilton Deakin of Melbourne, Australia.

“Let us be clear: El Salvador has lost a lot during all this arbitration. El Salvador had to pay more than $12 million,  just to defend itself. These legal costs are enough to pay for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people. At a minimum, OceanaGold should reimburse El Salvador for the costs of this suit, which never should have taken place. And it should also be responsible for the social and environmental damage left in its wake,” says Alexis Stoumbelis of CISPES.

“This is a yet another case of corporate power being exercised against a democratic Government decision. If Australia ratifies the TTP there will be more of this to come” said Ged Kearney President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

“ISDS is part of a trade model that puts the needs of corporations before the needs of workers and the planet. The Salvadoran government did what a responsive democratic system is supposed to do: it listened to the desires and priorities of its constituents and acted accordingly” said Cathy Feingold, International Director of the AFL-CIO.


Amanda Kistler, CIEL – 202 742-5832
Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada – 613 569 3439
Manuel Perez Rocha, IPS – 1 240 838 6623
Laura Rusu, Oxfam America, +1 202 459 3739
Robin Broad, American University, 1 202 885 1478
Kevin Bracken, Maritime Union of Australia –
Sean Cleary, Edmund Rice Centre –, +  07-3376-8448

The International Allies against Mining in El Salvador are made up of organisations from Australia, Canada and the United States that support the Salvadoran people as they demand sovereignty, the right to water, healthy communities and a clean environment. Each of the organisations that make up the Allies has a history of solidarity work with El Salvador. More information is available at:

Watch: Press conference as El Salvador explains the verdict (in Spanish)

Since 1989, the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL) has used the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society.

CIEL (Headquarters)
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The reality of death threats to anti-mining activists in El Salvador

Letter from Hector Berríos, 24 January 2011

Dear Colleagues,

By this media I wish to inform you and to denounce the death threats that I received today by telephone. From Saturday 22nd January 2011 we began to receive telephone calls at the house from 10 pm, calls made to both the fixed line at the house and to my cell phone. As soon as I answered, they hung up. And that was the same on Sunday 23rd January until 20 minutes past noon, when the number of the house fixed line rang again. On answering the caller asked for Hector, and when I replied by asking who was calling him, he replied “Ricardo, a friend of his.” On asking where he was calling from, he said Mejicanos [a large suburb of San Salvador]. On asking what he wanted to talk about, he said to me, “You are Hector.” I told him no, and he asked where Hector is. I told him that he wasn’t living here any longer, but if he wanted he could leave a message which I could give to him. Then he told me to give him his cell phone number, but I replied that he had said he was a friend of Hector’s and so he must have his cell phone number and can call him. Less than a minute had passed before my cell phone rang. When I replied, this was the conversation:

HB: Hello.

Caller: Hello Hector, Ricardo here.

HB: How can I help you?

Caller: I’m talking about something that is happening.

HB: OK, I’m listening.

Caller: I’ve been paid a lot of money to kill you.

HB: Tell me who has paid you to assassinate me.

Caller: It’s a man and a woman who asked us to assassinate you – that’s you or one of your family – and we’ve been observing you in San Isidro and Mejicanos. We’re close to you. Look, we know you work for the people and we get bad vibes about killing you, so I want to talk with you so that we can reach some agreement.

HB: OK, we can talk. Just give me a name and we’ll carry on talking.

Caller: We need to get some arrangement/agreement; we’ll give you the name and you look out for your people, and you’ll withdraw [from your activities].

HB: Tell me a name or we stop talking this shit.

Caller: They’ve already paid us for you. We don’t give a shit.

HB: So, because you’re not doing it, I’m not going to make an arrangement with people I don’t know.


Then the telephone line went dead.

I want to tell you that this January I’ve been denouncing a series of assassinations which have been carried out in Cabañas. There have been assassinations of youths who took part into the assassination of Marcelo Rivera. One was of a crucial witness and another was of a young person who had been identified as the direct author of the assassination. Likewise, I denounced the attempted homicide of Mr William Iraheta who lives in San Isidro, Cabañas, who was shot. Nine bullets hit him as he was entering his house. In his denunciation he gave the name and surname [of his assassins] because it was the second time that they had tried to assassinate him after he had broken off relations with the Mayor of San Isidro.

Likewise, I have warned different institutions at both the national and international levels about a series of threats to environmentalists in the last week. The lack of will of these institutions, like the FGR and the PNC, concerns me. They see these violent deeds in the Department of Cabañas and reduce it all to “common delinquency”. In reality, there exists the possibility that it is indeed gang members who are hired to do these things, but they are only the ones who are the material perpetrators. I see no will to try to expose who hires them, who provides the money or the weapons, whose cell phones they use. The simple deed of stating that the leadership of these institutions has the will means nothing when you can’t see any concrete actions that will enable them to guarantee the security and physical integrity of people.

In the first place, that happens by assigning the logistical resources and technical personnel who can investigate the different hypotheses which explain the phenomenon of violence against human rights defenders in Cabañas. The will [to investigate these things genuinely] manifests itself in assigning a group of investigators and attorneys who can determine the causes of this violence, who are allocated vehicles and arms, because victims and witnesses are not given vehicles or arms appropriate for the rural zone where we have to work. For the latest acts of violence, we asked the victims if they had been interviewed or if any inspections had been carried out of the crime scenes, and they replied that they had not been interviewed and they had not been given any information about who might have been responsible for the attacks against them.

In my case, as in the cases of other colleagues, there are supposed to be measures of protection as ordered by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) which urged the Salvadoran state to adopt our necessary cautionary measures to guarantee the life and physical integrity. On behalf of the victims, I demand that those institutions charged with carrying out and monitoring the CIDH resolution, comply with the order without further delay. Indeed, I hold these same people responsible if they allow any violent act against my life or my physical integrity or that of my family to take place.

Hector Berríos

The notion of ‘green mining’

A section entitled ‘The notion of green mining’ appears in the book, but this section is included here as it is slightly fuller than the edited version in the book.

Salvadorans had never heard the term ‘green mining’ before 2007, but towards the end of the year they found themselves exposed to the idea through a series of radio and television advertisements. Essentially ‘green mining’ presents the mining of minerals “as a source of development without any secondary adverse effects on the environment or on peoples’ health.”[1]

Green mining is a notion that was developed by a group of companies which were looking to expand their operations in El Salvador and which called themselves the National Roundtable for Green Mining.[2] As the organisation Crispaz (Christians for Peace in El Salvador) explains, “El Salvador’s radio stations [were] bombarded by anonymous Minería Verde or Green Mining propaganda for a year.”[3]

The Roundtable does not have a website and the people responsible for “the millionaire publicity crusade” which “flooded the majority of Salvadoran radio stations and TV channels”[4] prefer to remain anonymous. It is widely believed, especially within the membership of the opposing roundtable, the National Roundtable Against Metal Mining in El Salvador, that having failed to persuade the government, and especially the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), to grant it permits for mining, Pacific Rim changed its strategy from the lobbying of government to an aggressive publicity campaign about ‘green mining’.

As Izote News reported, for this campaign, Pacific Rim … hired as activists for the mining companies the economist Manuel Enrique Hinds, the lawyer Fidel Chávez Mena and an ex-employee of the MARN Luis Trejo. … Hinds made a ‘study’ which emphasised the economic ‘benefits’ of mining focusing on the growth in GDP and exports. Chávez Mena wrote a draft for a new mining law, attempting to overcome the ‘obstacles’ which Pacific Rim had encountered with the current Law of Mining. And Trejo came up with the phrase ‘green mining’, which existed nowhere in the scientific world.[5]

Coincidentally with the publicity campaign, Pacific Rim took a group of about 40 people from the department of Santa Ana in the west of the country to the department of Cabañas where the company was trying to get permits for a number of gold mines including the El Dorado mine. Their specific purpose was to talk to the people of the communities affected in Cabañas about the benefits of mining. As one blogger on the Hunnapuh site said, “all this propaganda is nothing more than a publicity stunt by the Pacific Rim company”; and as another on the same site stated, “it is important to expose the propaganda in favour of green mining.” [6]

It has to be added that such blog sites also include comments in favour of mining. One blogger (Carlos) on the same Hunnapuh site talks of the way in which environmentalists – specifically he mentions Greenpeace – are cheating the people of Third World countries by persuading them that they should not develop in the same way as have the First World countries. He says that cyanide is used in many industries and that in mining it does less harm and is more tightly regulated than in other activities. He ends with an appeal to local people to “Wake up, you are being deceived by the permanent campaign of capitalist countries to prevent development in the Third World.”[7]

This debate has clearly polarised the country, involving all sectors of society in the debate. The Episcopal Conference of El Salvador (CEDES by its Spanish initials), composed of Catholic Bishops in the country, is forthright in its opposition to mining operations in the country on the grounds that it puts “human life at risk.”[8] A group called Movement Pro Green Mining protested outside the cathedral in San Salvador against the anti-mining stance of CEDES and Archbishop Monsignor Sáenz Lacalle. Whilst accepting their right to protest, the Archbishop pointed out that they were paid a salary to protest in favour of mining and that green mining is nothing more than a concept of propaganda.[9]

Following the green mining campaign in El Salvador, Infinito Gold S.A. in Costa Rica began to deploy the same tactic in response to the increasingly prominent public profile of and public support for opponents of the Las Crucitas mine in 2009 and 2010. The company promoted a publicity campaign for green mining which was shown every few minutes on the passenger advertisement screens of the many buses which have screens in the capital city San José. To anybody who has seen the minute-long film it could not appear as anything other than biased propaganda, but its drip-drip effect is likely to have some effect over time.

Perhaps the final word on green mining should be given to Juan Marco Álvarez, former director of Salvanatura, a Salvadoran conservation and environmental organisation which depends heavily for its funding on sponsorship from transnational companies. Like the organisation which he used to head, he is a positive and dynamic environmentalist, but unlike most environmentalists he is supportive of rather than critical of transnational companies and the neoliberal economic development which they pursue and promote. Despite that, Álvarez has declared that “there is no such thing as green mining. … the term green mining is used to whitewash the image of the industry.”[10] He recognises that mining has a high environmental impact and that “all mining pollutes to a greater or lesser degree.” He also suggests that it should not be possible that the mining companies leave only 2 per cent of their earnings in El Salvador, and that the law should be changed to rectify this. But he also believes that with appropriate planning, environmental conditions and a framework of full participation (“not just the mayors and town halls, but also community leaders”) and transparency, it could be possible for mining to function.[11]

[1] Salvadoran Ministry of Education publicly accessible miPortal website: (accessed 26.02.10).
[2] Joel Díaz (2008) ‘Minería verde, una polémica discusión’, ComUnica en Linea, Año 5, No. 7, May 16, available at: (accessed 28.02.10).
[3] Crispaz (2008) ‘Mining in El Salvador: At What Price?’, Crispaz, available at: (accessed 26.02.10).
[4] Izote News (2008) ‘¿Quiénes están detrás de la “minería verde”?’, Izote News, 28.05.08, available at: (accessed 28.02.10).
[5] Ibid..
[6] Hunnapuh (2007) ‘La minería verde “NO EXISTE”’, Hunnapuh – Comentarios, 27 August 2007, available at: (accessed 26.02.10).
[7] Ibid..
[8] Crispaz (2008) ‘Mining in El Salvador: At What Price?’, Crispaz, available at: (accessed 26.02.10).
[9] Ibid..
[10] Rodrigo Baires, Daniel Valencia, Diego Murcia y Mauro Arias (2008) ‘Pláticas en la Ventana: entrevista con Juan Marco Álvarez’, El Faro, 2 June 2008, available at: (accessed 01.03.10).
[11] Ibid..

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.




More Information

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.