Guatemalan Minister of Environment Reveals Authorization of Cerro Blanco Mine

From GHRC Update

8 April 2024

Once again we thank the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) for their work and research on Guatemala and for their generalised authorisation for others to use and promote their work.

The Guatemalan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) recently confirmed that the Cerro Blanco mine in Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, has been authorised to operate. The MARN revealed the news in a public statement made  by Minister María José Iturbide.

The controversial  gold mine was given authorisation to operate by the former MARN under the  Giammattei administration, five days before former president Giammattei’s  departure from office  The period in which the authorisation could have been revoked expired one day before the Minister Iturbide’s March 25th announcement.

The mine is owned by a Canadian company, Bluestone Resources. The mine  has triggered widespread protests from both Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities concerned about profound environmental impacts. Of particular concern is the potential impact on the El Tempisque stream, a tributary to Lake Güija, which in turn connects with the Lempa River, traversing the border with El Salvador.

The Extractive Industries Observatory (OIE) has warned of the imminent risk of contamination to these vital water bodies, which millions of people depend on as their primary source of water.

On September 18, 2022, the population of Asunción Mita carried out a municipal consultation of residents based on the Municipal Code, in which the inhabitants of the municipality were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the mining project. A total of 7,481 people voted no to mining, while 904 voted in favour. The result of the Municipal Consultation of neighbours is directly binding.

Nonetheless, in March 2023, the US embassy in Guatemala advocated with the Giammattei administration in favour of the reactivation of the Cerro Blanco mining project, according to an article in Prensa Comunitaria. Through two letters addressed to Gersón Barrios Garrido, then Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), the US diplomatic mission requested “support to know the progress of the approval process of the modification of the environmental plan in order to continue assisting US investors interested in investing and contributing to the economic development of Guatemala.” The first letter, dated March 30, 2023 and signed by John Howell, commercial counsellor of the US embassy, informs Minister Barrios Garrido that “Elevar Resources, S.A. is a subsidiary of Bluestone Resources Inc., a company that has substantial capital from investors of United States of America (USA) . . . .”