Golden Lie: Resistance against mining in Guatemala

Interview with Milton Carrera
21 November 2012
Article

Peasant communities have denounced Canadian company Radius Gold Inc for mining without consent on their territories and appealed for international solidarity.

Just 28 kilometers from Guatemala City, between the towns of San José del Golfo and San Pedro de Ayanpuc, peasant communities are resisting the actions of Canadian company Radius Gold Inc, which has operated a silver and gold mine in the area since 2000.

Up to now, the company was involved in exploration; this year it decided to start the drilling, after the government approved the extraction license, which allows mining in an area of 20 square kilometres for 25 years.

A solidarity mission organised by Friends of the Earth International with participation from TNI, visited the communities to hear from them, their concerns about the project, the impacts they have experienced and the resistance they are engaged in. TNI joined the mission as part of our work on corporate power, as a way to reinforce our solidarity with  communities adversely affected by transnational corporations.

Milton Carrera, a community leader, said the communities realised that the company was planning to drill on their territories and started to demand answers from the company and government.

“They lied to us, the gold man and the ministry of energy and mines lied to us about the project. They said we were crazy, that nothing was going to happen but we just found out about one year and a half ago that they would come here, what is more that there are 14 other projects going ahead too."

Concerned about the loss of their territories, contamination of the land and the company’s use and pollution of water in an area characterised by drought, the community has blocked and prevented the entry of the company into the area for the last 9 months. They organised to defend water, land and life against the mining project. “If we can’t produce agriculture because the water is contaminated, what are we going to do? We are going to die”, said Carrera.

After 9 months of blocking entry both day and night to the mining areas, Carrera says he doesn't know how long the struggle is going to last. They continue resisting and demanding the company to leave. To confront and intimidate them, the company is misinforming people and causing divisions among them.

According to Carrera, the company is paying people to pretend to be mining workers who then confront their own families and neighbours to agree to the company's entry to the area. At the same time, the government has supported the company not only by providing the license, but also through military presence to protect the corporation and secure its profits.

As Milton explains, the situation has become more complicated since 12 November when the company “started to send workers from the mine, we’ve been fighting here for almost four days now, sleeping here. The people haven’t worked for four days, but that’s all what we can do now to survive, people are bringing their own homes here to the resistance”.

The families decided to move their entire homes, kitchens and even their families to the entrance to stop company workers entering. Confrontations are growing as the mission experienced during the visit, when some workers tried to force an entry and the community peacefully stopped them. “We have dignity and we have shown our kids what it is to fight with dignity,” says Carrera.

TNI's Lyda Fernanda participated in a solidarity mission 13-20 November to San Jose del Golfo and other communities affected by mining and energy projects in Guatemala and El Salvador. She brought messages of support and solidarity with this struggle in defense of life. The mission was oganized by Friends of the Earth International and visited communities affected by the Canadians Pacific Rim, Radius Minning Corp, GoldCorp and the Spanish Hidrallia.

More info and articles can be found at http://radiomundoreal.fm