US Company Continues Illegal Mining Operations at El Tambor Mine

US Company Kappes Cassiday & Associates and Guatemalan subsidiary, Exmingua, continue to mine gold illegally in San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala.

On February 22, 2016, the Guatemalan Supreme Court granted an injunction that suspends the granting of KCA’s license for extraction of gold and silver at the El Tambor mine. The Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines, the body responsible for carrying out the administrative procedures to suspend the license, have refused to do so.

In response, families have camped out in front of the ministry, demanding they enforce the ruling.

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Peaceful protesters in front of the Ministry of Energy and Mining.

The Guatemalan congress has called on the Minister to justify his lack of action.

As the pressure mounts, the US-owned mine continues to operate. The waste-water tailing pond continues to fill as material is extracted and treated with a chemical bath – procedures not fully addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment, and without any oversight regarding the structural integrity of the holding tank or mandatory testing of possible contamination of the local water supply.

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Holding tank at the El Tambor mine

With communities again blocking the entrance to the mine, Exmingua employees have taken to illegally transporting petroleum for mining machinery by foot. They were stopped by the police on at least one occasion, but a recent video captured them exiting with empty canisters.

In the last couple of days, the company has begun to use helicopters to carry large containers in and out of the mine.

 

Despite intense US pressure on the Guatemalan government to address corruption and improve rule of law, the Embassy has been silent on a US Company’s alleged evasion of legal procedures and it’s ongoing operations despite multiple court injunctions.

Background: 

Communities in the area have been in non-violent resistance since 2011, and have maintained a presence outside the mine for over 4 years.

Since March 2, 2012, residents from around the proposed site of the El Tambor Mine had maintained a peaceful, 24-hour blockade at the entrance to the mine, which is owned by the Reno-based engineering firm Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA).

Residents are concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the mine and they are committed to defending their right to be consulted — as required under national and international law — about projects in the community that would affect their lives and livelihoods.

On May 23, 2014, after two years of peaceful struggle, the communities in resistance of La Puya were violently evicted from the entrance to the project; at least 20 people were injured and 7 were taken to the hospital in Guatemala City. Since then, the Guatemalan police and military have escorted mining equipment onto the site.

In mid 2015, a court injunction ordered the municipal government to halt the company’s operations due to lack of a construction permit, prior consultation with affected communities, and gaps in the Environmental Impact Assessment that endanger the health and wellbeing of families living in the area. The Municipal government’s efforts to comply were thwarted by the Guatemalan government, and the company continued to operate.

Members of the US Congress denounced the company’s illegal activities in a letter to the Guatemalan President in later 2015. The US Embassy remained silent and the company continued to operate.

In January 2016, the Municipality granted protective measures to protect the health of local communities and closed the entrance to the mine, but a court ruling – which has since been appealed – granted the company access.

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