On the morning of December 13, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) announced in a press conference that the consultation process on the Fenix Mine was officially completed. As mandated by a Constitutional Court (CC) ruling in response to an appeal filed by the El Estor Fisherman’s Guild in 2019, a consultation process needed to be carried out with all the impacted indigenous communities before the Fenix Mine, in El Estor, Izabal, could restart mining operations. Oscar Pérez, Vice Minister of Sustainable Development of the MEM, stated, “We have determined that the continuation of the project is viable.” Mining operations could officially restart by early January.
The Q’eqchi’ Ancestral Council and Fisherman’s Guild, however, have refused to recognize the process, which, according to President of the Fisherman’s Guild Cristobal Pop, “cannot be called a consultation or pre-consultation and is in violation of the rights of the indigenous people.” The consultation–a process which normally takes at least a year to complete–was conducted in just over 3 months, during the majority of which the community of El Estor was under a state of exception. Kelvin Jiménez, a lawyer for the Xinka Parliament, explained that the rushed consultation violates the rights of the indigenous communities to meaningful consultation in “good faith,” as established by international human rights standards. He explained, “What we see here is a mockery, totally deplorable, that in no way can justify that they have carried out a true consultation in light of Convention 169 and what the CC ordered.”
Indigenous Authorities throughout Guatemala have denounced the sham consultation, warning that rushed processes like the one carried out in Izabal could become standard practice throughout Guatemala. Juan Castro, of the Indigenous Peoples’ Law Firm, in an interview explained, “The gravity is not only for the Q’eqchi’ people but for all the indigenous peoples.” Rafael Maldonao–legal representative of the Fisherman’s Guild–announced the guild’s plans to bring the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights if they are unable to achieve justice nationally.