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Swiss mining company to reactivate nickel mining in Guatemala after questioned indigenous consultation

The government of Guatemala announced this Monday the reactivation at the beginning of 2022 of a nickel mine of a Swiss subsidiary in the northeast of the country, despite the opposition of some neighboring indigenous communities who denounce their exclusion from the prior consultation process.

“The consultation process has resulted in the continued mining activity” of the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) -subsidiary of the Swiss firm Solway Investment Group-, said the Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Oscar Pérez , at a press conference in the capital.

In 2020, the Constitutional Court (CC), the highest judicial body in the country, ordered the CGN to halt exploitation under the “Fénix” license by granting an amparo to a fishermen’s association who claimed not to have been consulted about this activity. The company stopped the operation last February when notified of the decision.

The CC established that the government should carry out the consultation mandated by convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), process that ended last Friday, Pérez said.

He explained that the consultation consisted of seven meetings to reach agreements between representatives of the government, CGN and leaders of the Mayan-Q’eqchi ‘ethnic group from the town of El Estor -in the department of Izabal and some 320km from Guatemala City- and the neighboring municipality of Panzós, because it is located in the “area of ​​influence” of the quarry located on a mountain.

The agreements consist of promoting employment, education and health projects in this area, among others.

However, Abelino Chub, one of the indigenous leaders opposed to the mining exploitation, told AFP that several communities that denounced contamination by the activity of that company were not taken into account, including the fishermen favored by the amparo.

“It is illegal, totally illegal” the consultation carried out, Chub said, anticipating that they will challenge the procedure.

For its part, CGN, which rejects the contamination allegations, pointed out that they trust “in the dialogue system established” by the government “according to the unrestricted adherence to the guidelines of the CC ruling.”

At the end of October, the police evicted dozens of residents who had positioned themselves at the entrance to El Estor to avoid the passage of trucks from the mine, claiming that they should not operate due to the court ruling. They also denounced the exclusion of the consultation.

According to CGN, the order only affects the exploitation license, but not the processing that it does through the sister company PRONICO with material from another quarry.

The eviction left several soldiers with gunshot wounds, which led the government to declare a state of siege for a month with the deployment of more than a thousand police and soldiers in the area.


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