Guatemalan lawmaker Leocadio Juracan has launched a bid with the Supreme Justice Court (CSJ) to revoke 90 mining exploitation and exploration licenses granted on Indigenous lands without consulting Indigenous communities.
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The former leader of the Highlands Farmers Committee (CCDA), along with the Guatemalean Indigenous and Farmer Unionist Movement (MSICG), argues the licenses were granted without any consultation involving local Indigenous groups, a clear violation of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 169 Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
The Energy and Mines Ministry has been granting these mining exploitation and exploration licenses through the Mining General Administration since 2005. Of the 90 licenses that the appeal is trying to revoke, 42 are related to exploitation and 48 to exploration.
In an interview with local media site Republica, the representative pointed to the high levels of "corruption and impunity" in Guatemala as the reason licenses were granted without the involvement of local Indigenous groups or proper environmental impact studies.
"Unfortunately in Guatemala, even with mining, we’re still exporting thousands of workers into the United States," Juracan said.
"That means mining is not creating enough jobs to meet the country’s demand. We must find a solution that really gives the Guatemalean people an opportunity."
Asked about people losing their jobs, he answered that other economic models existed: "Costa Rica, for example, doesn’t allow mining activities, but their government promotes tourism and other activities related to its citizens’ abilities. That’s what we must mimic in Guatemala."
In September last year, the San Rafael mine halted operations on grounds covered by the 169 Convention after it was established that local Indigenous groups had not been consulted.
The mine is still paying salaries to more than 1,500 workers, but it’s reported that around 3,400 employees have been laid off.
It’s been calculated that, as a result, the Guatemalean government has lost 800 million quetzals (around US$109million).
Asked about the economic losses related to the San Rafael mine, Juracan said: "If that’s really the profit amount the government has not been paid, then let’s multiply that by 99. That’s the profit the corporation makes."
In certain countries, Juracan said, mining companies must pay the government between 50 and 60 percent of their profits. In Guatemala, the rate is 99 to 1.
Juracan represents the Convergencia Party in parliament and has presented several legal initiatives, including one to prevent and sanction obstetric violence, a systematic practice during the dictatorship.