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Guatemala: Mining Community Organizes Peoples’ Health Tribunal

Categories: Latin America, Guatemala, Citizen Media, Health, Human Rights, Protest

This post is part one of a two-part series.

“The town of San Miguel Ixtahuacán is no longer the same since the miners arrived,” wrote reporter Jeovany Ibañez for Prensa Libre's magazine Mundo&Motor [1] [es] back in 2008. His piece still resonates today, as the community of San Miguel Ixtahuacán continues its struggle to bring Goldcorp [2] to justice for the Marlin mine [3]‘s negative impact on the community.

Photojournalist James Rodriguez of MiMundo.org translated [4] parts of the article written by Ibañez in 2008:

Experts often consider open-pit mining to be the most destructive industrial activity in terms of environmental depletion, social and cultural impact… In San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa, San Marcos, intensive mineral exploitation has already left its mark. Local residents from Agel, Nueva Esperanza and San Jose Ixcaniche remember fondly a gorgeous mountain, famed for its diversity, where one could find various species of birds and butterflies. Today, the only thing left of that place is an enormous crater with contaminated rubble.

Earlier this year, a peaceful demonstration in support of these communities affected by mining was held in Toronto. YouTube user RachelBlumeSmall [5] shares a video:

On April 26 2012, the day of Canadian mining company Goldcorp's Annual General Meeting, a group of folks gathered in Toronto in solidarity with Guatemalan communities who have been negatively impacted by a Goldcorp mine. We brought Goldcorp's human rights and environmental record to the streets of Toronto's financial district, and the front page of Toronto newspapers!

This long struggle against Goldcorp saw a significant victory this month. On July 14 and 15, 2012, members of the San Miguel Ixtahuacán community joined M4 (The MesoAmerican Movement against extractive Mining Model) [6][es] and the Toronto-based Mining Injustice Solidarity Network [7] to organize [8] ‘The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal’. The Tribunal's website explains [9]:

Preliminary findings of this research indicate that community members’ health has been threatened by the local Marlin Mine, a subsidiary operation of Canadian company Goldcorp.

This in-progress study is one of many studies that has indicated that the the majority Mam Mayan population of San Miguel Ixtahuacan’s health and wellbeing has been threatened by local mining operations through its impact on water quality, contaminant exposure, safety, human rights violations and indigenous sovereignty. Human rights groups and journalists also report that violence against women, political persecution and criminalization of resistance leaders, social division and economic inequity have also increased since the Marlin Mine has been established in the region.

The site adds:

Community members want an opportunity to voice their concerns and to share their knowledge about how Goldcorp mining industry has impacted their community. At both the national and international level, they ask that their concerns be taken seriously and that policy leaders, health advocates and political authorities take action to put an end to corporate recklessness and impunity.

Leading up to the Tribunal, the group created a series of videos based on the work of photojournalist James Rodriguez. The Health Tribunal's blog explains [10]:

These videos profile some of the local struggles in San Migual Ixtahuacán that we will be hearing about first hand during the community testimonials.

The Tribunal also filmed individual testimonies by members of the San Miguel Ixtahuacán community. These testimonies are available on the MiningInjustice [11] YouTube channel.

In the next post of this two-part series, we will closely examine the reports from the Health Tribunal. We will also share the Tribunal's verdict. Keep watching this space.

Photo used as thumbnail image was taken by James Rodriguez. Used with permission.