The Marlin Mine - Almost two years in operation

The Marlin Mine - Almost two years in operation

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By Pastoral Peace and Ecology Commission (COPAE)

In October 2005, the Montana Exploradora de Guatemala company began its mining operations in the mountainous region of San Marcos, in the western highlands of Guatemala. However, the mining company continues to insist that mining is causing the development of towns in the vicinity of the mine.

In October 2005, the Montana Exploradora de Guatemala company began its mining operations in the mountainous region of San Marcos, in the western highlands of Guatemala. Over a period of ten years, the Montana company, a subsidiary of the Canadian company Goldcorp, intends to extract about 2.67 million ounces of gold. With an annual production of around 200 thousand ounces of gold, the company's revenues average US $ 125 million. 1

Since its inception, the mining works have been carried out without the support of the indigenous communities near the mine. This has been more than evident during the community consultation in the different villages of Sipacapa, in 2005, when the vast majority of the population showed their rejection, and due to the various blockades of the access roads to the mine by the residents of San Miguel Ixtahuacán during the course of mining operations.

However, the mining company continues to insist that mining is causing the development of towns in the vicinity of the mine. Little by little the big machines of the Montana company are devouring the mountains. In time a crater will be created 800 meters in diameter and about 250 meters deep. The trucks bring 4,023 tonnes of rock to the processing plant daily to be crushed.

The mine is in a highly populated area. A few meters from the mining project is the community of San Miguel Ixtahuacán. The residents of these communities mention that they were pressured to sell their land, since the company came with the permission of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) to start exploitation. Not selling the land, according to the company, would mean a very possible eviction.

A sign on the public highway between San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa, next to the mine, shows an almost threatening message for those who drive their vehicle on this highway.

The mining project has circulated with metal mesh (fence or wire) the land that they bought in the communities. This action is not only to protect their "private property" but also to isolate families and communities. This is becoming a way of putting pressure on people to sell their land, because after all, access to it is difficult. Furthermore, it is obvious that the community social fabric also suffers from having these types of barriers.

According to the technicians of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), the region where the project was implemented is a semi-desert region, when in reality it is the upper part of the Cuilco river basin and fulfills a fundamental function for the socio-ecosystem as it is a water recharge zone.

In contrast to this industrial activity, such as chemical metal mining, the communities carry out various conservation practices on their lands, in order to carry out sustainable productive activities and thus provide for their families. The photo shows the terraces in areas near the mine where the inhabitants grow corn, beans and potatoes.

The direct activities of the mining company, such as the explosions to break the rock of the mountain, as well as indirect activities, such as the passage of about 40 trucks a day, have caused that, so far, 57 houses in villages near the mine suffer cracks in their walls. Despite the fact that the houses began to crack from the beginning of the mining operations, the company rules out any relationship.

One of the promises of the mining company, upon reaching San Marcos, was to pave the different dirt roads in the Marlin mine area. To begin with, it should be noted that this task must be carried out by the Ministry of Communications, Infrastructure and Housing, and not by a private company. The appropriate way would be to increase tax collection so that the Ministry would have funds to carry out the corresponding works.

At the beginning of 2007, a 1 kilometer section of the highway from San Marcos to San Miguel Ixtahuacán was paved by the mining company. The asphalt layer after just six months of use is already completely deteriorated. Is that the “development” that the Montana Exploradora de Guatemala promised to bring?

A poster shows the total taxes paid by the mining company since the beginning of operations in 2005. According to the Mining Law, San Miguel Ixtahuacán, as a municipality where mining is carried out, must receive 0.5% of all Montana Explorer earnings. 2 We see that the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán until June 2007 received the amount of Q 7,574,361.39 - an amount in dollars of $ 987,530.82. Being 0.5% of its profits, it can be concluded that the profits for the company (total profits minus 1% of royalties) equals an amount of Q 1,499,723,555.22 - in dollars: $ 195,531,102.38 . This corresponds to the information published by the Central American director of Goldcorp, who pointed out that Montana will produce in 2007 an amount of gold "with a value of more than US $ 125 million." 3

It is clear that the amount of money that the company pays to the state (0.5% of profits plus Income Tax) - so far Q 69,415,837.19 or US $ 9,050,304.72) - does not provide them it should be of great concern.

Despite the disappointments with the mining exploitation of the inhabitants in the municipalities around the Marlin project, the mining company continues to deceive the population, trying to make them believe that their presence would bring benefits for all; “Strengthening the integral development of San Marcos”, as a poster says.

However, the population of San Marcos has realized the negative impacts that mining activity brings and will no longer be fooled so easily. Peaceful resistance stands out through community consultations in which thousands of Marquenses, adults and youth, have expressed their rejection of metal mining, as well as their support for sustainable development projects.

More information: Pastoral Peace and Ecology Commission - http: ///
Diocese of San Marcos, San Marcos, Guatemala, August 2007


1 During the last year the price of an ounce of gold has fluctuated between $ 650 and $ 700.
2 The Mining Law (Decree 48-97 of Congress) orders that a mining company must pay the state of Guatemala as a royalty 1% of its profits, divided into 0.5% to the municipality where the exploitation takes place and 0.5% to the government central.
3 Goldcorp plans to mine gold at the Cerro Blanco project, in Jutiapa, El Periódico, July 5, 2007.

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