Guatemala´s government on June 23 said it would halt activities at Canadian company Gold Corp´s Marlin gold mine, amid fears of human rights violations and environmental damage, including pollution of local water supplies.
In May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, recommended that the government shut the mine, which began operating in 2005 in the western Guatemalan village of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, and accounted for more than 10 percent of Gold Corp´s production last year.
While Guatemala´s government has not said that there has been any evidence yet of environmental damages or human rights violations, it said it will close the mine as an independent commission conducts an investigation in the area.
James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, also recommended that the government suspend activities at the mine as well as hold off on any new mining permits following his visit to the country in mid-June.
“As a question of principle and in virtue of the duty that corresponds to Guatemala to comply in good faith with its international obligations regarding human rights, the state should adhere to the resolutions of the IACHR,” Anaya said. “Apart from the mine´s potential impacts on environmental and physical wellbeing, the question of consultation and information for the indigenous regarding the Marlin mine is necessary.”
The Vancouver-based company has denied the allegations.
CEO Chuck Jeannes said that “absent such evidence, we continue to believe there is no basis for suspending operations at the mine.”
“We have been assured that we will have a full opportunity to present the compelling data that prove there have been no adverse environmental or health impacts from the mine,” he said in a statement.
In mid-June, a study conducted by environmental health scientists at the University of Michigan found aluminum, manganese, cobalt and, in one creek, arsenic, and high levels of acidity in the Quivichil and Tzala Rivers.
Also, in 2007, 18 Maya-Mam communities issued a complaint that the mine had been operating without their previous consultation.
El Salvador´s President Mauricio Funes has said new legislation with a stricter environmental code would be required for new mining permits. Costa Rica´s new President Laura Chinchilla in May decreed a nationwide ban on open-pit gold mining.