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On February 21, 2024,  the Xinka Parliament of Guatemala announced the start of the decision-making phase of the court-ordered consultation over the future of Pan American Silver’s Escobal mine. Xinka authorities also signaled concerns about institutional weakness, such as the government’s shoddy environmental oversight and failures in the implementation of the court order.

The Escobal mine in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa department.

The Constitutional Court ordered the mine to remain suspended in 2018 while the consultation is undertaken with the Xinka Indigenous People.

The announcement follows a report from Xinka’s environmental team after their independent fieldwork and analysis of information from the government and Pan American Silver. In the last two years, the Xinka Parliament and its expert advisors have assessed the cultural, spiritual, health, and environmental impacts of the mine on local communities. The environmental information was also shared with government institutions and Pan American Silver.  

Xinka Parliament spokesperson Aleisar Arana said that the environmental evaluation reinforced deep worries about current impacts, such as evidence of water contamination after less than four years of operations at the mine, and its potential impacts on residents’ health.

Aleisar Arana, Xinka Parliament spokesperson.

Before the mine began operations and throughout the court-ordered process, Xinka authorities and community leaders faced intimidation and attacks. On October 28, Xinka leader Noé Gómez Barrera was assassinated.

Many believe this was retaliation for Mr. Barrera’s work as a land defender and the Xinka’s role during the nationwide 106-day protest that enabled President Bernardo Arevalo to take power in January 2024. Mr. Barrera was a decades-long defender of Xinka land and water with his daughter, Emy Gómez.

A staff member of the Xinka Parliament, she continues to face intimidation and threats after her father’s murder.

Despite massive pressure to reopen the mine, the Xinka Parliament has remained resolute in the state’s obligation under international law to obtain their free, prior and informed consent over the future of the Escobal mine.