Discrimination against Xinka puts consultation on Escobal mine at risk

A year in, the consultation process with indigenous Xinka people over Pan American Silver’s Escobal mine is at risk after the Guatemalan government excludes Xinka from the process.

Last week, Guatemalan communities celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Constitutional Court ruling that the Escobal mine must remain closed while the government consults with the Xinka indigenous people in the region. This sounds like good news—yet the last twelve months suggest the process is rigged against the Xinka, who have long opposed the mine due to its devastating impacts on their land and water.

Rather than the open, inclusive consultation promised in the Court ruling, the Xinka have faced threats, intimidation, and an exclusionary, potentially illegal process that seems to have a preordained outcome: the reopening of a mine that the Xinka say will destroy their way of life.

A complicated series of events brought us to where we are today, which Earthworks and the Institute for Policy Studies Global Economy Project has documented in detail in a new report: Guatemala government discriminates against Xinka, puts Escobal mine consultation at risk. In it, we lay out a long list of exclusionary practices, including failing to respect the rights of the Xinka to determine how they will be represented in the process and holding meetings without their participation. The Guatemalan Supreme Court has failed to respond to repeat complaints the Xinka Parliament has filed since November 2018 about lack of due process, Indigenous participation and discrimination.

Complaints also include accusations of influence-peddling against the government, given that the company announced advances in the process before the Xinka Parliament was notified it had begun. In fact, the entire consultation process relies on a decision over the company’s area of influence that was made before the consultation had officially begun. Concurrently, the Xinka Parliament has faced a sharp increase in threats against its leadership and members of the resistance, undermining their security and the ‘free’ nature of the process.

On September 3rd, over a thousand people marched in Guatemala City to demand that the high court defend Xinka people’s rights. Continuing the consultation without due process or full respect and inclusion of the Xinka and their representative organization jeopardizes its legality and legitimacy. Unless the process is reset to stage one – review of the mine’s area of influence – with robust inclusion of and respect for the Xinka people and the Xinka Parliament, it is at risk of losing all social support.

At the request of Guatemalan communities, Earthworks and international partners are gathering petition signatures calling on Pan American Silver to respect Xinka rights and not interfere in the consultation process. Take action here!

More Information:

Media Release: Indigenous people call on Pan American Silver to cease local interference out of respect for the consultation process in Guatemala

Earthblog: Organizations denounce death threats against lawyer representing Xinka Parliament in Consultation over Escobal

Earthblog: Xinka communities mobilize to denounce non-compliance with court- ordered consultation over Escobal

Media Release: Securities Commission asked to investigate ahead of Jan. 8 Tahoe, Pan American Silver Merger

Earthblog: Pan American Silver poised to buy huge trouble with acquisition of Escobal mine

Banner photo: NISGUA