This week, community members from Guatemala and Argentina fighting to prevent Pan American Silver projects from destroying their water supplies and ways of life met to exchange experiences and solidify collaboration. Calling them a “catalyst for growth,” Pan American hopes to cash in on large silver deposits at the proposed Navidad project in Chubut, Argentina and the suspended Escobal mine in Santa Rosa, Guatemala, despite long-standing resistance from Indigenous and non-indigenous residents.
The first Summit of Communities Affected by Pan American Silver included representatives from the Xinka Parliament of Guatemala, the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa, the Indigenous Mapuche Tehuelche people of the Central-Northern Plateau of Chubut and the Union of Community Assemblies of Chubut, Argentina. At a press conference held Thursday morning, community members called on company shareholders to question the positive image that Pan American Silver is likely to present at its shareholder meeting on May 11th, if its 2021 Sustainability Report is any indicator.
Participants in the Summit identified parallels between the struggles in Argentina and Guatemala, where resistance movements have successfully halted mining in their territory for nineteen and five years respectively, and where Pan American Silver decided to invest anyway.
“In Argentina, since 2009, the company has been manipulating the three branches of the provincial government – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary – to develop the Navidad project. Its methods are based in corruption and the constant harassment of the communities of the plateau (meseta) of the province,” reads the joint declaration. Company influence on legislators was on glaring display in December 2021 when they approved legislation to permit mining in the Chubut plateau and then had to retract their decision days later after mass protests throughout the province.
“In Guatemala, the company acquired the Escobal mine in 2019, which had been suspended after nine years of historic, peaceful resistance – just like in Argentina – and with full knowledge of the human rights violations caused by the company in alliance with previous governments.” This recalls how former mine owner Tahoe Resources mounted a counterinsurgency plan in collaboration with the administration of former President and ex General Otto Pérez Molina to undermine local opposition and militarize the area in order to put the Escobal mine into operation in early 2014.
During the Summit, participants also examined findings from a collaborative map to understand other conflicts connected with Pan American Silver operations in Latin America. These include the legacy of acid mine drainage on communities downstream of the Quiruvilca mine in La Libertad, Peru, which Pan American Silver operated from 1995-2012, as well as the forced displacement of the community La Colorada in Zacatecas, Mexico, another of the company’s main “catalyst for growth” projects. Considering this broader context, participating organizations concluded that company investments in Guatemala and Argentina are being financed through the dispossession and displacement that other communities have already suffered.
“Our exchanges at the Summit have revealed that our struggles are not isolated: the company and our governments share similar patterns of behaviour including … repression and militarisation of territories, forced displacement of communities, human rights violations, violations of Indigenous rights, environmental and health harms,” the declaration states. “All of these actions are hidden behind pretty words and images [in company reports].”
The participating organizations solidified a commitment to future collaboration and extended an invitation to join forces with others suffering the consequences of the company’s investments elsewhere.
The organizations from Santa Rosa, Japala and Jutiapa, Guatemala and Chubut, Argentina concluded their joint declaration, reiterating their commitment to defend their land and water saying, “If Pan American Silver has 20 years to wait, we have all our lives to resist.”
Show your support – sign the petition to demand Pan American Silver and the Governments of Argentina and Guatemala respect community self-determination around Escobal and Navidad mines.