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Last week Earthworks, along with over sixty organizations from around the world, sent a letter to Guatemalan authorities calling for full respect for the self-determination, customs and traditions of the Xinka and Maya Kaqchikel communities (part of the Peaceful Resistance La Puya) as they participate in the Constitutional Court ordered consultation over the future of a U.S. owned gold mine. In March 2024, La Puya celebrated its twelfth year of defending water, health and the right to live in a healthy environment. 

The letter expresses concern about the various ways that the project owner, Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) may pressure the Guatemalan government to tip the scales of the consultation process in its favor. The company’s pressure tactics may include using the pending decision in a high-stakes international arbitration process that KCA initiated after Guatemalan courts suspended work on its gold mine in 2016. KCA brought its suit for more than US$400 million against Guatemala in the World Bank arbitration tribunal, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and under the terms of the United States-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). 

The government’s own legal defense in the international arbitration recognizes the legitimacy of La Puya’s struggle against KCA’s Progreso VII Derivado mine and relied on documentation and studies from La Puya to argue that KCA’s mine failed to uphold Guatemalan or international standards and never should have been permitted to operate.

We urge the government to respect the decision of the Constitutional Court, as well as the customs, traditions and self-determination of the Maya Kaqchikel and Xinka communities as they start the design phase of the consultation process. The letter also calls on the government to appropriately limit the role of KCA in the consultation process to one of information-sharing, consistent with the government’s argument to the arbitration panel and the Constitutional Court decision. 

Read the letter in Spanish here.