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“A threat to the life of the ecosystems in the area and the quality of human life.”

This is how the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya describes the Progreso VII Derivada gold mine in a recent statement after news broke that the mine’s owner, Nevada-based Kappes Cassiday & Associates (KCA) filed an international claim against the Guatemalan government.

In its notice of intent to file arbitration made public in May 2018, KCA cited unjust treatment by the state, and community protests that prohibit the company from carrying out exploration. In the claim filed with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes on December 11th, KCA argues past and future losses of 300 million dollars. The December filing comes just one week after mine-impacted communities from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and allies from the US and Canada gathered to share experiences and strategies to resist investor-state arbitration involving mining companies.

KCA’s gold mine has been suspended since February 2016 over a court decision that found the government failed to consult with indigenous communities. The court order was the culmination, however, of years of tireless grassroots organizing and collective non-violent action by communities in San Pedro Ayampuc and San Jose del Golfo, Guatemala. The around-the-clock protest-encampment known as La Puya is a demonstration of community opposition to the mine that continues today, nearly three years after operations were put on hold.

“We are concerned that this foreign mining company has criminalized [community members] and disrupted social harmony in communities. [The company] threatens the life of the ecosystems in the area and the quality of human life, given that it carried out one of the worst Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) ever approved by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources. [The EIS] shows that the gold and silver are contained in arsenopyrite rock, which contains high levels of arsenic. Levels of arsenic in the water increased considerably during the time the mine was in operation.”

In their statement, the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya calls on the Guatemalan State to “not forget its responsibility to protect life, security and integrity of the population,” and demands the state ensure arbitration does not undermine public policy or court decisions meant to protect human rights and the environment. They ask the international community to remain attentive as the case begins to make its way through the controversial and opaque Investor-State Dispute Settlement system.

Read the original press release in Spanish here.

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