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Mapping environmental conflicts and cooperation

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El Tambor Mining Conflict in Guatemala

Type of conflict main
Intensity 1.5
Region
Central America
Time 2011 ‐ ongoing
Countries Guatemala
Resources Water
Conflict Summary The “El Tambor” mining project, also known as “Progreso VII”, operates through the Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. Company (Exmigua), a subsidiary of...
El Tambor Mining Conflict in Guatemala
The “El Tambor” mining project, also known as “Progreso VII”, operates through the Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. Company (Exmigua), a subsidiary of the Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) Company, and is located in the municipalities of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo, in Southern Guatemala. Local residents allege that the gold and silver extraction was damaging water sources. A process of dialogue among companies, government and residents, beginning in 2013, was paralyzed and residents who had organized a sit-in at the mine entrance, attempting to keep out the heavy machinery, were violently removed by the military (PrensaLibre 2014a; PrensaLibre 2014b).
Conceptual Model

Intermediary Mechanisms

The local population fears that mining activities could lead to the pollution of water resources.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

The mining extraction license was granted without having previously consulted in a free, well-informed manner with local residents, as prescribed by international standards on indigenous rights. This has led to protests against the El Tambor mine.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversEconomic activity causes pollution.Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource. Pollution reduces available/usable freshwater.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources provokes discontent with the state.A broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentPollution and degradation of ecosystems, such as coral reefs.Pollution / Environmental DegradationAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal GroupsChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State Grievances
Context Factors
Conflict History

In 2011, the Guatemalan Government approved the gold and silver mining concession for the El Tambor mine for the Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A. Company. The local population, because of fears that the mining would cause the same damage as in other zones of the country, began expressing their disagreement and concern, above all considering the pollution that mining activity would have on their water sources. The environmental impact assessment had already been approved by the Ministry of Energies and Mines, and the mining extraction license had already been granted, without having consulted in a free, well-informed prior manner with local residents, as prescribed by international standards on indigenous rights.

Environmental Impact Assessment joint evaluation
Beginning in June 2013, a series of meetings were held between representatives of the communities affected by the El Tambor mine, the President of the Republic, representatives of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Environment and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Governance, to review and jointly evaluate the Environmental Impact Assessment, and therefore consider the mitigation measures adopted by the mining company.

Eruption of violence
Nevertheless, in these meetings, no agreement was reached. In 2014, the National Dialogue System hosted new meetings among the parties in conflict in order to reach an agreement. However, on 23th of May 2014 at dawn the company’s machinery came to the mine’s entrance and, along with the police, began removing the community demonstrators (PrensaLibre, 2014a). The situation became violent, with 23 demonstrators wounded and 15 police agents as well (PrensaLibre, 2014a.).

United Nations condemnation
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had sent its representatives to verify due compliance with the established protocols about the use of force in this type of situations, condemned the way the government used force for this activity: “The number of persons hurt reveals a failure to adequately apply protocols on the use of force in accordance with human rights”. The High Commissioner also called for resumption of the dialogue attempted in 2013 (Telediario, 2014). At this time residents remain present at the mine entrance and are demanding resumption of the dialogue and negotiation among companies, residents and the government (PrensaLibre, 2014b).

Resolution Efforts

In summary, the conflict resolution modes range from peaceful conflict resolution, to violent military repression against the opposition. The former include peaceful mobilizations by residents, to bring political pressure on decision-makers. Further, impartial agencies such as United Nations mechanisms facilitate dialogue and negotiation among the parties in conflict. And finally, the use of military force has been a factor exacerbating the conflict and hardening both parties’ positions, and continues to this day. The dynamics of the conflict depend at this time largely on the possibility of resuming the dialogue among the parties.

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
Intensities
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Fatalities
0
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation National
Mass Displacement None
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Resources
Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future There is no increased capacity to address grievances in the future.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been completely ignored.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity There has been no reduction in intensity
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Government of Guatemala
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala S.A.
Functional GroupCommercial
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Local residents of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José del Golfo
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
2 Dialogue A series of meetings were held between community representatives and government authorities to review the environmental impact assessment and jointly consider the mitigation measures to be adopted by the mining company. Subsequently, the National Dialogue System hosted new meetings among the parties in conflict in order to reach an agreement. Nevertheless, no agreement was reached and the use of military force has halted any dialogue.
1 Mediation & arbitration The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the government’s use of force against demonstrators and called for a resumption of dialogue.
0 Social inclusion & empowerment Prior consultation with local residents is required during the planning of mining projects as prescribed by international standards on indigenous rights. However, this requirement was not upheld.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Public good: No one can be excluded from use and the good is not depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
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