[From the Feb 20, 2013 ebulletin:]
By now you have heard a lot about the ongoing resistance to a gold mine in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. For nearly a year, families have – at great personal cost – maintained a human roadblock to the mine, preventing machinery and mining employees from entering the site. They fear the mine will endanger their well being and contaminate their already scarce water supply.
That fear was confirmed by US engineer and mining expert Rob Robinson, who analyzed the 900-page Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Tambor gold mine and traveled to Guatemala in mid-February to present his findings to the Guatemalan government, the press, and affected communities.
“The analysis is so bad that it can’t help us predict or prevent the negative effects of the mine,” explained Mr. Robinson. “It gives no confidence that the mining company will protect the environment or the health of the communities.”
Exmingua, a subsidiary of U.S. mining company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates, presented the EIA to the Guatemalan government in 2010, as a prerequisite to the granting of the mining license. Mr. Robinson and a team of engineers spent six months meticulously reviewing the EIA before issuing their condemning critique.
On the afternoon of February 13, hundreds of men, women and children gathered in the town center to hear Mr. Robinson explain the risks of the mining project. “They say this is a small mine. But the size of the mine has little to do with the amount of damage that can be done. Sometimes the smallest mines cause the greatest contamination.”
The EIA has little analysis of the mine’s impact. One of the greatest concerns overlooked by the EIA is the quantity of arsenic that would be released into the environment by the mining operation. “There is already concern about the high levels of arsenic that naturally exist in the water supply,” said Mr. Robinson. “Mining operations will disturb a great quantity of rock, exposing new minerals to the environment. Even the dust caused by mining could have arsenic in it. The environmental impact analysis doesn’t address this issue.” In a voice tinged with disbelief he added, “The majority of the maps, plans, and engineering drawings are completely illegible!”
Another major flaw with the Environmental Impact Assessment is that it doesn’t seriously consider alternatives to mining exploitation. “What is missing from their study is the “no action” alternative. You need to compare the benefits of the mine – jobs created and tax revenue – against the socio-economic and environmental costs.” He added: “When you have acid mine drainage, the impact is forever.”
As night fell, Robinson concluded his remarks: “My recommendation is that the government withdraw the mining license, at least until a better Environmental Impact Assessment can be prepared.”
Community leader Yolanda Oquelí wrapped up the event by reaffirming the communities’ rejection of, and peaceful resistance to, the mine. GHRC was proud to present her with a hand-painted banner from American University students who visited the communities in January. Amid a splash of color, the banner reads: “Juntos en Solidaridad” (Together in Solidarity).
The communities are now waiting for the government’s response to Mr. Robinson’s critical analysis, which should come on February 28.
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