US and Canadian Organizations Alarmed Over Illegal Mining at Goldex Property in Guatemala

el-pato
Una investigación está abierta en el MP contra la extracción ilegal en El Pato, mientras tanto, la policía clausuró el área y custodia el lugar. (Foto Prensa Libre: Carlos Hernández)

30 March 2021, 2.49pm EDT

GuatemalaIndigenous Rights

Viviana Herrera

Interim Latin America Program Coordinator

Seven organizations, including MiningWatch Canada, sent a letter to the President & CEO and Director of Goldex Resources about recent claims of illegal mining in southern Guatemala, within the area granted for the El Pato project reportedly owned by the Canadian mining firm. Community members have reported threats against land and environmental defenders who have been denouncing these activities.

The organizations ask Goldex to publicly clarify its relationship with the companies involved with extracting minerals from the El Pato project area, to clarify the company’s relationship with the landowners on whose land this illegal operation has been taking place, and to put a stop to these illegal activities that only generate unrest, tension, and insecurity in the area.

Goldex Resources Corporation is a junior mining company based in Vancouver, BC, with mining projects in Mali and Guatemala. 

See the letter below:


Letter of Concern to Goldex Resource Cooperation

Charles Ross, President & CEO
James Ravannack, Director
Goldex Resources Corporation
2300-1177 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6E 2K3

March 30, 2021

Dear Mr. Charles Ross & Mr. James Ravannack,

The undersigned organizations write to you with concern about recent claims of illegal mining in southern Guatemala within the area granted for the El Pato project reportedly owned by your company. In particular, we are deeply concerned about threats against land and environmental defenders who have been denouncing these activities.

According to Goldex’s most interim financial report, dated November 30, 2020, your company owns 100% of the mining title and rights to explore and extract minerals from the El Pato property in Guatemala. This same report also states that your company has applied for a 25-year exploitation license for this property. Furthermore, according to your Management Discussion and Analysis report also dated November 30, 2020, “The company’s primary focus for the period ended September 30, 2020 was the processing of its mining license for El Pato.”

Between December 2020 and January 2021, Guatemalan authorities received complaints about illegal activities in the village of El Pato, which is located within the mining concession El Pato II. The title holder of this concession is your company’s Guatemalan subsidiary, Compañía Minera El Cóndor, S.A. In addition, since late January, organizations working with Indigenous peoples and farming communities in the region who have expressed their disagreement with these illegal activities, such as the Central de Organizaciones Indígenas Campesinas Ch’orti’ – Nuevo Día (New Day Ch’orti’ Campesino Central Coordinator – CCCND), have been receiving threats. These threats also extend to Father Mario Canán from the Chiquimula area, who has been an outspoken supporter of the affected communities.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) reports having received an anonymous complaint on December 14 about indications of gold and silver mining in the village of El Pato. MEM organized two visits during the second half of December to the area with authorities, including the Public Prosecutor’s Office. On December 24, they seized five trucks with materials that allegedly came from the mining area under consideration.

MEM states that it has issued an exploration license for this area, but has not approved a license for mineral extraction. While Compañia Minera El Condor is recognized as the concession holder, MEM highlights that an environmental license was granted by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) to a company called El Pato GT, S.A. According to the Guatemalan press, this license was approved in 2017 and expired in 2018. Furthermore, according to documentation obtained from MEM, in 2018, despite the fact that an application for a license is not a tradable asset in Guatemala, Compañia Minera El Condor sold its application for license for mineral extraction to El Pato GT, S.A. for US$125,000. A third company is also involved in this area. According to press reports, the company Atlas Universal S.A. obtained a construction license from the municipality of Chiquimula for the construction of a warehouse on the site where the illegal mining activities took place.

On January 27, 2021, Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous authorities expressed their disagreement with illegal mining in the village of El Pato, as well as other mining activities in the eastern part of the country before congress in Guatemala City. Congressperson Carlos Barreda from the political party Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) also participated in this meeting and reported that, a couple of days earlier, five people were captured carrying extracted material from the area in three trucks destined for the Minas del Pueblo project in Alta Verapaz. In addition, he remarked, “the workers of the mine [in El Pato] detained the priest Mario Canán [of the San Francisco Parish in Chiquimula] and a group of villagers, who were observing the mining activity, were threatened.” The priest and the villagers were released after the National Civil Police intervened. Inhabitants of the area have also complained of disruptions caused by the company’s work at night and the constant movement of trucks.

On February 1, MEM and the Public Ministry indicated that they had shuttered the mining activities after a visit to the site. They were reported stating that, “The company has 10 days to present evidence to dispute or justify its illegal actions, otherwise MEM will impose an administrative fine of approximately 100,000 quetzals in accordance with the Mining Law” (100,000 quetzals is equivalent to about US$13,000).

However, threats against human rights defenders who have been denouncing this situation then worsened after a US district court released a decision that began to be reported on in the Guatemalan press. On February 26, a court in the Eastern District of Texas named Argentine businessman Federico Machado, a partner in the Minas del Pueblo company and resident of Florida, as one of eight people accused of money laundering and drug trafficking involving the commercialization of airplanes registered to a Texan company. Congressperson Barreda had made the connection between Machado and the company Minas del Pueblo during the January 27 meeting in Congress. The Guatemalan newspaper elPeriodico later reported how a US federal prosecutor had found that part of the money Machado received through the commercialization of airplanes had been invested in mining activities in Guatemala.

After this news began to circulate in Guatemala and three days after a forum held by the Centro Universitario de Oriente in Chiquimula concerning mining extraction in El Pato, online threats were made against New Day Ch’orti’ Campesino Central Coordinator. The organization was directly targeted on social networks, including the Facebook page of the Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas del Terrorismo (National Movement of Victims of Terrorism). This is an extreme right-wing movement made up of retired military and people with military connections known for attacking civil society and human rights groups on social media. A few days later, on March 22, the office of the Bufete Jurídico para Pueblos Indígenas (Indigenous Peoples Law Firm), which collaborates with New Day and others, was broken into and files were stolen.

In light of this increasingly worrisome and frightening situation, and given that according to your own reports the El Pato project is 100% owned by Goldex, we write to call on you to publicly clarify Goldex’s relationship with the companies involved with extracting minerals from the El Pato project area, including Minas del Pueblo, Atlas Universal, and El Pato GT, S.A. It is also important to clarify your company’s relationship with the landowners on whose land this illegal operation has been taking place.

It is urgent that Goldex put a stop to these illegal activities that only generate unrest, tension and insecurity in the area, and we request that you report publicly concerning your plans in this regard.

Attentively,

Earthworks, U.S.
Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) – Global Economy Program, U.S.
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, Canada
MiningWatch Canada
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Observatorio de Industrias Extractivas, Guatemala
Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG), Québec, Canada

CC: Ambassador Rita Rudaitis-Renaud, Embassy of Canada in Guatemala

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SOURCE: https://miningwatch.ca/blog/2021/3/30/us-and-canadian-organizations-alarmed-over-illegal-mining-goldex-property-guatemala

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