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2010– Petition filed to oppose approval of Environmental Impact Assessment

In December 2010, the Committee in Defence of Life and Peace of San Rafael Las Flores and Colectivo Madreselva presented a petition of opposition to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) to oppose the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted by Tahoe and Minera San Rafael to obtain an exploitation licence for the Escobal mine. 

The opposition of the community focused on the failure of the authorities or company to consult with the affected indigenous communities according to Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization and the Guatemalan Municipal Law (Decree 12-2002). The document provided evidence that the terms of reference established by MARN regarding consultation with communities fell short of these legal obligations as it referred only in general terms to the “perception, attitudes and concerns of the local population about the project” (Polanco, 2012: 20).

The opposition petition also indicated that the EIA had not considered that mining concessions are generally granted over private land by the State, leaving it to the discretion of the concession holding private companies to negotiate with the landowners. However, in cases such as Escobal, where land ownership is contested or uncertain, this created community conflict and would result in forced displacement of families with other grave social impacts (See subsequent Legal Action, entitled “2021 Civil action by local families against Escobal mining licence”).    

The opposition petition also highlighted a range of other key features of the project which were not addressed in the EIA. These included the lack of information regarding the treatment and disposal of huge quantities of excavated waste rock with potential to leach acids into the environment; the absence of impact assessments in relation to soil as well as surface and subterranean watercourses given the exploitation plan to extract huge quantities of water in the underground tunnels without clear indication of how this would be dealt with; and lack of information on particulate air pollution caused by the mine.

MARN did not respond to the opposition evidence submitted to the EIA. In September 2011, MARN approved the EIA Escobal mine. In 2013, after a two year delay, the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted the exploitation licence (See Legal Action entitled “2013 Injunction against granting of Escobal exploitation licence”).   

Type of Action / Tipo de Acción:
Administrative Proceedings
Extractive Project / Proyecto extractivo:
Region / Región:
Central America
Country / País:
Natural Resource / Recurso natural:
Gold, Silver
Jurisdiction / Jurisdicción:
Guatemalan System
Category of Key Actors in Legal Action / Categoría de actores claves en la Acción Legal:
Community Representatives, Non-Governmental Organizations, State Institutions
Human Rights Violated/Claimed:
Right to a healthy environment, Right to free, prior and informed consent, Right to consultation, Right to due process
Key Legal Actors Involved / Actores jurídicos clave involucrados:
Committee in Defence of Life and Peace in San Rafael Las Flores, Association of Madre Selva, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM)
Year Action Started / Año de inicio:
References / Referencias:

Polanco, Mara Luz, “La minería en Guatemala (El caso de Goldcorp: de la Mina Marlin al Escobal)”, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, dated February 2012, online:, accessed 22 September 2021.

Luis Solano, “Under Siege: Peaceful Resistance to Tahoe Resources and Militarization in Guatemala”, dated 10 November 2015, online:, accessed 21 September 2021.