MICLA

McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Cerro Blanco, Guatemala

Key Data

Company:GoldCorp Operational status:advanced development Materials extracted:silver, gold Type of mine:open pit Main issues:water, community relations

Description

The Cerro Blanco mine, owned and operated by a Guatemalan subsidiary of Gold Corp (Entre Mares), is situated less than 10 miles from the Salvadoran border in the Guatemalan municipality of Jutiapa [1]. The project was approved in September 2007 by the government of Oscar Berger who granted the company Entre Mares a 25-year exploration and exploitation license.

The project is located in El Trifinio site, which El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala had previously suggested as a Biosphere reserve to UNESCO. The project has triggered much local, national and international opposition. The mine exploitation also poses threats to the Lake Güija and rivers which are located in the border region. David Pereira, a Salvadoran activist part of Research Centre on Investment and Trade (CEICOM), fears that toxic wastewater discharged in the Ostua River will severely pollute the river as well as Lake Güija which is located downstream of the river. He believes that the mine should be shut down because of the irreparable damages it may cause to water sources, soil, animals, plants and human settlements in the vicinity. The Lempa river supplies millions of Salvadorans with potable water and enables them to carry out necessary activities like agriculture, livestock raising and hydroelectric power plants[2].

In October 2010, Guatemalan authorities, Salvadoran ecologists and human right defenders, and Salvadoran geo-physicists from Athens University in Ohio, met with Dina Larios who presented a study on the possible impacts of the mine [3]. The document points to the dangers associated with dumping water in the Ostúa river that has high concentrations of fluorine, arsenic and boron and has a temperature of 35 degrees.  Dumping this contaminated water into the river could endanger its biodiversity and also cause thermal pollution. The Guatemalan Environmental minister responded to the report by stating that the company received all of the legal authorizations to operate and that the current major cause of pollution to the Güija Lake are the industries and hotels in El Salvador.

Social organizations in El Salvador and Guatemala have attempted to stop the construction of the mine, but so far no agreement has been reached. More recently, tensions have been mounting due to the arrests, kidnappings, and alleged robberies by the police of Salvadoran activists on their way to Cerro Blanco activities in Guatemala city.  Police claim their actions were related to monitoring drug traffickers. These incidents occurred on July 30th, 2010, and later on October 28th, 2010 [4], [5], [6].


Timeline of Key Events

2010
2010
2007
1997