The Escobal project is a gold and silver mine located 70km southeast of Guatemala city, and approximately 3km from San Rafael las Flores, a town of about 3,000 people. The mine, expected to become operational in 2013, lies within a mountainous landscape interspersed with rolling hills and valleys .
The area is important for agricultural production for both local consumption and commercial production . The coffee produced in the area is sold in the international market and thus is also an important source of revenue. The importance of agricultural production and commercialization to the region means that water quality and water availability are crucial resources, so local communities perceive the mining project as a threat to these resources.
In 2007 Goldcorp obtained its exploration license, and three years later the Environmental Impact Assessment was reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources . The approval of the project triggered a great deal of resentment amongst the local communities who claim they were neither informed nor consulted about the mining project. As a result, frustrated inhabitants from the municipalities of San Rafael Las Flores, Casillas, Nueva Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Lima y Jumaytepeque came together in order to fight against the future development of the mine . Peaceful marches, demonstrations and gatherings were frequently organized over the years 2010 and 2011. On July 3rd, a community referendum was organized in Nueva Santa Rosa to allow its residents express their opinions on the mining project, 7,602 residents participated, and 98.87% voted against the mine . A week later, on July 10th, the neighboring municipality of Santa Rosa de Lima also organized a community referendum which resulted in 98.34% of the community voting against the mine .
The Escobal mine remains serious threat to the local economy, and to the health of people living around the mine , and for many inhabitants of the region the case of the Marlin Mine is a testament to the validity of their concerns.
Prensa Libre (Guatemala, Spanish):