The first pre-consultation meeting concerning the Escobal mining license was held on Friday, May 21 of this year in the offices of the Xinka Parliament of Guatemala. The purpose was to identify the entities that will participate as observers and to establish the first set of agreements about how the pre-consultation and consultation process will be carried out.
The Ministry of Culture and Sports (MICUDE), Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), Presidential Commission for Dialogue, the University of San Carlos of Guatemala (USAC), members of Community Development Councils (COCODES) and the Municipal Council of San Rafael Las Flores attended the meeting. In addition, delegates from the Environment and Indigenous People’s offices of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), and the directors of Pan American Silver (PAS), current owners of the Escobal mining project were present. Also in attendance were the 59 authorities accredited to represent the Xinka People of Guatemala in the consultation process.
The meeting was chaired by the Vice Minister of Sustainable Development for MEM, Oscar Pérez. In chronological order, Pérez made a presentation concerning the meetings that have been held with the Xinka People to reach agreements regarding the start of the pre-consultation process.
Aleisar Arana, Huxi Hurak of the Xinka People said, “It is a very special day, a day we fought for, a day that will remain in our history… Reaching this moment was a very difficult task… [spanning] four government administrations. Since 2009, we have been protesting and demanding the right to consultation, but unfortunately previous administrations refused.”
It is important to mention that the lead up to this pre-consultation process has been marked by a context of repression, criminalization, assassinations, and discrimination. Despite this, the Xinka people have not given up. The vindication of our rights has not been easy because public officials of four previous governments have denied their existence, in order to justify the lack of prior, free and informed consultation.
As a result, Arana insisted on respect for the principle of good faith and respect for Xinka rights as Indigenous peoples “We hope that the good will with which we started will continue at coming meetings. What we seek, what brings us here to the consultation in good faith, is the right to self-determination of our people and the right to consent… We hope that the right to self-determination that we have as Xinka Indigenous people will be respected”.
It should be emphasized that government has taken more than three years to comply with the Constitutional Court’s September 3, 2018 decision, which ordered consultation with the Xinka people over the Escobal mining project.
However, there is now concrete progress in the pre-consultation process. One of the agreements reached so far is the selection of an expert responsible for conducting a cultural and spiritual impact study. At the next meeting, she will present her team and the methodology she will use to carry out the study.
Finally, there has been much speculation about the timeline for completion of the process. However, the Xinka Parliament clarifies that, for the time being, the duration cannot be estimated because the dates of the meetings are being scheduled according to the cosmovision of the Xinka people.