Precautionary Measures

PM 260-07 - Communities of the Maya People (Sipakepense and Mam) of the Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán Municipalities in the Department of San Marcos, Guatemala

On May 20, 2010, the IACHR granted precautionary measures for the members of 18 communities of the Maya indigenous people: Tres Cruces, Escupijá, Pueblo Viejo, La Estancia, Poj, Sipacapa, Pie de la Cuesta, Cancil, Chual, Quecá, Quequesiguán, San Isidro, Canoj, Ágel, San José Ixcaniché, San José Nueva Esperanza, San Antonio de los Altos, and Siete Platos, in Guatemala. The request for precautionary measures alleges that in November 2003, the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted the Montana company a license to mine for gold and silver for 25 years, within an area of 20 square kilometers in the municipalities of Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán. The concession's environmental and hydrological impact area would encompass the territories of at least 18 communities of the Maya people in both municipalities. The petitioners allege that the mining concession was issued and mining began without the prior, complete, free, and informed consultation of the affected communities of the Maya people. Montana reportedly began constructing the Marlin I Mine in 2003 and extracting gold and silver in 2005. The petitioners maintain that the mining has produced grave consequences for the life, personal integrity, environment, and property of the affected indigenous people, since the Tzalá River and its tributaries are the only sources of water for consumption and subsistence activities. According to the request, a number of water wells and springs have dried up, and the metals present in the water as a result of the mining activity have had harmful effects on the health of members of the community. The Inter-American Commission asked the State of Guatemala to suspend mining of the Marlin I project and other activities related to the concession granted to the company Goldcorp/Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A., and to implement effective measures to prevent environmental contamination, until such time as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopts a decision on the merits of the petition associated with this request for precautionary measures. The IACHR likewise asked the State to adopt the necessary measures to decontaminate, as much as possible, the water sources of the 18 beneficiary communities and to ensure their members access to water fit for human consumption; to address the health problems that are the subject of these precautionary measures, in particular to begin a health assistance and health care program for the beneficiaries aimed at identifying those who may have been affected by the consequences of the contamination, so as to provide them with appropriate medical attention; to adopt any other necessary measures to guarantee the life and physical integrity of the members of the 18 aforementioned Maya communities; and to plan and implement the protection measures with the participation of the beneficiaries and/or their representatives.

On December 7, 2011, after examining additional information submitted by the State and the petitioners, the IACHR notified its decision to modify these precautionary measures, and requested the State of Guatemala to adopt the necessary measures to ensure that all beneficiary members of the 18 Mayan communities have access to potable water appropriate for human consumption and household use, as well as for irrigation purposes. Specifically, the IACHR requested the State to take the necessary measures, in order that the 18 beneficiary communities' water resources are not contaminated by mining activities.