Indigenous leaders demand respect from mining firms

Representatives of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the Xinka Indigenous Parliament of Guatemala are calling on Canadian mining companies to respect indigenous rights everywhere they operate.

The joint statement was issued in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Nov. 2, by Judy Wilson, UBCIC secretary-treasurer, and Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy, the Xinka representative.

Monroy had traveled to British Columbia as a plaintiff in a groundbreaking lawsuit against Tahoe Resources the former owner of the Escobal silver mine in Guatemala. Monroy had been wounded when private security guards shot him and others participating in a peaceful protest outside the mine gates in April 2013.

According to indigenous leaders from British Columbia, the civil lawsuit was the first to be admitted in British Columbia courts for human rights abuses taking place in connection with a mining operation abroad, as well as the first to be settled, earlier this year. Still, Monroy said, underlying problems with the Escobal mine continued.

The mine is currently owned by Vancouver-based Pan American Silver.

For nearly a decade the Xinka people in Guatemala and their neighbors have been conducting peaceful protests over concerns of potential impacts of the mine on their water health, agriculture and social fabric. 

The Vancouver event was organized by the Mining Justice Alliance, Simon Fraser University Institute for the Humanities, MiningWatch Canada, Earthworks, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Mining Justice Action Community, University of British Columbia Students for Mining Justice and others.