Callous CALAS activists against the poor

Anti-mining groups “protect” local tribe against phony risks by trampling on Guatemalan workers

Paul Driessen

Not long ago, supposed “environmental justice” concerns at least involved risks to mine workers and their families. The risks may have been inflated, or ignored for decades, but they were a major focus.

In one case, a state-run mine and smelter had fouled the air, land and water with toxic contaminants in a Peruvian town for 75 years. Environmental groups raised few objections – until a U.S. company bought the properties and began installing modern pollution controls, implementing worker health and safety practices, cleaning up widespread lead dust, and initiating numerous community improvement projects.

Suddenly, anti-mine activists descended on the town. They blamed the company for decades of pollution, claimed corporate officials weren’t acting quickly enough, ignored government foot-dragging on its commitments, pressured banks into cutting off loans to the company, and eventually shut everything down. Thousands of workers were left jobless. The activists and news media celebrated their victory.

Today, mining operations in Guatemala have become ground zero for campaigns in which pollution and human health are largely irrelevant, “indigenous people” are the new politically favored “victims” of multinational mining companies, rigged “consultation processes” have become the tactic du jour, and mine workers are among the new “oppressors,” whose health and living standards are now irrelevant.

Not only do radical “keep it in the ground” protesters pay little attention to where essential raw materials come from, so long as their favorite tech toys magically appear in retail outlets. They almost flaunt their callous disregard for families that had been dirt poor before a modern mine brought jobs and comparative prosperity – and will be destitute again after the outside agitators have shut the mine down and moved on to their next target. A case in point is the Escobal silver mine near San Rafael las Flores, Guatemala.

Since buying the mine in 2010, owner and operator Canada-based Tahoe Resources has invested more than $1 billion into the mine’s operation and related infrastructures– plus another $10 million upgrading hospitals and schools, planting 32,000 trees, and launching vocational, entrepreneurship, health, nutrition and other programs. More than 1,600 mining jobs and 6,000 indirect jobs brought many millions of dollars in salaries to the region. Locals launched over 100 new businesses. Life was getting better.

Company officials say the mine is designed and operated to meet the highest Guatemalan and Canadian health and environmental standards, and there has been no evidence of air or water pollution during Tahoe’s tenure. Anti-mining activists nonetheless launched campaigns against it as soon as it was licensed.

Incessant protests and confrontations, arson incidents, forcible detention of miners and police by activists, and assorted legal actions fueled tensions. The agitators are determined to prosecute Tahoe in multiple courts, persuade banks not to extend further credit to the company, send its stock values plummeting, and block Escobal mining operations permanently.

What will we do if they shut the mine down? locals ask. Without these jobs, we will be poor again. Our businesses will close, our children will have no future, and people will have to go to the United States for work – just like before the mine created jobs that brought workers back to the area.

The agitators’ newest tactic is to enlist indigenous tribes, claim companies failed to consult adequately with the tribes under Guatemala’s community consultation and plebiscite “consultas” process, use ballot initiatives to claim people around the area overwhelmingly oppose the mine – and rage that the local people’s and indigenous groups’ human rights have been violated, in gross miscarriages of justice.

The blatant dishonesty of this process is underscored by the fact that every consultas held between 2011 and 2016 resulted in 93to 100 percent opposition to mining. Indeed, the process was cleverly designed and then hijacked, manipulated and rigged by outside activists and their local allies to foment opposition to mining activity and eliminate mine-dependent jobs, rather than assess true community sentiment.

Banners depicted a sample ballot marked “NO” and proclaim that shutting down mining is “necessary for life.” Ballots were explicitly worded to solicit negative responses. Even worse, many ballots highlighted the “No” vote in yellow, suggesting to voters it was the “correct” answer. The dishonesty is even deeper.

Community meetings held before the vote were little more than disinformation and agitprop sessions, designed to advance the anti-mining sentiments of activists from wealthy nations. Mine owners, foremen, environmental directors, community development coordinators, even workers and their families were not invited or permitted to participate. They could not correct misinformation; ask or respond to questions; explain health, safety and environmental safeguards; discuss economic, employment, living standards and other benefits to the community; or otherwise ensure fair, balanced, complete and open discussions.

Workers and others who wanted to speak out at other times were greeted with threats and intimidation.

The deck was stacked. The well-funded and coordinated agitators behind the consultas had no interest in ensuring that local people were actually consulted and given opportunities to learn the facts. Their goal was and is to block mining projects, regardless of how many jobs would be created, living standards improved, and health, safety and environmental safeguards implemented by mining operators.

Can anyone recall a case where activists ultimately supported a mining project, following consultations or improved mining practices? I did not see it happen in Peru, and it is not happening in Guatemala. The agitators simply change the issues, ramp up their demands and move the goal posts.

The anti-mining agitators do not care whether a consultation process is fair, open and complete; that a mine would be safe and non-polluting; or that it would ensure good jobs and improved schools, hospitals, homes, living standards and opportunities for thousands. They simply do not want mines in any targeted area, anytime or under any conditions.

Their current ploy is to say that Guatemala’s Ministry of Mines did not consult adequately with Xinca tribal groups that live miles from the mine, before it issued the mining license. The Guatemalan courts agreed with the activists – and shut down operations.

If the closure becomes permanent, 7,600 workers would be left jobless and their families destitute. Their growing anger, frustration, hopelessness and sense of betrayal are reaching a boiling point. Several miners recently went on a hunger strike, to protest what the activists and courts have done. Will Guatemalan, Canadian, U.S. and international jurists, legislators, journalists and real human rights advocates pay any attention? Call for social and environmental justice? Time will tell. But don’t hold your breath.

The entire operation was orchestrated by several local pressure groups, led by CALAS – the Centro de Acción Legal Ambiental y Social de Guatemala: Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action. However, the real organizing, money and strategizing came from far outside the country.

The real power behind the throne has been Oxfam America, joined by a cabal of likeminded American, Canadian and European pressure groups, all of which masquerade as “civil society” and “environmental justice” organizations – and their financial backers. Together, they have poured millions of dollars into the anti-mining, anti-worker, Keep the Poor Impoverished campaigns.

From 2009 to 2015, Oxfam pumped over $9 million annually into its Central America/Caribbean programs. The New-York based Moriah Fund contributed nearly $15 million over a ten-year period to these and other international NGOs, while the Fund for Global Human Rights added over $3 million.

Unbelievably, the European Union contributed more than $17 million to Guatemalan pressure groups between 2007 and 2011! And to top it off, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture is another major sponsor – using U.S. tax-dollar donations to the UN. How the heck did “failure to consult” become “torture” – akin to what the SS, KGB, ISIS and other criminal outfits routinely engage in?

For callous CALAS and its allied pressure groups and despicable benefactors to violate the human rights of so many Guatemalan working class families is bad enough. Do the courts really have to pile on?

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on the environment. A new updated Spanish eBook translation of Eco-Imperialism will be available by September 1. (August 2017)

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39 thoughts on “Callous CALAS activists against the poor

  1. Wow! How much of that should I believe? Is there another side to the story? It is possible to overstate a case, is that going on here?

    • Those sound like questions a skeptic appropriately asks.
      Do you not apply them to everything you read?

    • Well, they do the same in Canada, particularly the Tides Foundation. Here they just pay bands to be anti-development.

    • Steve Case

      That was my first thought. Is all this really true, or is Paul employing tactics used by activists to whip up objection.

      I’m inclined to believe it’s the former, but fear it’s the latter.

      On the other hand, why shouldn’t he employ the very tactics the activists themselves use, and we all know they do, to confront them.

      • HotScot August 28, 2017 at 8:50 am

        That was my first thought. Is all this really true, or is Paul employing tactics used by activists to whip up objection.

        I’m inclined to believe it’s the former, but fear it’s the latter.

        On the other hand, why shouldn’t he employ the very tactics the activists themselves use, and we all know they do, to confront them.

        I don’t believe anything the so-called popular press/mainstream media tells me unless I have good reason to do so. This particular screed is obviously one-sided. If there were any mines that legitimately needed to be reined in by CALAS I’m pretty sure I wan’t going to read about it in this article.

        Why shouldn’t he employ the very tactics the activists themselves use? Lies? No he shouldn’t lie. Cry Wolf? No don’t cry wolf. Exaggerate? No, don’t do that either. Cherry Pick? Hmmmm, what else does the other side do? I hadn’t heard of CALAS until now so a real hard opinion of what they are truly all about will have to wait.

        Fear the latter? I spent many years in the Quality/Inspection departments in industry. When you reach into the barrel and the first apple you pull out is rotten, you have a pretty good idea of what your going to find when you look further.

        However, you don’t want to convict the innocent or acquit the guilty.

      • Steve Case

        I agree with you that Paul shouldn’t lie, deceive or exaggerate, and I hope he doesn’t, in which case, this report is astonishing and almost beyond belief.

        My experience with QA is as a senior constable in the police in Scotland.

        My experience of reaching into the barrel is that the first apple one encounters is always the bad one, as they tend to float to the top. Dig deeper and society as a whole is a lot better than the rotten apple would suggest.

        Nowadays, we are almost defined and regulated by minority groups, including the bad apples.

        I have a far more positive outlook of humanity thanks to my police experience. 99% of humans are, however flawed, honest, lawful, considerate and moral human beings.

        The rest seek gainful employment as full time criminals, politicians and journalists.

    • “People peacefully protesting against a mining project in Casillas, Guatemala, and by-standers were tear gassed and dispersed by riot police on 22 June. There are concerns of further excessive use of force as police presence continues in the community.”

      • ReallySkeptical

        Your source for that quote please. I can’t find it in the text of this article.

        Meanwhile, within the article: “Incessant protests and confrontations, arson incidents, forcible detention of miners and police by activists, and assorted legal actions fueled tensions.”

        So the police themselves are subject to forcible detention by activists and they’re not supposed to react?

        I’m sorry, but as a former UK police officer I can assure you that whilst every attempt might be made to quell a protest peacefully, the mere prospect of kidnapping police officers deserves the most robust response.

    • Look at China in Africa..dreadful. Almost as bad as Spanish Mexico where the patio process of gold and silver extraction consumed hundreds of tons of mercury each year.

      • Its disgusting what corroupt officials and authorities are allowing China to do in Africa. The Chinese get away with building a 1km road to nowhere and then be allowed to extract any resource without regard for encironment or local populations. No locals are hired so they don’t benefit from resource extraction. Only sex workers “benefit”.

  2. “and people will have to go to the United States for work –”…….stop right there…..this is the real story

    Oxfam America ====== Soros

    • It is in Oxfam’s interest for Guatemalans (and others) to remain dirt poor, because Oxfam’s fund-raising is promoted as helping the poor. If the poor are rescued by a mining company, then Oxfam will find it more difficult to raise funds. Naturally, Oxfam protect their turf by preventing anyone else from helping the poor, and are prepared to use substantial resources to do so.

  3. I’ve written many comments on threads here on my experiences with anti-mining in Africa. The money sent to Guatemala is to pay the hired local activists – they have jobs to do the international Ngos dirty work and don’t want to lose them. This blight has to be stopped at the top in the countries the host these organization.

    I’m a Canadian mining man and I can tell you that it is against Canadian law for me to explore, develop and operate a mine in any country in the world without strictly following Canadian environmental, health, safety and best practice regulations in all aspects.

    The description of the ‘issues’ in Guatemala have clearly been taken by these thugs from Canadian experience. Where operating near traditional indigenous peoples hunting, fishing, trapping, etc grounds you do have to consult at all stages of the process, hammer out an MOU that explicitly lays out protection for not just environment, but for sacred grounds and other special places. The gov requires an archeological survey and environmental baseline study be done (counting fishes, claims, animals, biochem waters on and below ground, etc) before you start development. The MOU spells out benefits negotiated, such as work, training and use of local contractors, even time off for workers during the annual goose and moose hunt, etc.

    Canadians are the best at this in the world and, prior to the Ozzies getting into international exploration over the past number of years, over 70% of the world’s mining exploration budget was provided by Canadian companies on Canadian stock exchanges – mainly the TSX (Toronto) . We’re around 50% of world now and a growing contingent of Ozzie and South African companies now list on this exchange.

    I’m currently working (consulting) on a northern Quebec (James Bay) lithium project, the the largest hard rock reserves and second richest in the world, slated for starting up Q-1 2019 and on a greenfield Li project in Katanga Province, DR Congo.

  4. Follow the money…. Someone wants to take control of this mine, after the operational investments have been completed. If it’s Soros, it truly is a crony Socialism play to steal a profitable business for pennies on the dollar.

    • Soros forced the devaluation of the Thai Baht back in 1997, which triggered an economic depression in Southeast Asia. Soros had to have had help to sink the Thai currency, leading to the big banks of Hong Kong that lent Soros the money to do it. The following year, just whom would you guess was buying up assets in SE Asia for pennies on the dollar after the crash?

  5. These people are nihilists who have nothing positive to contribute to humanity, and whose goal (whether they realize it or not) is the deconstruction of civilization. I saw the same thing happen at the DAPL protest. It’s like they’re on a drug or something. As an example of how detached from reality these people are, a natural gas (NG) pipeline in Florida (US) was (is?) protested against because of fears that the river it would go under would be polluted if there was a leak. Yet NG is non-toxic in ground water (doesn’t dissolve to any significance) and dissipates into the atmosphere. Yet they protest like the life of the world depends on it. Pathetic losers in search of relevance.

  6. Soros does have a history of making a great deal of money off “good causes”. Or it could be a Chinese company, which as good socialists, draw no fire from the green blob.

  7. Get used to it. This is the new normal (to coin a phrase). And indigenous peoples, thanks to the UN and its Declaration of 13 September 2007, are the current weapon of choice for those who wish to destroy industrial society. An ideal weapon, really; how can you say anything bad about people who (by and large) have been ignored for centuries, bypassed by economic activity, and often treated really badly, including herding into reserves and other quasi-genocidal behaviour. Sometimes not so quasi.

    The key phrase is “we weren’t consulted” – no matter how often and how extensive consultations actually were. Another is “the (insert proposed activity) will pollute the pristine environment and destroy our traditional way of life”. Supporting documentation is not required. Documentation that suggests otherwise is discredited because it was paid for by industry. You can’t win.

    • The indigenous tribe of Standing Rock used this same BS argument claiming that their drinking water source on the Missouri R. would be threatened by the pipeline, knowing full well that the intake was being moved 35 miles downstream into S Dakota due to end-of-life issues for the old one. Yet they lost and DAPL won.

    • The Company concerned is Canadian – Its against Canadian law to not apply Canadian standards in developent of a mine. Even the stock exchange has requirements regarding reporting and all factors of health, safety, environment and best practices if raising money on the exchange. They will have consulted every stakeholder and met every requirement.

      It is ludicrous that we have anti mining when the major stages of development of homo sapiens are named after mineral materials: Stone Age, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age. Our ability to survive depended on our ability to find, process and shape tools and weapons from suitable materials of the earth. Everything we eat wear or use has had mineral materials employed in their making or gleaning. It’s been shaped, polished, coated and/or joined using mineral/metal materials. We even eat some of them. Mining should be done with care, but to be against mining is totally ridiculous (hint for greens: look out your window, everything you see has needed rock products to create, including the window itself. Need one mention windmills, solar panels, cup of latte, granola bars?)

  8. I’ve often said, to be a warmist (or Progressive), you have to be a control freak first. I’m going to back track a little and suggest that at least an equal qualification is elitism.

    I don’t know which precedes the other, or if they work in tandem.
    Chicken or the egg.

  9. Well if the 7600 people who will lose their jobs armed themselves I suspect they could achieve a different outcome

    • The government would have to have been bought out, not a big deal in little Guatemala. The ordinary people should be receiving a regular publication on what’s going on – I’ve suggested this for Africa as a good project. It seems that only misanthropes have the organizations and support for their activities.

  10. Here in oz the Adani coal mine has faced a barrage of legal action from green groups as one fails another is ready to roll out , latest ploy is to picket the offices of any bank that lends / invests money to the project .
    Another one here was the coal mining project for Akaringa near the painted desert , a greenie scientist said the company intended to drain the great artesian basin over a period of months to keep water out of the open cut mine .

  11. Where do the activists think the lithium for batteries needed to store the electricity from their favoured windmills and solar panels irregular production will come from?
    I haven’t heard of any objections to the widespread pollution caused by neodymium production which is needed for the windmills and the coming changeover to electric vehicles.
    They should also be campaigning against the use of child labour in Africa in the mining of elements needed for their mobile phones.

  12. These people have no concern for the poor. They believe in magic and want to hold down the others or force them at pain of death, to follow their doctrine. Reminds me of something Bliss wrote.

  13. Regarding George Soros – he turned 87 this month. What effect will his eventual passing have on the mayhem and rioting sponsored by the global network of foundations he has founded called Open Society Foundations? My guess is that this network is designed to carry on its leftward agendas, drawing upon a continual investment of his billions.

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