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Conflict, Repression and Canadian Mining & Oil Companies in Guatemala

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Map of oil concessions in Guatemala, 2005, by Colectivo Madre Selva.
Map of oil concessions in Guatemala, 2005, by Colectivo Madre Selva.

I’ve barely been able to keep up with all of the resource conflicts going on in Guatemala over the past little while. A recent wave of protest/repression linked to mining and hydroelectric projects has escalated to the point where both sectors met together last week to try and deal with “attacks” against them. 

There has been a fair bit of attention on Santa Cruz Barillas, where the community rejected a hydroelectric project and President Otto Pérez Molina (OPM) declared a state of siege following protests that were repressed by police. In addition, a bunch of groups in Canada & Guatemala are working on getting the word out about multiple community struggles for environmental justice in the face of mining around the country, including the closure of Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine and the conflict around Radius Gold’s El Tambor mine San José del Golfo.

Click here to see a map that shows where mining activity is currently taking place and/or proposed in Guatemala.

That said, other than some activities in France linked to Perenco’s operations, very little attention is focused on the oil sector, which is picking up, and Canadian companies are involved. I’ll have a longer narrative feature in the next issue of Briarpatch Magazine that looks at what’s happening on the ground in some of these areas.

In the meantime, here’s a very quick round-up of the latest.

On May 9th, the Government of Guatemala announced four new oil concessions, in Peten and Ixcán. The minister of energy and mines stated that he thinks Guatemala can be producing 80,000 barrels a day by 2020, compared to 10,000 today, and said the plan is to copy the Colombian model… Which, obviously, is enough to send shivers straight up any thinking person’s spine. Supposedly they’re promoting the oil fields in South America, but there’s a decent chance all that will do is bring in more Canadian companies, since they’re super active in the new oil rush in South America, especially in Colombia. 

Quattro Energy from Calgary recently announced it had been awarded an 80 per cent interest in a 554,000 acre (2,241 km2) concession in Peten. The concession is 4-98, and is you look at the map above, it appears to be inside the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, which the company has failed to publicly disclose. 

As if on cue, Ivanhoe Energy crawled out of the woodwork and announced that they’re going in on a new “heavy to light” upgrading plant in Guate (probably in Peten) with a US company, to the tune of $250 million. Seriously, these cabrones will do anything for a buck. 

OPM also said Péten will undergo a territorial planning and organization via a process created through a presidential department of the government. This reorganization will maximize the use extraction of resources in Peten, including oil. ”The total quantity of oil is in the thousands of millions of barrels,  which could give a boost to the economy,” he said. Sigh.

Read rants like this and more on Dawn's blog, or follow her on Twitter.

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dawn (dawn paley)
Member since August 2008


Journalist, co-founder VMC, ex-editor & board member with Media Co-op. Author, Drug War Capitalism.

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