The inhabitants of the Guatemalan municipality of Asunción Mita, bordering El Salvador, categorically rejected this Sunday at the polls the operation of a Canadian gold and silver mining company, considering that it will cause pollution.
87.98% of the 8,503 people who went to the polls voted against the open pit mine of Bluestone Resources, said in a press conference the delegate of the electoral commission, Armando Teo.
With this result, “this consultation is binding for the (municipal) Council and the mayor and indicative for the central government of the Republic of Guatemala”, he affirmed. There were 30,465 eligible voters on the electoral roll to participate in the consultation.
Teo detailed that 13 votes were blank (0.15%), 105 null votes (1.23%), 904 supported the yes to the operations (10.63%) and 7,481 voted no to the mine (87.98%).
After learning the result, hundreds of inhabitants gathered in the municipality’s central park to celebrate the rejection.
The community consultation was for the inhabitants of the area to decide whether or not to support the extraction of gold and silver from the Cerro Blanco mining project, owned by the Bluestone Resources group of Canada.
The process was convened by local government authorities under the supervision of a dozen organizations that acted as observers, including four Salvadoran organizations.
The mayor of the place, René Antonio Guardado, was pleased with the democratic participation and asked to respect the result, although he did not rule out that the mining company would challenge the verdict before the courts.
“Today’s result, the affluence, the accompaniment of neighbors cannot be denied by anyone. The population voted with a resounding ‘no’, it is an indication that Asunción Mita does not want one company or two or three mining companies”, he added.
The legal team of local subsidiary Elevar Resources advanced to AFP that it would challenge in court if the result was negative for the company, after pointing out that the consultation has irregularities.
Bluestone Resources bought in 2017 from the also Canadian Goldcorp the Cerro Blanco project for $18 million plus shares valued at about 9.9% of Bluestone’s capital.
However, the mine has not started operations due to the change from subway mining to open pit mining. Members of the local Catholic Church and environmental organizations strongly oppose the Cerro Blanco project because they believe it will contaminate the local water and forests.
Guatemalan and Salvadoran entities expressed their concern about the possible contamination of water bodies shared by both countries, such as the Güija lagoon and the Lempa river, the main water source that supplies San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital.
The Lempa River, which originates in Guatemala, serves thousands of Guatemalan and Salvadoran farmers. In addition, dozens of fishermen in the lagoon fear a shortage or disappearance of fish.
The main alarm is that open-pit mining requires cyanide to separate the precious metals, which threatens to contaminate the soil and water in the area.
However, the mine’s environmental supervisor, Fredy García, dismissed these concerns and assured AFP that the company has treatment plants to eliminate toxic waste before discharging liquids into the Ostúa river, a tributary of the Güija lagoon, and the Lempa river.