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25 Oct 2021

AP News

Guatemala: State of siege declared in El Estor after attacks on Q'eqchi' communities peacefully protesting Fénix mine operations

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"Guatemalan town calm under martial law after mining dispute", 25 October 2021

...Guatemala’s government imposed martial law and a dusk to dawn curfew Sunday and filled the town of 20,000 residents with security forces. Teams carried out searches at homes and offices looking for protest leaders, while those targets went into hiding.

The police were ostensibly there to make sure protesters do not block trucks from entering and leaving a nickel processing plant, which shares the site with the disputed mine. Protesters contend the operation pollutes Lake Izabal.

The Fenix mine, owned by Guatemala Nickel Co., a subsidiary of Switzerland’s Solway Investment Group, is under a court order to carry out a public consultation process in the community about the project.

In a statement Sunday, Solway said that it was fully complying with the court-ordered consultation on the Fenix mine and noted that the nickel processing plant on the site is not subject to the court order...

A pre-consultation process for the Fenix mine began a month ago and the exclusion of a group of local fishermen and Indigenous Q’eqchi from the discussion by Guatemala’s Energy and Mines Ministry appeared to have sparked the protest.

Prosecutors announced the first two arrests under martial law Sunday, allegedly for drug and weapons possession. The suspension of basic rights and searches carried out put the Indigenous town on the shores of Lake Izabal on edge...