Participatory Environmental Monitoring, Guatemala
PROJECT STATUS: ACTIVE
PARTNER/CLIENT NAME: Montana
COUNTRY/REGION: Guatemala, Latin America and Caribbean
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FOCUS: Sustainable Community Development, Environment, Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement
MINING SECTOR: Gold
Some local communities have expressed concern about the mine’s environmental impact, particularly on local water supplies. This has led to tension between the mine and community groups. In the past, Montana has tried, without success, to establish a community monitoring program as required by the Environmental Impact Assessment.
Given this situation, Montana sought to examine the possibility of launching a community environmental monitoring association that could independently verify the impact of the mine. After extensive consultation with communities surrounding the mine site and other stakeholders, a Community Environmental Monitoring Committee (AMAC) was created, with the first meeting taking place on September 17, 2005. The communities’ key conditions to participate in the AMAC were:
The AMAC should focus on communities directly impacted by the mine’s operation;
Other groups could participate to provide technical or other support to the AMAC, but the control of the environmental monitoring should remain in the hands of the local communities;
The initiative should be independent from the company and the work of the AMAC should ideally not be paid directly by the company; and
The company would need to listen, and respond, to the AMAC’s suggestions.
The objective of the Project is to financially support a AMAC for the Marlin mine, situated in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan and in a small portion of the municipality of Sipacapa in western Guatemala.
The AMAC’s goal is to independently monitor the environmental impact of the mine, helping to ensure that the company running it, Glamis Gold through its local subsidiary Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A. ("Montana"), complies with the environmental goals as stated in its Environmental Impact Assesment ("EIA"). The AMAC was established in response to the local community's concerns with the mine's environmental impact and the desire to have independent monitoring of those impacts. Initially the AMAC will monitor only water, but its scope will increase over time.
Composition of AMAC
The AMAC is currently composed of representatives of six communities from the Municipality of San Miguel (where the mine and most of the processing facilities are located), one from the Municipality of Sipacapa and a representative of the Catholic Church in San Miguel. Community representatives were selected by local traditional methods. The AMAC is also presently in the process of expanding to include an official from the Municipality of San Miguel as well as two more communities from the Municipality of Sipacapa. An environmental scientist/hydro geologist, a private consultant and part-time professor from the Engineering Faculty at the Universidad San Carlos (in Guatemala City) are assisting the AMAC in taking water samples and interpreting the results.
Key Activities and Completion
AMAC members have already visited the mine on numerous occasions and met with Montana environmental and community relations’ personnel in order to better understand Montana’s mining operation and its current monitoring efforts. The AMAC is also presently taking steps to obtain its registered legal status.
Two technical representatives, one mining engineer and one environmental scientist, were invited to build the technical capacity of the AMAC through a number of training sessions on mining and the environment. The AMAC members have also been trained in conflict resolution, communication and negotiation by an external facilitator.
The AMAC took its first water samplings in February 2006, and has already outlined a plan for its communication activities with communities and external groups. AMAC members have visited every participating town to communicate through assemblies what has been done and what their future plans are, they have also visited the Catholic Bishop of San Marcos, local municipalities, Mayan groups, the Ministry of Energy and Mines, embassies and other groups in Guatemala City. It is thought that this communication effort will gradually broaden to other towns through radio spots once the water sampling program is underway.