The hard work of protecting water and land from the long-term harms associated with gold and silver mining takes place daily on the frontlines of tenacious struggles throughout Latin America and around the world.
Indigenous people and affected communities face many reprisals for their resistance, including a mounting number of arbitration suits against their governments from mining companies suing over projects that people have managed to halt through direct action and in the courts.
This month, in Guatemala, the Peaceful Resistance “La Puya” celebrates eight years of struggle against a gold mining project that threatens to pollute or dry up already scarce water supplies in an area just north of Guatemala City.
Day after day, since March 2012, community members have rotated in shifts to keep 24-hour watch over the access gate to the “El Tambor” gold mining project. Catholic masses, community meetings and cultural activities have punctuated this nearly decade-long vigil along a stretch of dusty road adorned with banners declaring resistance to mining.
Local residents living in the “dry corridor,” as this area is known, are concerned that gold mining would aggravate water shortages and contaminate water supplies with arsenic and heavy metals, putting people, plants, and animals at risk.
Speaking to a crowd of all ages that gathered to celebrate La Puya´s anniversary on March 8, Doña Feliza Muralles remarked that Christmas, New Years, Holy Week, Mother´s Day, and birthdays have all been celebrated at their peaceful encampment.
“We have done this purely of our own will,” she said. “We have donated this time in defense of our territory and of future generations… and we´ll continue to struggle until the end.”