Guatemala revokes Cerro Blanco mine’s environmental license due to ‘anomalies’

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

Local leaders and environmental organizations had pointed out that the mine will contaminate Lake Guija, shared by Guatemala and El Salvador, and the Lempa River.

The Guatemalan government revoked on Friday for “anomalies” an environmental license to operate in open sky a mine of Canadian capital Cerro Blanco, located near the border with El Salvador, and rejected by environmentalists, official sources reported.

“The Ministry of the Environment has decided that the procedure for accessing an environmental license should be amended,” the holder of the portfolio, Patricia Orantes, said at a press conference.

The mine, which is not yet in operation, is from Canadian company Bluestone Resources. The company wants to extract more than 250 million cubic meters of soil and subsoil from a gold and silver deposit in the municipality of Asunción Mita, east of the Guatemalan capital.

The license to operate the mine was issued on January 9, five days before the end of the term of office of right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei. That license allowed the switch from underground to an open-pit operating rate.

However, Orantes stressed that this modification implies “an entirely new and different project from the original one.”

According to the minister, false signatures were also detected in the authorization of the new license and the loss of more than 900 folios of the project.

Open-pit mining “is highly impactful in potential terms” of water pollution, “loss of fertile soil, flora and fauna and geomorphological alterations due to the extraction” of millions of soil and subsoil materials, Orantes said.

Salvadoran environmentalists participated in a protest against the Cerro Blanco mine in Lake Guija. Photo EDH EFE

Local leaders and environmental organizations denounce that the mine will contaminate Lake Guija, shared by Guatemala and El Salvador, and the Lempa River, which is born in Guatemala and is the main source of water in the Salvadoran capital.

In 2022, the government of Giammattei ignored a popular consultation of the inhabitants of Asunción Mita who rejected this mine.

Due to the detected anomalies “cannot grant the license for open-pit mining to that company, you will have to do a new study” of environmental impact, said the Minister of Energy and Mines, Victor Hugo Ventura.

This article has been translated after first appearing in El Salvador