SCENARIO: Since you wrote your conflict analysis of the conflict in the Guatemalan community, you have left your job working for a USAID contractor for positions at an international NGO based in DC that is focused on direct peacebuilding work. One thing you really appreciate about your new organization is the emphasis they place on assessment prior to beginning program design. Your new boss has tasked you with doing such a conflict assessment based on available conflict assessment frameworks. Your boss needs this review quickly and also wants your thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of conflict assessment frameworks– the Conflict Tree and the CAF 2.0. Once again since this request requires a quick turnaround, it should be 2 pages in length (double-spaced, 12 point font). Please include drawings of the conflict that emerges from applying each assessment framework. This drawings will not count toward the page limit.

Guatemala (mini case study): Mining and Conflict

(Excerpt from USAID/CMM’s course “Conflict Sensitive Aid”)

The Marlin Mine is operated by Montana Explorada, a Canadian subsidiary of Goldcorp. It began construction in May 2004 in the remote municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán (SMI) and Sipacapa in the San Marcos Department of Guatemala’s Western Highlands. These small communities primarily comprise indigenous Mayans (mostly Mam and Sipakapense respectively) who engage mostly in subsistence agriculture. Both groups rely on the Tzalá River, an important source of water for drinking and irrigation of agricultural land. The levels of poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy are particularly high, with 80 percent in absolute poverty.

From 1960 to 1996, the Government of Guatemala (GoG) and leftist rebel groups fought an intense civil war. More than 250,000 indigenous people, mostly Mayan civilians, were killed; rape was a frequently used weapon of war. San Marcos experienced some of the worst of the violence. Nearly 20 years later, violent crime levels are higher than they were during the war. Women are particularly vulnerable because of a deep-rooted gender bias and culture of misogyny. Guatemala ranks third in murders of women worldwide (2012 Smalls Arms Survey).

The 1996 peace accords called for the constitutional and legal recognition of Mayan institutions, political practices and customary law. The GoG also ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169) on the rights of indigenous and tribal people, which calls for government to consult indigenous people ahead of any exploration or exploitation activities of natural resources.

In 2002, Goldcorp received an exploratory license for gold and silver from municipal officials in SMI and Sipacapa. In 2003, Goldcorp conducted 30 meetings in SMI and 17 in Sipacapa to address community questions — thinking this would satisfy ILO 169 requirements to consult the community. However, many residents saw the meetings as informing them about a “done deal” rather than seeking consultation. Goldcorp received a license for the Marlin Mine in November 2003; construction began in May 2004.

The imminent construction of the Marlin Mine led to protests by 500 Sipakapense farmers in February 2004 who tried to prevent the construction. This protest was followed by a 42-day blockade beginning in December of trucks passing on the way to the mine. Protesters expressed fears over losing their land and of water contamination. Threats to land were felt by many as threats to the culture, as indigenous ritual is highly connected to spirits of the land. The GoG sent troops and the blockade ended in January 2005, when more than 1,200 soldiers and 400 police agents began firing at unarmed protesters. One protestor was killed and 16 were wounded.

Mine opponents have since cited studies showing water contamination and increased health problems in the area. This especially affects women, who are mainly responsible for the management of water resources. Goldcorp denies that they pollute the water.

Between June 2005 and February 2007, the Sipakapense Council, together with parochial church committees, held consultas — traditional, community-level referendums — on the Marlin Mine. Thirteen communities rejected mining almost unanimously, while one supported it and one abstained. The GoG judged that the consultations were legal, but not binding. Despite community objections, mining production began in October 2005, with an expected duration of 10–15 years.

The Mayans’ response was escalating levels of protest and direct action: blocked roads, seized mine equipment, and demonstrations against company activities.

Women emerged as key leaders of the anti-mine struggle. Crisanta Pérez, a Mayan woman with six children, is the figurehead of one of several peaceful resistance groups in SMI that have formed to protest the mine’s continued presence. Dubbed “terrorists” and “enemies of progress” by the GoG, the group’s members are facing assassinations, criminalization, detention, and intimidation.

According to Pérez, “There are many men who work as miners in the company. Our community is divided in opinions, and although some of the men disagree with the mining operations … they do not take a position because they are working there. It is for this reason that the resistance movement in San Miguel against mining started from the women.”

Their campaign has been met with startling levels of violence. Private security guards hired to protect the company perpetrated violence against human rights defenders, including sexual violence against women. Anti-Marlin activists faced intimidation and death threats. An anti-mining activist was lit on fire in 2009 by men who asked why he was “against mining” and “against the company.” In 2010, Deodora Hernández was shot in the eye by two men due to her anti-Marlin activism and refusal to sell her home to Goldcorp.

The GoG and Goldcorp strongly believed the Marlin Mine would offer new hopes for rural development by providing jobs, buying local goods and services, and providing social investment in local community projects, such as education and health care. Between 2004 and 2005, Goldcorp hired more than 800 people; only 160 of these jobs were long term employment. In 2009, the mine employed about 1,900: 44 percent from SMI, 14 percent from Sipacapa and 40 percent from elsewhere in Guatemala. Women accounted for about 11 percent of positions, mostly for low-wage/low-benefit cooking and cleaning jobs. Between 2006 and 2010, Marlin earnings totaled about $863 million, with $23 million going to local communities through social investment and royalties.

In Sipacapa, the vast majority of residents are united in their opposition to the mine. People in SMI, where most of the mine is situated, are far more divided. “All over town, every business has picked up,” said convenience store owner Oralia Velasquez, 26. Her brother-in-law works in the mine. “I hope the mine stays and I pray to God that the mine hires my husband so we have a shot at a better life. … Thanks to the mine, we have new roads, new bridge.”

Despite some employment and other economic benefits, most residents in Sipacapa and recently also large sectors in SMI believe the number of jobs and benefits from the mine do not compensate for the loss of agricultural jobs and environmental and social deterioration. The conflict has not only divided 10 rural communities from the other 23 in San Marcos Department, but it has caused brothers and sisters, uncles and nieces, and husbands and wives to line up against each other, undermining intra-family solidarity. Schoolteachers are punishing children because their families are on opposing sides of the battle. People can no longer transit easily from one community to another. 

Tensions became exacerbated when people who hoped to find work in the mine did not. “The mine offered a lot of jobs that never got delivered,” Maria Velasquez, 52, who lives on the road leading to the mine, said. “We’ve been by and have applied but we’ve never been lucky. Where we had expected jobs before, now we expect nothing.”

The limited opportunities that the mine offers have created a powerful incentive for the few beneficiaries to feel threatened by any dissent. In 2011, approximately 50 indigenous men and women were attacked and taken hostage (released a day later) by a group of individuals said to have “strong ties” to Goldcorp.

In mid-2010, to protect the health, environment and human rights of local indigenous communities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States issued precautionary measures, calling on the GoG to suspend operations at the Marlin Mine.


Adams, Tani (team lead). Legacies of Exclusion: Social Conflict And Violence in Communities and Homes In Guatemala’s Western Highlands: Guatemala Conflict Vulnerability Assessment Final Report, Public Version. Prepared by Democracy International for USAID, October 2015.

Creating an international Gender and Peace agenda: Impact of Canadian mines in Latin America. 2016 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Garcia, By J. Malcolm. Gold mine’s closing leaves uncertain legacy in Guatemala Mayan community. National Catholic Reporter, May. 23, 2016.

Guest, Pete. Dubbed Terrorists, Mayans Fight Back Against Guatemalan Mining Projects. Newsweek, 8/29/14.

Guinan, Julie. Nearly 20 years after peace pact, Guatemala’s women relive violence. CNN, April 17, 2015.

Hill, Christina, Madden, Chris and Maria Ezpeleta. Gender and the Extractive Industries: Putting Gender on the Corporate Agenda. Oxfam, May 2016.

Marlin Mine, Guatemala. McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America (MICLA), 2014.

Sabas, Nancy. The Marlin Mine and Women’s Resistance. Mujeres Talk, June 2015.

Tomei, Elizabeth Tomei and Joe Tarr. Cyanide in the Silver Lining: The Marlin Mine in Sipacapa, Guatemala. Lacuadra Magazine, November 17th, 2008.

van de Sandt, Joris. Mining Conflicts and Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala. September 2009. Report commissioned by the Amsterdam University Law Faculty and financed by Cordaid, The Hague.

Zarsky, Lyuba and Leonardo Stanley. Searching for Gold in the Highlands of Guatemala: Economic Benefits and Environmental Risks of the Marlin Mine. Tufts University, September 2011.

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