GUATEMALA CITY, July 10 Guatemala President Otto
Perez will ask the country's congress on Wednesday to impose a
two-year moratorium on new metal-mining licenses in an effort to
calm tensions in mostly indigenous communities that have opposed
to the industry.
"We are bringing a bill to congress in which we declare a
two-year moratorium," Perez said in a speech late Tuesday night.
"We are asking congress to not give any more metal-mining
In May, Guatemala's government declared an emergency in four
towns, suspending citizens' rights to protest in an area where
people died during demonstrations against the Escobal silver
mine belonging to Canadian miner Tahoe Resources
Tahoe Resources received the final operating
permits in April for its Escobal mine. The company's top
executive, Kevin McArthur, said he does not expect the project
to be affected by the moratorium request.
Government officials said they hope the request for the
moratorium will also encourage Congress to consider reforms to
Guatemala's mining law, including a proposal presented last year
by the country's energy and mining ministry that would hike
metal mining royalties from 1 percent of a company's gross
income to 5 percent.
"We hope Congress opens a great debate... so we can have a
law that is in accordance with all our needs," Perez added.
For a moratorium to pass, Guatemala's 158-member Congress
must approve it with a majority vote in three separate debates.
It remains unclear when those votes will be cast due to an
extended backlog of pending legislation.
Last year, Guatemala's government, under pressure from
industry, withdrew a proposal to acquire as much as a 40 percent
stake in new mining projects.
Mining in Guatemala accounts for about two percent of gross
domestic product. The country's largest gold mine, the Marlin
mine owned by Canada's Goldcorp Inc, is expected to
produce up to 200,000 ounces this year.