On the outskirts of San Rafael las Flores, the Escobal silver mine is an imposing complex of smoking chimneys, processing plants, huge heaps of earth and dozens of trucks, bustling 24 hours a day under the watchful gaze of armed security.

The deep underground mine, owned by Canadian company Tahoe Resources, is slap bang in the middle of Guatemala’s southern agricultural heartlands where most families eke out a living growing maize, beans, coffee, avocados, cabbage, bananas and peaches.

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