Original article by Nina Lakhani published in The Guardian
In Guatemala, one of the world’s largest silver deposits reaps millions for its Canadian owners but for local farmers the price is their land and even their lives.
Deep underground, buried in the lush hills of southern Guatemala, lies a veritable treasure trove: silver, tonnes of it, one of the largest deposits in the world.
But it’s above ground where the really dangerous activity goes on. On a dusty highway, about 50 peasant farmers stand praying in a circle, a makeshift roadblock intended to stop trucks reaching the mine. They have already been violently dispersed by police teargas. Now they fear the army might move in.
The contrast couldn’t be greater: the mine extracted more than $350m (£270m) worth of silver last year. The protesters, men, women and children turning out for 12-hour vigils, eke out a living by farming coffee, maize and small herds of cattle.
This is a perennial frontline in a deadly battle fought by land rights activists against corporate interests in Guatemala, a clash of interests that have made the country one of the most perilous places in the world for environmentalists, according to the NGO Global Witness.
Since 2010 at least 41 people have been killed – including eight at the Canadian-owned mine, Escobal.
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