A protest in an Indigenous community on the edge of Guatemala’s Izabal Lake against an international mining giant ended in clashes Saturday, with at least one resident dead and six police officers injured, local authorities reported.
Demonstrators concerned about contamination of the country’s largest lake, Lake Izabel, and the Dulce River took to the streets Saturday in El Estor, located nearly 100 miles northeast of the capital city, after talks over the operation of a nearby nickel mine broke down.
Artisanal fishers and other concerned residents set up a blockade on a main street, only to soon be met by a counter protest, sparking clashes between opposing sides. According to local media, tensions broke into gunfire, killing one civilian and injuring six police officers.
Protesters opposing the mine argue that pollution in Lake Izabal and the Dulce River have already affected the environment and the local artisanal fishing industry. The nickel extraction project is operated by a Guatemalan subsidiary, known as Pronico, of private EU-financed international mining conglomerate Solway Investment Group, headquartered in Switzerland.
According to Guatemala’s National Civil Police, known as PNC, some 500 officers were deployed to El Estor to respond to the clashes and “reestablish order,” the force reported on its Twitter account in a series of tweets.
El Estor, home to a population of mostly Mayan Q’eqchi’ people, has a long history of nickel mining and resistance against the unwanted corporate projects, notorious for causing a slew of environmental disasters and human rights abuses.