San Marcos, Guatemala. More than one-hundred houses have suffered damages since the mining activities began in the municipalities of Sipacapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán. Everything indicates that the blasting and heavy traffic from the mine have caused the cracks and splits, according to a technical report by United States engineering team and the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology of the San Marcos Catholic Diocesis.
ince the Marlin Mine started operations in 2005, several families from San Miguel Ixtahuacán that live near the open pit had denounced damages to their houses. More than a hundred adobe and block houses had cracks and splits in the walls, large and small from floor to ceiling.
In 2007, COPAE a technical commission from the San Marco Diocesis, led by Monsignor Alvaro Ramazzini, asked for the support of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) from Massachusetts (USA) to investigate on the causes. UUSC is an organization that works to monitor human rights in diverse parts of the world.
For two years, a qualified engineering team (mining, structural, civil and geotechnical), monitored the cracks in 33 houses around Montana´s Marlin mining project, a subsidiary of Goldcorp, Inc. Today they present a clear and concise report, describing the methodology they used for their research.
The name of the report is “CRACKED HOUSES AROUND THE MARLIN MINE: Preliminary analysis and research of the damage in houses of Agel, Salitre, San Jose Ixcaniche and San Jose Nueva Esperanza villages, from San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa, San Marcos, Guatemala”.
Blasting and Heavy Truck Traffic
Teresa Fuentes, from the legal department in COPAE, explains: “The engineering team monitored houses in villages far from the mine, in the villages of Escupija and Chininguitz. It was discovered that they don´t have any signs of cracks or splits like those seen in the houses around the mine.
UUSC engineer Robert Robinson: “The possibility of the damages caused by mudslides, tremors, subsidence, superficial or underground water were ruled out, as well as swelling clay soils. An inadequate construction of the houses is not the probable cause either. Our engineering team eliminated all the possible causes except one.”
“Investigating the soil vibrations, caused by the blasting and the heavy truck traffic from the mine, we realized the significant relationship between the two of them. The cracks are mostly produced in the walls facing the source of vibrations. Adobe and block houses are not built to resist this impact.”
Montana Exploradora is responsible
Engineer Robert Robinson confirmed, “Montana Exploradora didn`t do a survey of the houses near the open pit before starting operations. Therefore they cannot refute the statements of the property owners, which affirm that the cracks appeared after the mine started its operations.”
“Research shows us that the mining activity is the most likely cause of the cracked houses. Therefore Montana Exploradora should be held responsible for the reparation and restoration of the houses to their original condition. Also they should modify their operational procedures to prevent any further damages”
“Their procedures are generally acceptable. However, on the cracked houses issue, they are inacceptable due to the closeness of the communities around the mine and the type of house construction”
Copae and UUSC strongly recommend additional monitoring, especially because the mine company had started mine exploitation in a new open pit, which is much closer to parts of the affected villages.