Hundreds of families of Mayan Indians have occupied part of a large nickel mine owned by a Canadian company in Guatemala and demanded they be given land for subsistence farms. Concerned about the threat that the mine allegedly poses to the environment and land rights, about 2,000 Q'eqchi Indians moved onto three separate areas of the mining complex and began settingup makeshift camps. Campaigners say the UN-sponsored Truth Commission - part of a 1996 peace agreement that ended Guatemala's brutal civil war - demanded that indigenous communities with historical claims to land have the right to determine how it is used.
The Indians moved on to the currently inactive mine site near Lake Izabal in north-east Guatemala, owned by Vancouver-based Skye Resources, at the weekend. Father Dan Vogt, a Catholic priest and co- or-dinator of a community development group, Adepi, said they had long been campaigning for the company to provide them with land to farm.
Speaking from El Estor, the nearest community, he told The Independent: "They got fed up and decided to take action. There were around 350 families - around 2,000 people. They are still there, building houses. The company has told me they are not willing to negotiate until they move."
Skye bought the site from another Canadian mining company, Canadian International Nickel Co, which had operated the mine from the 1960s until 1981. Skye hopes to begin producing up to 11,000 tonnes of ferro-nickel by the end of 2008.
Campaigners say the plans fit a pattern across other countries in Latin America where foreign and multinational companies …