Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala

Edited by Catherine Nolin and Grahame Russell


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  • Jim Deva Prize for Writing That Provokes, 2022 (Short-listed)

What is land? A resource to be exploited? A commodity to be traded? A home to cherish? In Guatemala, a country still reeling from thirty-six years of US-backed state repression and genocides, dominant Canadian mining interests cash in on the transformation of land into “property,” while those responsible act with near-total impunity.

Editors Catherine Nolin and Grahame Russell draw on over thirty years of community-based research and direct community support work in Guatemala to expose the ruthless state machinery that benefits the Canadian mining industry—a staggeringly profitable juggernaut of exploitation, sanctioned and supported every step of the way by the Canadian government.

This edited collection calls on Canadians to hold our government and companies fully to account for their role in enabling and profiting from violence in Guatemala. The text stands apart in featuring a series of unflinching testimonios (testimonies) authored by Indigenous community leaders in Guatemala, as well as wide-ranging contributions from investigative journalists, scholars, lawyers, activists, and documentarians on the ground.

As resources are ripped from the earth and communities and environments ripped apart, the act of standing in solidarity and bearing witness—rather than extracting knowledge—becomes more radical than ever.


Testimonio is another damning case study of the compromising role of Canadian political authorities in the internal affairs of a publicly traded company. It shows how, abroad, the name Canada means something—imperialistic, violent, degrading—contrary to what our domestic propaganda tends to foster.”

– Alain Deneault, author of Imperial Canada Inc.

“Catherine Nolin and Grahame Russell have woven together riveting testimonials from thirty Guatemalan and Canadian journalists, lawyers, academics, filmmakers, human rights defenders, and Indigenous community leaders who have stood up to fight the “projects of destruction” that are called “development” by Canadian mining companies, their defenders in the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala, and the Guatemalan and Canadian governments. Their witness reveals a trail of land grabbing, water contamination, environmental destruction, repression of community organizations, and even assassinations—a trail with which Canadians and our courts must deal.”

– Liisa L. North, professor emeritus, politics, York University, and founding fellow, Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean

“This is an incredible collection of perspectives on the impact of mining at the community level.  These are stories of courage, perseverance, and creativity by those affected by the horrific institutional weight of the World Bank, Canadian pension funds, Canadian embassies, and billionaire investors. It will inspire you to never give up, no matter how big and powerful your foe.”

– Shin Imai, professor emeritus, Osgoode Hall Law School, and co-founder of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project

“This is a book that demands to be read; the collective voices cannot and must not be silenced. Testimonio is provocative, passionate, and heartfelt; it is a thoroughly documented mediation on the horrific violence imposed by a callous industry and those who resist.”

– James Tyner, professor of geography, Kent State University

“Canada’s mining operations in Guatemala are underpinned by an omertà of government complacency, corporate impunity, and blatant greed. Testimonio blows the lid off this criminal industry, bearing witness to the profound violence and environmental ruination that it engenders. In the face of significant adversity, Nolin and Russell have persevered with bringing to fruition a deeply inspiring collection of resistance and refusal.”

– ​​Simon Springer, professor of human geography and director, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, University of Newcastle, Australia

Testimonio is a stirring and unique piece of work. On the one hand, it brings together a wealth of knowledge and analysis from people who have truly invested the time and energy into getting it right. But what really brings this book home are the powerful first-hand accounts of Canadian mining operations and the apparatus around them. To read this book is to bear witness to a massive, collective crime being committed by the rich and powerful in Canada against the people of Guatemala. It should be a call to action for people in this country to take responsibility for what is being done in our name.”

– Tyler Shipley, author of Canada In The World: Settler Capitalism and the Colonial Imagination

Testimonio is a significant contribution to the growing literature about the impacts of predatory Canadian mining policies and companies on communities in Latin America. Russell and Nolin’s edited volume tells the horrific story of Canadian mining in Guatemala through the voices of some of the people most affected, and through a chronological and detailed history that is unrelenting in its courage and force. In the face of our government’s continuous refusal to regulate the behaviour of Canadian mining companies abroad, it is a compelling case study. No wonder there were attempts (by forces unknown) to prevent its publication.”

– Joan Kuyek, author of Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry

Testimonio is an important contribution to understanding Canadian foreign policy. Few Canadians are familiar with this country’s historic contribution to genocidal policies in Guatemala or ongoing support for controversial mining companies strenuously resisted by Indigenous communities. Alongside a dark reality, Testimonio details the brave resistance of local communities, which has even contributed to shaping Canadian law.”

– Yves Engler, author of Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada


Dr. W. George Lovell
Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
List of Acronyms
Timeline of Key Events
Introduction Canadian Mining in a Time of Violence, Corruption, and Impunity in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala
Catherine Nolin and Grahame Russell
Chapter 1 Genocide’s Legacy on the Land and Dominant Economic Model
Profiting from Genocide: The World Bank and IDB’s Bloody History in Guatemala
Cyril Mychalejko
The Genocidal Chixoy Dam Project
Nathan Einbinder
Testimonio: Sebastian Iboy Osorio
Genocide’s Legacy: Can These Bones Live?
Emilie Smith
Chapter 2 Mining in the Wake of Genocides
Mining in the Guatemalan Mafia State
Sandra Cuffe
When You Benefit from Destruction: United Church of Canada Pension Fund and Goldcorp
Jackie McVicar
Chapter 3 Confronting Goldcorp at Every Step of the Destruction and Repression
Is Canada to Blame for Human Rights Abuses in Guatemala?
Annie Hylton
Diodora Hernández and Goldcorp Inc.: A Stark Contrast
Grahame Russell, Catherine Nolin, and James Rodríguez
Goldcorp Inc.’s Marlin Mine—A Family’s Pain: Death of Jaime Otero Pérez López
Catherine Nolin, Grahame Russell, and James Rodríguez
Something in the Water: The Lasting Violence of a Canadian Mining Company in Guatemala
Jeff Abbott
Interviews / Testimonios: Thirteen Years of Resistance with FREDEMI Members Alfredo Pérez, Miguel Ángel Bámaca, and Aniseto López
with Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
Chapter 4 Q’eqch’i People Fight Back against Hudbay Minerals, In Their Own Words
Formal Human Rights Violation Complaint
Catherine Nolin, Grahame Russell, and University of Northern British Columbia 2010 delegation
Testimonio: María Magdalena Cuc Choc, Taking Claims to Canadian Courts
with Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
Mynor Padilla, Hudbay Mineral’s Former Head of Security, Provided with Police “Security Detail” for Safety
Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
Testimonio: Angélica Choc, Taking Claims to Canadian Courts
with Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
Testimonio: German Chub, Closing Remarks at Criminal Trial of Mynor Padilla
edited by Grahame Russell and translated by Rights Action
Murder of Héctor: Nephew of Maya Land and Rights Activist Beaten to Death in Guatemala
Heather Gies
Testimonio: José Ich, This Is How Hard it Is
with Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
Chapter 5 Facing and Resisting KCA / Radius Gold and Tahoe Resources on the Ground
Interview: Yuri Melini, ILO 169 and Community Defence
with Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
Tahoe Resources’ Violent Mining Operation
Simon Granovsky-Larsen and Caren Weisbart
The Peaceful Encampment at La Puya
Alexandra Pedersen
Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice: KCA (& Radius Gold) vs. La Puya Land and Environmental Defenders
Catherine Nolin, Grahame Russell, and James Rodríguez
Testimonio: Alvaro Sandoval and Ana Sandoval, Dealing with Radius Gold / KCA
La Puya peaceful resistance leaders and community defenders
Chapter 6 Using Law and Democracy to Resist Predatory Mining
Reclaiming Democracy, Realizing Self-Determination: Consultas as a Tool to Defend Human Rights and the Environment in Guatemala’s Genocidal Shadow
J. P. Laplante
Testimonios: Santa Cruz del Quiché, Consejo de los Pueblos del Quiché / Council of the Peoples of the Quiché, voices of Osmundo and Anibel
Towards Legal Accountability for the Canadian Mining Industry
Cory Wanless and Murray Klippenstein
Conclusion Visions of a Way Forward
Grahame Russell and Catherine Nolin
Appendix List of Key Resources and Organizations
List of Contributors