The Mining Industry, Indigenous Peoples and Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America: The Case of Guatemala
Since the 1990s, Latin America has been experiencing a mining boom and nowhere is this more evident that in Guatemala where the national government has been encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI)in mining as a stimulant to development. The process however, has been fraught with controversy and has even resulted in violent confrontations between the military and police on the one side, and the indigenous populations on the other (as it is in mountainous areas inhabited by the latter that most of the mines are located). Opponents of the mines claim that the companies pay poor wages, provide few jobs, damage the environment, violate indigenous rights, and generally undermine development and democracy. Supporters counter that they bring to the host communities infrastructural development, economic growth, and employment opportunities, and in so doing, enhance development and democracy. Furthermore, the companies stress that they adhere to the standards of corporate social responsibility (CSR), a set of voluntary codes of corporate conduct whereby they voluntarily adopt measures to try attenuate any harmful effects of their operations. The objective of this paper is to examine the motivations behind the emphasis on mining as a development strategy, analyze the competing claims of the opposing parties and investigate the viability of CSR as a framework for corporate governance. The approach is interdisciplinary. It draws from the field of political science (such as theories of development and globalization to explain the emphasis on FDI as a strategy of development); it incorporates a socio-economic analyses to assess the developmental impact of mining; it relies on public policy frameworks to evaluate the CSR governance model; and it borrows from the field of international law (specifically indigenous law) to assess the validity of the claims of the indigenous populations that their community rights are being violated by the companies.
Keywords: Mining, Latin America, Indigenous Peoples, Corporate Social Responsibility, Development and Globalization
Dr. Kalowatie Deonandan
Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan