Swiss mining group suspends Guatemala activities

Solway’s nickel mining projects in Guatemala have been a recent flashpoint for protests by indigenous groups. Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

The Solway Investment Group, based in Zug, has suspended activities of two nickel-mining subsidiaries in Guatemala owing to sanctions imposed by the United States.

This content was published on March 2, 2023 minutes

In November the US Treasury issued sanctions targeting Russian involvement in the Guatemalan nickel sector. This included Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN) and Compania Procesadora de Niquel de Izabal SA (Pronico), Guatemalan-based subsidiaries of Solway Investment Group.

+ Data leak implicates Swiss mining company in pollution coverup 

As Reuters reported at the time, the US also sanctioned Dmitry Kudryakov, who leads Solway's mining operations in Guatemala, and a Belarusian national for allegedly leading bribery and corruption schemes.

Owing to "unforeseen difficulties caused by these sanctions", the two Guatemalan subsidiaries of Solway Investment Group have been forced to “temporarily suspend their day to day industrial operations”, the mining group wrote in a press release.

The company added that it expects results of an “elaborate independent probe” it launched last December to look into alleged wrongdoings in connection with the US sanctions.

There has been no response from US authorities to a request for a “temporary licence for certain transactions”, the company added. The Guatemalan government has not renewed the export permits of the group's two subsidiaries.

Controversial sites

Solway’s nickel mining projects in Guatemala have been a recent flashpoint for protests by indigenous groups. The local population accuses the company’s subsidiaries there of not respecting the rights of the indigenous community and of polluting the waters of Lake Izabal, close to the mine. In 2021, a state of emergency was imposed on the town of El Estor over the conflict.

Last March a media investigation involving 65 journalists, including from Swiss public broadcaster, RTS, found Solway Investment Group had concealed reports of pollution by the two subsidiaries in Guatemala.

The leak included thousands of emails, charts and internal company documents delivered in bulk by an anonymous informant. The Zug-based company, which is also accused of intimidation and influence peddling, denied the allegations, saying they were “without factual basis”.

Correction on March 10, 2023: a previous version of this story included mention of the Guatemalan mining company Mayaniquel. Solway Investment Group indicated that this company is not a subsidiary of the Solway Investment Group.

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