Pushing for Change in Canadian Mining Practices in Central America

Work with the Ford Foundation


The Challenge

In the forests of Central America, far from the eyes of reporters and human rights watchdogs, a war is raging. Canadian-based mining companies, hungry for profit, are clearing the forests that Indigenous Peoples have lived in and protected for centuries, destroying the environment and unraveling social institutions in the process. These shortsighted economic development projects, coupled with weak land rights policies, have led to high rates of pollution, violence, mental illness and disease across the region.

Our Approach

To bring global attention to this complex issue, Burness identified top reporters in Canada and abroad, and invited them to travel to the front lines of the conflict in the Mayan communities of Guatemala’s tropical forests. Working with local partners, we created a site visit itinerary that provided a powerful narrative for the journalists and their audiences, drawing expertise from the author of a new report on Canadian mining in Latin America.

In Guatemala, the reporters journeyed with the author of the report, interviewing people in thatch-roofed huts, mining sites and courtrooms, and meeting with lawyers, government officials, land rights advocates and indigenous leaders, including some who had survived assassination attempts, allegedly at the hands of company-hired hit men. Conducting a successful site visit in a remote location required creative story development, intense research and writing, and meticulous event planning.

Results and Impact

We conducted media outreach to top-tier media outlets, securing the attendance of three accomplished reporters. The resulting stories highlighted the harm caused by Canadian mining companies to indigenous communities and the environment in Central America. Stories ran in Newsweek, the Guardian (UK) and iPolitics, putting pressure on mining companies to change their practices and respect the land rights and human rights of Central America’s forest peoples.

Feature - Guatemala Mines



Women, men, children live in the hillsides surrounding the Marlin Mine in San Marcos, Guatemala.

Fabio Víquez for Burness



Main view of the Fenix Mine in El Estor, Guatemala.

Fabio Víquez for Burness


Families that live in the surroundings of Mine Fenix in El Estor, Guatemala, talk to journalists about the attacks they have suffered from armed groups. On the table top are bottles of pepper spray left behind by their aggressors.

Fabio Víquez for Burness