Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) will revise all recent decisions made on the granting of mining licences, according to reports from local media.

Víctor Hugo Ventura, the MEM’s new head, announced the measure in response to several complaints regarding bribes, corruption and other illegal activities occurring within the country’s mining sector, Central America’s Strategy and Business Magazine reported on Saturday.

Ventura told reporters that the decision is due to complaints at the national and international level about the delivery of bribes and other illicit acts. He added that review actions due to be taken are aimed at complying with the principles of transparency and zero tolerance for corruption.

Noting that mining began in Guatemala more than seven decades ago, he added that all measures taken related to this issue will be based on history, “with a clear balance of social, economic, environmental and social costs and benefits”.

In 2022, the US sanctioned the export licences of three companies operating in Guatemala ­– Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, Compañía Procesadora de Níquel de Izabal and Mayaníquel – claiming that the three entities were “subsidiaries of the Solway Investment group, a Russian enterprise that has exploited Guatemalan mines since 2011”.

These were lifted earlier this month after new Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo took office on 15 January. Ventura said the ministry has requested further information from the US on this issue, with the reauthorisation of export licences.

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In November 2022, the US Treasury also imposed sanctions on Russian national Dmitry Kudryakov and Belarussian national Iryna Litviniuk, who it claimed were leading Solway’s mining operations in Guatemala.

However, in April last year, leaked documents suggested that the US Government played a significant role in Central American Nickel’s acquisition of the notorious Fenix Nickel mine project. The mine is located in Guatemala and has been the subject of a series of controversies in recent years, including allegations of environmental degradation, violence towards local indigenous communities and Russian involvement, potentially undermining its sanctions on Guatemalan mining exports through Russia.