Rumors in San Rafael Las Flores travel fast, even underground.
There were especially interesting ones on Monday July 8, when Minera San Rafael employees heard whispers about a VIP visiting the site. The pick-up trucks and vans were a first sign. But the buzz of activity at the west portal entrance was the first tip off that it wasn’t a normal day.
Workers knew a VIP was coming. Some said it was the Minister of Energy, others expected the Guatemalan Vice-President or even the American Ambassador. Someone guessed the Guatemalan President.
“Presidents don’t go to mines? Do they?” said the skeptics. Within minutes President Otto Perez Molina appeared via helicopter to a surge of excitement. Thankful hands reached out to greet him. Strong handshakes conveyed admiration. One miner looked up to the sky and mouthed “Thank you.”
For many workers at MSR, the President’s visit was more than just a show of appreciation for the work they do, but a signal they could count on their jobs in the future.
“I’ve been a miner for more than 30 years and this is the first time a President has come to a project to greet the miners,” said employee Arnoldo Garcia.
His colleague, Luis Ajanel added: “The fact that you came today is a sign of your trust in this industry.”
After touring the project and speaking with employees, President Perez used the site as the backdrop to tape his weekly television address that aired the next day.
In his speech, President Perez acknowledged that the mining industry is of great importance for Guatemalans.
The President also talked about the Escobal project in particular, and how it helps to create jobs. Here’s what President Perez Molina said:
“Today, we are located here at the San Rafael Mine, which is in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores, department of Santa Rosa. This municipality has about 12,000 residents. 25 percent live in urban areas and 75 percent live in rural areas. The municipality of San Rafael Las Flores has more than 66 percent of its population in poverty, unfortunately, and 26 percent in extreme poverty. They are beginning the exploitation phase, where there will be more work opportunity. I’m talking about direct jobs and, of course, the indirect jobs will grow much more.”
President Perez Molina also explained how the royalties that San Rafael Las Flores will receive from the mine will help to increase its revenue by 10 times the currently level, reaching thousands of Guatemalans.
“This is important income for the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores,” President Perez Molina said.
Read more about the president’s program on our press release here.