Last weekend, 93% of the population of Los Planes rejected Tahoe Resources' proposed Escobal project, voting NO to chemical mineral mining on their territory. This good-faith referendum, organized by local authorities, is the second of 26 community referenda planned in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores. The first referendum, held February 17 in San Juan Bosco, also soundly rejected the project, with 99% of the population voting NO to mining and YES to life.
|Community authorities count votes. (Photo: C.P.R.Urbana)|
These small-scale referenda, regulated by Guatemalan Municipal Code, are communities' best option for making their voices heard. That’s because municipal authorities in San Rafael Las Flores have refused requests for a referendum at the municipal level, similar to those held in Santa Rosa de Lima and Nueva Santa Rosa in 2011.
For the last two years, community members and local human rights organizations have been peacefully resisting the Escobal project in the face of increasing violence, intimidation and criminalization. The Escobal mine is operated by Minería San Rafael S.A., a Guatemalan subsidiary of Canada’s Tahoe Resources, which acquired the Escobal project from Goldcorp in 2010. Despite not having a license for mineral exploitation, Tahoe insists final permission to begin mining is imminent and, as a result, has already invested millions of dollars in infrastructure.
The wave of referenda throughout the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores comes on the heels of an attack against the mine's private security, resulting in the deaths of two guards. Shortly following the attack, Minister of the Interior Mauricio López Bonilla insinuated possible links between this event and the local non-violent resistance to Tahoe Resources’ project. Bonilla linked local mining resistance to terrorism, delinquency and drug trafficking, and stated that local, peaceful opposition to Tahoe's project does not exist1.
But the opposition is real. With these 26 democratic consultations, the communities surrounding the proposed Escobal project are demonstrating, once again, their commitment to peacefully resisting the imposition of mining on their territory. They are demanding that the Guatemalan government respect the referenda and recognize their right to participate in decision-making processes. This ongoing, community-based resistance indicates the company not only lacks the necessary permits to proceed with the mine, as it acknowledged in a January 14 press release,2 but it also lacks the social license to operate.
|Citizens of Los Planes wait in line to cast their vote (Photo: C.P.R.Urbana)|
In a recent open letter to Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, the International Coalition Against Unjust Mining in Guatemala (CAMIGUA) joined the communities of Santa Rosa and Jalapa in condemning acts of violence occurring around US and Canadian-owned mining sites and demanding respect for consultation processes. The letter calls for an investigation of the violent events and an end to the criminalization of community-based peaceful resistance.
TAKE ACTION! Sign this petition and join NISGUA and the Center for International Environmental Law in demanding NO mining license for Tahoe Resources.
1 Castañon, Mariela. “Cuarto órdenes de captura por ataque en mina San Rafael.” La Hora 7 Feb. 2013. http://www.lahora.com.gt/index.php/nacional/guatemala/actualidad/173135-cuatro-ordenes-de-captura-por-ataque-en-mina-san-rafael