June 18, 2014
(Ottawa/Tatamagouche/Guatemala City) A civil lawsuit filed today in Vancouver against Tahoe Resources for negligence and battery in connection with a shooting at the company’s silver project in Guatemala sends a strong message to investors and all Canadians.
|Victims and legal team in Guatemala. Photo: Giles Clarke|
Violence and repression has marked the development of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver project in southeast Guatemala.
“Repression against community leaders involved in organizing local referenda and peaceful protests in opposition to Tahoe’s mine dates back to 2011. Some 90 individuals have faced spurious legal persecution and, in May 2013, a military state of siege was declared in the area surrounding the mine creating a climate of fear and intimidation in order to quash local opposition,” observes Ellen Moore for the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).
Tens of thousands have voted against mining in San Rafael Las Flores, where Tahoe currently operates, and in the immediately surrounding municipalities where the company hopes to carry out further exploration.
The widespread opposition is motivated by concerns over the current and future impacts of Tahoe’s operations on local water supplies, as well as community health and agricultural activities. Tahoe’s mine is only two kilometres from the central park in San Rafael Las Flores and mere metres from homes and livestock.
“This is a company with a troubled history in Guatemala, which should be a cause of concern to Canadians and all investors,” remarks Jackie McVicar from the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. “Tahoe Resources is a spin-off company from Vancouver-based Goldcorp, whose Marlin mine in Guatemala’s northwestern highlands has been a source of strife and ongoing Indigenous and human rights violations during the last decade.”
Goldcorp holds 40% of the shares in Tahoe Resources and six of the company’s eight Directors have past or current ties to the gold mining mammoth. Most Canadians are also invested in Tahoe Resources through the Canada Pension Plan, which reported holding CAD $49 million in shares as of March 31, 2014.
Notably, when Guatemalans sued another Canadian mining company, HudBay Minerals, the company ended up selling off its Fénix nickel project to a Russian firm at a quarter of the price for which it had purchased it. The three lawsuits for the shooting murder of a land rights activist, gang rape of 11 Maya Q’eqchi’ women and shooting paralysis of a young man are ongoing in Ontario courts.
“The abuses for which Tahoe is being sued are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of rampant violations in connection with Canadian mining operations in Guatemala and across the region,” comments Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada. “This lawsuit should alert Canadians to a much deeper problem with this industry that Canadian authorities are unconditionally promoting abroad.”
Ellen Moore, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), (011) 502 4141 1187, ellen(at)nisgua.org
Jackie McVicar, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, (902) 324-2584 btsguatemala(at)gmail.com
Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca
Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver project in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores, southeastern Guatemala, is the subject of local opposition and ongoing legal processes against the validity of the exploitation licence. Community leaders have faced repression, criminalization and violence for their efforts to promote community consultation processes. Despite the conflict – or perhaps because of it – Tahoe has rushed to put the mine into operation even before establishing reliable mineral reserves. It reportedly brought its underground mine into operation in January 2014.
Tahoe lacks a social licence for the mine.
- To date, fourteen referenda have been held in which tens of thousands of people in the six municipalities closest to the project have voted against the Escobal mine given their concerns over current and potential environmental and social impacts.
- The company’s former security manager, an ex-military officer from Peru, Alberto Rotondo, is currently under arrest awaiting trial for allegedly ordering security guards to fire at protesters outside the mine on April 27, 2013. Seven victims of this attack are now bringing a civil lawsuit in British Columbia against Tahoe Resources for negligence and battery in connection with this incident.
- The Guatemalan government imposed a military state of emergency for a month after the shooting on April 27, 2013 in municipalities where people overwhelmingly voted against mining.
- In June 2012, Tahoe sued the Guatemalan government, demanding that it do more to protect the mine. A Guatemalan court dismissed the lawsuit in February 2013, mere months before the military siege was imposed.
- Since September 2012, some 90 people have been slapped with unfounded criminal charges and have had to endure legal processes causing them distress and hardship. Several spent months in jail before being cleared of all charges.
- The Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines dismissed some 250 formal community complaints without a proper hearing shortly before granting Tahoe's exploitation licence on April 3, 2013.
- In July 2013, the plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of a complaint and won, putting the validity of the licence in doubt. A final decision from Guatemala's Constitutional Court is expected soon.
- Goldcorp holds 40% of Tahoe's shares.
- Six of eight of Tahoe’s Directors are current or former Goldcorp executives, including Tahoe founder and CEO, Kevin McArthur, who was CEO of Glamis Gold and Goldcorp until 2008.
- Goldcorp’s Marlin mine in Guatemala was also put into operation in the midst of widespread opposition and repression. As a result, it has been the subject of repeat international human rights declarations calling for suspension of the mine and raising concern over impacts on community health, the environment and right to self-determination of neighbouring Maya Indigenous communities.
- The Inter American Commission on Human Rights recently admitted a case against Indigenous and human rights violations at the Marlin mine.