Lawsuit against Tahoe Resources cleared for trial in Canada, ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ with regard to risks

June 12, 2017

(Ottawa/Oakland/Tatamagouche/Toronto/Washington D.C.) An investor alert released today warns that historic developments in the lawsuit against Tahoe Resources in Canada is just one indicator of serious risks surrounding its Escobal silver mine in Guatemala. On Thursday, June 8th, the Supreme Court of Canada denied Tahoe Resources leave to appeal, clearing the way for a civil lawsuit against the company to move to trial in British Columbia over violence at its project in Guatemala.

The investor alert was released by environmental and social justice organizations with longstanding relationships in Guatemala and outlines that the violent event for which Tahoe is being sued in British Columbia is only one of numerous unresolved human rights incidents that have plagued the project. Corruption allegations lodged against the Guatemalan authorities who granted permits for the mine, further places in question the company’s controversial flagship project. The high risk of ongoing human rights harms from this project, which has given rise to broad community opposition, has already affected investor confidence and should lead others to divest, concludes the alert.

“Throughout the lead up to commercial operations at the Escobal mine, a campaign of violence, criminalization and militarization was used by the company and the Guatemalan authorities to suppress widespread community opposition to this project. We are pleased that the lawsuit is heading to trial in Canada and hope that it will make investors think twice about continued association with Tahoe Resources,” remarks Lisa Rankin from the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network.

Between 2011 and 2013, some 100 people were legally persecuted for having organized community plebiscites over mining or participated in peaceful protests. In 2013, efforts to suppress opposition to the project included a government-imposed state of siege and an attack led by company security guards on peaceful protesters outside the mine site. Seven men were wounded when they were shot at close range as they ran away from the company’s security guards. Tahoe Resources is being accused of negligence and battery in this incident, which is the focus of the civil lawsuit now proceeding in British Columbia courts.

“The same Guatemalan officials who worked with Tahoe to suppress dissent against the Escobal project and who approved the company’s final permits are now in jail or wanted for their involvement in corruption scandals that toppled the previous government administration. The legitimacy and legality of the Escobal project is dubious at best,” commented Becky Kaump from the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.

In early April 2013, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) granted the company’s exploitation license, dismissing without consideration over 200 individual complaints from community members on the basis of environmental concerns. The lack of due process in this decision is subject to an ongoing battle in Guatemalan courts and persistent tension in local communities. Damage to homes from tremors believed to be caused by mine activities, as well as loss of water sources since mine operations began, have sparked protests, increasing discontent among residents.

“Billion-dollar pension funds in Europe have already divested from the company given the tremendous human rights harms and ongoing financial risks posed by the persistent local opposition to this project. It is time that other shareholders divest from Tahoe and respect the tens of thousands of community members who have – in the face of great danger – voiced their dissent to this to this project given their fears for their water, farms and peace in their communities,” concluded Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

The Investor Alert can be accessed here. A complaint to the British Columbia Securities Commission over the company’s lack of transparency concerning these risks is available here.

Contacts: 

  • Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, (902) 615-0704, btscoordinator(at)gmail.com
  • Caren Weisbart, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, weisbart(at)gmail.com
  • Becky Kaump, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), +011 (502) 5575-2058, becky(at)nisgua.org
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca
  • Kelsey Alford Jones, Center for International Environmental Law, (202) 742-5854, kalford(at)ciel.org

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