By Jen Moore | Mining Watch Canada | September 26, 2017
On the heels of two months of lobbying in Washington D.C. and Ottawa seeking government intervention on its behalf, Tahoe Resources announced on September 10th that the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice had reinstated the operating licence for its Escobal project in southeastern Guatemala. Questions remain over this court decision, which is now under appeal, and a final ruling from the Constitutional Court could be months away. However, regardless of the court’s verdict, the Escobal project clearly lacks a social licence to operate.
Operations have been stalled since June 7th when residents from six municipalities in the area of Tahoe’s silver mine initiated a check-point in the municipality of Casillas to prevent mine-related traffic from reaching the project. Contrary to the company’s representation of this action as an “illegal road blockade”, the community-led demonstration is taking place roadside, on private property. This protest, which is a reflection of six years of community organizing, continues today.
When asked how the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate Tahoe’s licence would affect the round-the-clock protest, Xinka Indigenous lawyer Quelvin Jiménez remarked, “The opposition to the Escobal project did not spring up as a result of a lawsuit, it was already there. It is a result of violations of the rights to housing and water, among other abuses we have suffered since the project got underway.”
Over the last two months, dozens of international organizations have criticized the company’s inaccurate characterization of the protest and the smear campaign launched by the company’s associates in Guatemala. They point out that these misrepresentations and threats put community members at serious risk of further repression and criminalization. Since June, police have already tried to violently evict the protest twice.
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