By Jamie Kneen | Mining Watch Canada | October 16, 2017
On October 11th, representatives from the departments of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa who have been participating the protest camp against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine since June held a press conference to denounce attempts to discredit and criminalize their movement, specifically recent damage to a helicopter.
Local leaders speaking to Guatemalan press in the municipality of Casillas repudiated the attack on the helicopter and raised concerns about this and other acts of provocation that they suspect Tahoe Resources may be behind and could be using to create conflict and an image of unlawfulness in order to justify their violent eviction.
They further stated that when they proposed a dialogue process in early June that this was never considered.
Recent statements at the Denver Gold Forum on September 25thfrom Tahoe Resources CEO Ron Clayton fail to build confidence in the company’s approach.
In his comments, Clayton repeated misinformation about the protest, stating that local residents are being manipulated, paid to participate or motivated by issues other than the Escobal mine.
Clayton also stated that, upon Tahoe’s request, the U.S. government “had a big influence on even this last court decision”, referring to U.S. intervention over a Guatemalan Supreme Court ruling in September to temporarily reinstate the company’s operating license. During July and August, the company was heavily lobbying both U.S. and Canadian authorities for support.
Clayton further explained the company’s current approach, stating: “What we are trying to do is pick them apart and get some agreements…”.
Given repeat court decisions in past months denouncing the discrimination and lack of consultation over Tahoe’s mine project, and overwhelming results in local municipal and community plebiscites against the project since before it went into operation, it is deeply troubling that Tahoe would opt for a strategy based on “picking apart” anyone. The mere suggestion infers a process intent on creating division or escalating tension, which is problematic given the company’s track record in dealing with opposition to its project. From 2011-2014 Tahoe employed a militarized security strategy to get the mine operating, during which time seven people were killed, over thirty injured and nearly one hundred legally persecuted for participating in protests or trying to organize local consultation processes.
Tahoe’s refusal to face up to its lack of social licence in the region, and disregard for the impacts from its mining activities that communities have felt – and still fear – on their lives and livelihoods, makes future human rights abuses and violence at the Escobal mine all the more likely.
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