Guatemalan protestors reach landmark conclusion to lawsuit against Canadian mining company

Conclusion reached with Pan American Silver, the acquirers of Tahoe Resources, includes a public apology to the protestors and the community for the conduct of mine security forces. Marks the first time foreign plaintiffs have achieved justice in a human rights case against a Canadian mining company in the Canadian court system.

Source: Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP

VANCOUVER, BC; GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA, July 30, 2019 — The six-year long legal battle between a group of Guatemalan protestors and Tahoe Resources of Vancouver, Canada, has come to a landmark conclusion. Pan American Silver, which acquired Tahoe in February 2019, has issued a public apology stating that “the shooting on April 27, 2013, infringed the human rights of the protestors,” and “Pan American, on behalf of Tahoe, apologizes to the victims and to the community.”

In April 2013, the protestors gathered at the entrance to Tahoe’s Escobal Mine in south-east Guatemala to protest the lack of community consultation on the project. The head of security for the mine, Alberto Rotondo, ordered security personnel to break up the demonstration by shooting at the protestors. Several were injured, one very seriously. The victims retained Vancouver-based Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM Lawyers) to represent them in a civil suit against Tahoe in Canada.

“This is an important victory for us and our community,” said claimant Luis Fernando García. “It vindicates our right to protest and to continue our resistance against mining operations in our community”.

The conclusion of the case does not impede the ability of the protestors to exercise their legal rights of protest related to the mine in the future.

In 2017, the BC Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision and confirmed that the case should be heard in Canada, concluding that there was a real risk that the Guatemalan protestors would not get a fair trial in their own country. “The case sets a very important precedent,” said Joe Fiorante, Q.C., partner at CFM Lawyers. “It confirms that Canadian courts are the appropriate forum for human rights claims arising from the foreign activities of Canadian mining companies.”

To read the full press release from Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman, click here

Manifestantes guatemaltecos llegan a una resolución histórica de la demanda conta una empresa minera canadiense

La resolución acordada con Pan American Silver, adquirentes de Tahoe Resources, incluye una disculpa pública a los manifestantes y la comunidad por la conducta de la agencia de seguridad de la mina. Es la primera vez que querellantes extranjeros han logrado la justicia en un caso de derechos humanos en contra de una empresa minera canadiense dentro del organismo judicial canadiense

VANCOUVER, COLUMBIA BRITÁNICA; CIUDAD DE GUATEMALA, GUATEMALA, 30 de julio de 2019 — La disputa legal de seis años entre un grupo de manifestantes guatemaltecos y Tahoe Resources de Vancouver, Canadá, ha llegado a una resolución histórica. Pan American Silver, que adquirió Tahoe en febrero de 2019, ha emitido una disculpa pública que establece que ” el tiroteo del 27 de abril de 2013 vulneró los derechos humanos de los manifestantes” y ” Pan American, en nombre de Tahoe, pide perdón a las víctimas y a la comunidad”.

En abril de 2013, los manifestantes se reunieron en la entrada de la mina “El Escobal” de Tahoe en el sureste de Guatemala para manifestar por la falta de consulta comunitaria sobre el proyecto. El jefe de seguridad de la mina, Alberto Rotondo, ordenó al personal de seguridad interrumpir la manifestación disparando a los manifestantes. Varios resultaron heridos, uno muy grave. Las víctimas contrataron a Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM Lawyers) con sede en Vancouver para representarlos en una demanda civil contra Tahoe en Canadá.

Para leer el comunicado completo de Camp Fiorate Matthews Mogerman (CFM Lawyers)

Para leer la declaración de Pan American Silver en que tome responsabilidad por el ataque

Indigenous people call on Pan American Silver to cease local interference out of respect for consultation process in Guatemala

May 8, 2019

(Vancouver/Victoria/Ottawa/Tatamagouche/Washington, D.C.) Ahead of Pan American Silver’s annual shareholder meeting in Vancouver today, the Xinka Indigenous Parliament released a statement calling on the company to stop attempts to engage with communities outside of the court-ordered consultation process over the Escobal silver project. They insist that the company’s community relations taking place in parallel to the consultation are coercive, heighten tensions and jeopardize the free nature of the process.

In their statement, the Xinka Parliament of Guatemala said: “The mining project has greatly affected our ways of life and the company’s actions over the past months have only increased and worsened the conflict in our region.”

“The Escobal mining project represents a threat to the life of Xinka communities in the region. During nine years of resistance to this project, we have been victims of kidnapping, assassinations, criminalization, destruction of our ways of life, as well as the destruction of archaeological sites and sacred places. As a result, the reactivation of this project is untenable, since it would mean deciding between the project and our survival.”

For the full press release, click here.

Xinka Authorities Denounce Ministry’s Failure to Comply with the Constitutional Court

XINCA PEOPLE’S PARLIAMENT OF GUATEMALA

Communique from Xinka Authorities Regarding the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources’ Failure to Comply with the Constitutional Court Sentence, case file 4785-2017

March 15, 2019

As leaders and representatives of Xinka Communities, we denounce that since October 2018 we have been petitioning the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources on numerous occasions to request that they allow us to fully participate in the definition of the Area of Influence of the Escobal mining project. However, as of now, none of our petitions have been resolved.

 

Our requests to participate in the definition of the area of influence are based on that which is established in the September 3, 2018 Constitutional Court sentence, file number 4785-2017, which establishes that the consultation should be carried out based on international standards and that these standards require the participation of Indigenous Peoples in all stages of the consultation. Moreover, the Constitutional Court’s sentence establishes that we were not granted any participation in the process of granting the mining licences. Most importantly, it determined that we were not considered in the determination of the environmental impact of the El Escobal and Juan Bosco mining projects. This means that the determination of the area of influence is “Void by Operation of Law”, and as a result, we do not now accept the definition of the area of influence, making it “Void by Operation of Law”.

For the full press release, click here.

Securities Commissions Asked to Investigate Ahead of Jan. 8 Tahoe, Pan American Silver Merger

Accountability group seeks report on consultation with Guatemala’s Xinka Indigenous people

January 3, 2019

(Guatemala City, Washington DC, Toronto, Tatamagouche, Ottawa) –

Today, ahead of the January 8th shareholder vote on Pan American Silver’s acquisition of Tahoe Resources, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) filed letters with the British Columbia Securities Commission and the US Securities and Exchange Commission asking for an investigation about claims in relation to the court-ordered consultation with Xinka Indigenous people in Guatemala.

The letters provide evidence to the BCSC and the U.S. SEC that Pan American Silver (TSX: PAAS NASDAQ: PAAS) and Tahoe Resources’ (TSX: THO  NYSE: TAHO) have made misleading statements on the future of the Escobal mine, and failed to disclose serious issues and conflict already emerging with the consultation process. The letter also points out the failure to disclose that the court suspended an application for an exploratory license as well as an order that could result in increased royalties.

For the full press release, click here. 

Guatemala’s Highest Court Orders Tahoe’s Escobal Mine to Remain Suspended

September 4, 2018

Late Monday night, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled that [US-Canadian owned] Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine will remain suspended while the Ministry of Energy and Mines consults with the Xinka indigenous population in four municipalities, including San Rafael Las Flores, where the mine is located. This decision reaffirms a lower court decision from July 2017 to halt work at Escobal and the neighboring Juan Bosco exploration license over discrimination and failure to consult with Xinka people. The decision cannot be appealed.

Before the silver mine went into production in January 2014, local authorities convened votes in four municipalities surrounding the Escobal project in which Xinka and non-indigenous residents overwhelmingly rejected mining activities. Monday’s Constitutional Court ruling orders a repeat consultation in three of these, including Casillas, Mataquescuintla and Nueva Santa Rosa. A total of eight municipal referenda rejecting the mine have taken place since 2011. Mayors in five municipalities have refused any royalties from the company out of respect for the results of the votes.

For the full press release, click here.

Questions Pan American Silver shareholders should be asking in advance of Tahoe Resources acquisition

Today, shareholders of Tahoe Resources and Pan American Silver will meet and vote on a new business opportunity – Pan American Silver’s acquisition of Tahoe Resources to become, in their eyes, one of the largest publicly traded silver companies in the world. The vast silver reserves at Tahoe’s flagship Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemalan may seem impressive, but do shareholders with Pan American Silver really know what they are buying?

With this acquisition today, Pan American Silver inherits a legacy of conflict, violence and well-documented human rights abuses associated with Tahoe’s operations at Escobal.

In 2013, several unarmed protesters on a public road outside the mine were shot at by Tahoe’s private security. One of the people injured, who was 17 at the time, was shot multiple times in the face. This serious assault is currently the grounds of a civil lawsuit against Tahoe Resources in British Columbia courts – one of the first times in history that a Canadian company is facing civil litigation in Canada for violence at its overseas operations.

In 2014, 16-year-old Topacio Reynoso Pacheco, an environmental activist and youth leader in the movement against mining, was shot and killed. Her father and fellow environmental defender, Alex Reynoso, was shot and seriously injured. He survived another armed attack in 2015. Just last year, Estuardo Quevedo, another environmental activist in the movement against the Escobal mine was shot and killed.

These are only a handful of examples of the violence communities have faced for their opposition to this project. They have also suffered militarization, constant surveillance and the suspension of civil liberties.  Dozens of arrest warrants issued on baseless charges have been lodged against community leaders who oppose the project.

Impacted communities have never stopped resisting using creative and resilient strategies, like dozens of marches and protests, countless legal actions, and over 15 community and municipal-organized referenda where the vast majority of participants have said “NO” to mining. In June 2017, they took direct action and successfully shut down operations at the mine when they erected a permanent resistance encampment up the road from Escobal. A month later, a Guatemalan court suspended the Escobal license – a decision that has since been upheld by the Constitutional Court, which ruled in September 2018 that the rights of the Xinka People had been violated when they were not consulted prior to the start of the Escobal project.

By buying Tahoe, Pan American has also acquired this legacy of disregarding legitimate community concerns and pushing through an unwanted project which resulted in repression, social conflict and suffering.

Questions Pan American Silver shareholders should be asking in advance of the acquisition:

  • Why has Pan American Silver ignored the demands of impacted communities to shut down the Escobal mine and instead, invested in Tahoe Resources?
  • Why would Pan American Silver want to adopt Tahoe’s legacy of serious and well-documented human rights abuses?
  • And why is Pan American Silver so confident it can get the Escobal project back up and running, despite the fact that strong opposition has succeeded in suspending the mine for a year and a half and shows no sign of letting up, regardless of management?

Indigenous Xinka March in Guatemala to Banish Canadian Mine

By Elizabeth McSheffrey | National Observer | April 17, 2018


Traffic grinds to a crawl on the dusty highway through Casillas, a small city in the Guatemalan Department of Santa Rosa, roughly three hours southeast of the capital.

Even on a busy work day, no vehicle may pass until the peaceful resistance stationed there has determined that it is not affiliated with or carrying supplies to the nearby Escobal silver mine, owned by Canada’s Tahoe Resources.

It’s a makeshift blockade marked by canvas signs attached to tilted power poles, demanding justice for Indigenous people as they flap in the wind. The project threatens land, water and local agriculture, argue members of the resistance, who patrol the road in shifts.

“We are willing to give our lives for Mother Earth and the children of the future,” Bernabe Rivas Ceballos told journalists, philanthropists and activists visiting the blockade on Oct. 26, 2017.

“We hold the company responsible for all the conflict they have caused in our communities of Santa Rosa. We can’t allow that invasion…We are willing to win or die.”

Seven out of eight municipalities near the Escobal mine have formally opposed it in local polls, and since 2015, at least five of their mayors have refused royalty payments from Minera San Rafael — a subsidiary of Tahoe Resources charged with the mine’s operation.

The project has been on hold since last summer over Indigenous consultation concerns, and just last month, hit a new snag as Guatemala’s Constitutional Court prolonged that suspension further with demands for new information and evidence. It’s a decision that sent more than 2,000 Indigenous Xinka people marching through the streets of Guatemala City last week, demanding permanent closure of the mine.

The delays have been costly for Tahoe Resources, which suffered an $18 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2017, largely attributed to Escobal’s suspension. More than a quarter of Minera San Rafael’s 1,030 staff have already been laid off, and Tahoe has confirmed that more layoffs are on the way as the court examines whether the mine’s operating license is legal.

The Escobal mine controversy is one of several surrounding a variety of Canadian resource companies that operate abroad. Over the last 10 years, they have prompted a wave of activist pressure that just this year, resulted in federal government action.

In January, Canada’s International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne introduced some details of his plan to create of a new watchdog with a mandate to investigate allegations of abuse in the foreign activities of Canadian companies. Tahoe’s Escobal mine could be among those it is asked to review.

To read the full article, click here.

Thousands March in Protest of Escobal Mine and in Support of Xinca People’s Right to Self-Determination

By NISGUA |April 12, 2018


A large group of Guatemalans gather in front of the Constitutional Court building, holding signs that denounce Tahoe Resources and call for the self-determination of the Xinca People to be respected.

On Monday April 9, thousands took to the streets in Guatemala City as part of the “March for Life,” organized by the Xinca Parliament and the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa. Representatives from the indigenous Maya Ch’orti’, Ixil, Quiche and Garifuna Peoples showed up in support of the Xinca People and their call for the permanent closure of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine located in Xinca territory.

The Guatemalan courts temporarily suspended the mine over eight months ago as part of ongoing legal proceedings to determine if the Xinca People’s right to consultation was violated in granting the mining license in 2013. The courts will also determine if the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines discriminated against the Xinca People by justifying the lack of consultation by denying their very existence in the region. The case is currently being decided by the Constitutional Court that most recently ordered several Guatemalan academic institutions to carry out anthropological studies to determine the existence of indigenous people in San Rafael Las Flores, the municipality where the mine is located.

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To read the full article, click here.

Xinca Parliament Makes Statement in Anticipation of Constitutional Court’s Conclusive Resolution on Escobal Proceedings

April 9, 2018

(Santa Rosa/Jalapa/Jutiapa) From the Parliament of the Xinca People of Guatemala and the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa, in anticipation of the Constitutional Court’s conclusive resolution on the final appeal concerning proceedings over the “El Escobal” project operated by Minera San Rafael [Tahoe Resources’ wholly-owned Guatemalan subsidiary].

Let it be known that:

  1. We reject the disrespect shown to us by [the court] in requesting reports to assess our existence in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores, [an act that] negates our existence and identity.
  2. We are concerned by the Guatemalan Chamber of Industry and the Guatemalan-American Chamber of Commerce’s (AMCHAM for its acronym in Spanish) Public Relations campaign in different media outlets as a way to pressure the Constitutional court to find in favor of Minera San Rafael.
  3. Minera San Rafael is more concerned with its billion-dollar investment in the project than with the impacts they are causing throughout the region of Santa Rosa, Jutiapa, and Jalapa, including the destruction of our social fabric, as well as pollution, criminalization, forced migration and the violation of the rights to water and housing.
  4. We are concerned about how the community of La Cuchilla in San Rafael Las Flores has been destroyed and that, in order to protect the interests of Minera San Rafael, the state has not taken responsibility. Meanwhile, other communities are also at risk.
  5. To date, the idea of development touted in the media is not evident in our communities, as claimed by company executives.
  6. Since the resistance camps began in Casillas and in front of the Constitutional Court, there have been actions taken to provoke community members in order to create the conditions for their criminalization.
  7. Tremors have ceased since the resistance camp in Casillas began, despite state institutions responsible for such matters attributing the seismic activity to natural causes.
  8. Water for human consumption is becoming ever more scarce, making it necessary to drill underground wells, while the water table is also getting deeper.
  9. We reject all forms of interference on the Court by either foreign governments or the Guatemalan government.
  10. We understand the complexity of this case, for which reason we have waited, aware that the arguments being made as part of this process underscore the necessity that mining activities be stopped and a debate take place about this country’s development model.

Given the above, we call for:

  1. The Guatemalan Chamber of Industry to respect judicial independence, peoples’ right to autonomy and their right to live in peace.
  2. Constitutional Court justices to issue a decision that would permanently suspend Minera San Rafael’s “El Escobal” mining project, for the reasons mentioned.
  3. [The recognition] that this case is not the same as in the Oxec Case such that the Minera San Rafael case cannot be based on that verdict.

WE ARE A PEOPLE OF PEACE THAT DEFENDS OUR TERRITORY

And as long as our demands are not heard, we will continue in permanent resistance.

GUATEMALA DE LA ASUNCIÓN, APRIL 2018

XincaAltepetWiriki’

Voice of the Xinca Guatemalan Nation

Translated from the original statement in Spanish by NISGUA, Earthworks and MiningWatch.

For full press release, click here.