Guatemalans Denounce Tahoe Resources’ Plan to “Pick Them Apart”

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.

To read the full article, click here. 

Guatemala Court Clarifies Consultation Area, Denies Action on Export Permit

By Henry Lazenby | Mining Weekly | September 27, 2017


VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – The TSX-listed stock of beleaguered minerTahoe Resources fell as much as 13.5% on Wednesday, after the Guatemalan Supreme Court issued a ruling clarifying the specific geographical areas that need to be included in a fresh round of indigenous consultations; the court also denied action to force the Energy and Mines Ministry (MEM) to renew the company’s mineral export permit.

The Vancouver-based miner noted that the court directed the MEM to undertake a new consultation process, under the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169, with the Xinca communities in four municipalities in the region of the flagship Escobal mine, including Casillas, Nueva Santa Rosa, Mataquescuintla and San Rafael Las Flores.

The Supreme Court also declined to review Tahoe’s request to order the MEM to issue the annual renewal of Escobal’s export credential. The company said it was evaluating its legal and administrative options.

The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on all appeals of the Supreme Court’s decision on the definitive amparo by the end of the year.

To read the full article, click here.

Tahoe Resources’ Social License in Guatemala Non-Existent, as Uncertainty Plagues Escobal Permits

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.

To read the full article, click here.

Digging for the Truth

By Michael Swan | The Catholic Register | September 3, 2017


Earlier this year protesters in a small Guatemala village blockaded a giant silver mine operated by a Canadian company and for a month stood their ground despite being regularly tear-gassed by paramilitary police.

Their action culminated July 5 in a Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice decision that suspended two mining licenses held by Tahoe Resources Inc. of Vancouver until complaints by the Xinka Indigenous people who live near the mine can be heard.

The Xinka, who say the mine was opened on their land before they were properly consulted, allege the ground is now shifting in the nearby town of Casillas, damaging homes because of heavy equipment and explosions at the mine, and they complain water has become scarce since the mine opened. They have the support of their archbishop, a local bishop, the Loretto Sisters and many clergy.

It is stories like the Xinka’s struggle that have prompted Canada’s bishops to join the fight, in solidarity with Latin American bishops, to end what they call “unethical, unjust and irresponsible” practices by some Canadian mining companies operating in Latin America.

In an Aug. 9 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Bishop Douglas Crosby, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged the government to honour a 2015 campaign promise to hire an ombudsperson to field international complaints about Canadian mining. The letter talked about “threats, violence, extortion and even murder” in the mining industry and said the bishops “cannot accept the unethical way Canadian mining companies have been operating in Latin America.”

But Crosby’s claims are refuted by Pierre Gratton, president and chief executive officer of the Mining Association of Canada.

“I don’t accept the argument that Canadians are as bad as he says they are,” he told The Catholic Register. “In fact, what the evidence is now showing is that we’re better than our competition. And that actually what’s good for Latin America is probably more Canadian mining, not less.”

The one point on which the two sides do agree is that it’s time for an ombudsperson, although stark differences remain about how that person should operate. NGOs and church groups want an ombudsperson with power to investigate and sanction companies implicated in overseas human rights violations and environmental disasters. The mining industry wants the ombud limited to mediation, conciliation and joint fact finding, and wants penalties for bad behaviour left to the courts, preferably courts where the mine is located, not in Canada where the company’s stocks are listed and its executives make the deals.

To read the full article, click here.

Tahoe Resources Lobbies U.S., Canada to Intervene Over Guatemala Court Decision to Suspend Escobal Mine

By Jen Moore | Mining Watch Canada | August 31, 2017


The following article was co-written by MiningWatch CanadaNetwork in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), and Earthworks. 

Tahoe Resources is lobbying U.S. and Canadian authorities to intervene on its behalf following a July decision by Guatemala’s Supreme Court to temporarily suspend operations at the company’s Escobal silver mine. The decision cites discrimination and lack of prior consultation of Indigenous Xinka communities, whose ancestral territory in southeastern Guatemala is affected by the project. The country’s Constitutional Court confirmed the suspension last week in response to an appeal filed by the company’s Guatemalan subsidiary. Arguments to determine a final decision in the case were heard in the Supreme Court on August 28.

In a public letter to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala dated August 23, 2017, Tahoe Resources accused the Constitutional Court of “potential judicial impropriety,” alleging that the judges involved in last week’s decision were manipulated. In the letter, the company also repeated slanderous accusations against people from six municipalities who have been peacefully demonstrating since June over the current and future impacts of the mine in the municipality of Casillas.

The company’s unsubstantiated accusations against the country’s highest court are concerning as Guatemala entered into another political crisis last week, with justice officials under attack. On August 25, the United Nations-backed anti-corruption unit CICIG and the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office requested that the court strip President Jimmy Morales of his presidential immunity in order to proceed with charges linked to illegal funding of his 2015 presidential campaign. Two days later, Morales announced the expulsion of the UN official commissioned to lead CICIG, Iván Velásquez of Colombia, declaring him a persona non-grata. Within hours, the Constitutional Court reversed the action. Nine countries with diplomatic presence in Guatemala, including Canada and the U.S., released a statement in support of Velásquez and the CICIG.

Tahoe’s lobbying efforts began in July, according to a follow-up letter from Tahoe to the Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. State Department. Tahoe has also enlisted support from Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller and Republican Congressman Mark Amodei, who wrote letters to the Secretaries of State and Commerce, respectively. In both letters, the representatives allege politically motivated attacks on Tahoe’s operations in Guatemala and warn of economic and political instability and damage to US relations with Latin America if the court decision is allowed to stand. Both urge the Drumpf Administration to intervene to protect U.S. interests in Guatemala.

The Canadian lobby registry shows that Tahoe has also been very active lobbying Canadian public officials since its mine licenses were suspended in July. While records are still not available for August and are generally short on details, Tahoe lobbyists met with the Director General of Trade Commission Services, policy advisors from the office of the Minister of International Trade, the chairs of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor.

To read the full article, click here.

Guatemala Top Court Confirms Suspension of Tahoe Mining Licenses

By Reuters | August 25, 2017


GUATEMALA CITY, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Guatemala’s constitutional court confirmed on Thursday the provisional suspension of two mining licenses belonging to a local unit of Canadian miner Tahoe Resources Inc., two people involved in the case said.

The court is assessing whether the company consulted appropriately with indigenous communities, after an environmental organization argued that indigenous people in the region had not been consulted about the projects.

The mining licenses of the company’s Escobal unit, one of the world’s largest silver mines, as well as the smaller Juan Bosco unit have been suspended since July 5.

“We are sorry about the court’s decision,” said Andrés Dávila, a spokesman for San Rafael, Tahoe’s local unit. “We will continue exhausting all the legal avenues that Guatemalan law permits us.”

The parties will present their arguments before the court at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 28.

“We celebrate the decision, and we are ready for the (hearing),” said Kelvin Jiménez, a lawyer representing Parlamento Xinca, an indigenous group affected by the mines.

To read the full article, click here.

Smear Campaign Launched Against Opponents to Tahoe Resources’ Escobal Project, After Mine Licenses Suspended

By Jen Moore | Mining Watch Canada | July 19, 2017


Following the suspension of two of Tahoe Resources’ mine licences in Guatemala on July 5, Tahoe Resources’ suppliers, workers and the Guatemalan Industrial Association have engaged in a smear campaign in the Guatemalan press against the Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (CALAS) and its members for having brought the claim against the Ministry of Energy and Mines that led to the decision. The defamation puts CALAS and its members at risk of further violence.

On Wednesday July 5, the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice announced that it was temporarily suspending two of Tahoe Resources’ mining licences until a suit against the Ministry of Energy and Mines is resolved for discrimination and lack of prior consultation with Indigenous Xinka communities in the area of the company’s Escobal silver mine. Tahoe has consistently denied the presence of Xinka communities in the immediate area of influence of the Escobal project and failed to report on the strength of opposition of both the Xinka and non-indigenous communities affected by its mining operations.

During a Tahoe conference call on Thursday July 6, one investor analyst asked the company if it, its employees, its supplies or anyone connected to the company might have status in Guatemala to bring a lawsuit against CALAS, its members or any members of the Xinka community. In response, President and CEO Ron Clayton stated that its suppliers were already preparing to bring a lawsuit to try to appeal the decision and that: “Our suppliers, vendors, contractors and employees are all aggressively involved in fighting this.” As announced in the conference call, on Monday July 9, representatives of suppliers presented a legal action to try to revoke the mine suspension.

The Guatemalan Industrial Association (CACIF) has since published a full page ad in national press accusing CALAS of fomenting conflict in the communities around the Escobal project and of not being representative of the Xinka Indigenous people. Suppliers and workers also spoke to the press, accusing CALAS members of violating their rights and spreading lies in the communities. Notably, CALAS has been the subject of regular attacks for its work in defence of collective rights and the environment, including the murder of 22 year-old Jeremy Abraham Barrios Lima, assistant to the Director of CALAS in November 2016, and a 2008 armed attack against Director Yuri Melini.

To read the full article, click here.

Tahoe Licenses Suspended for Lack of Consultation with Indigenous Communities, While Company Denies Indigenous Presence and Opposition

July 7, 2017

(Oakland/Reno/Ottawa/Tatamagouche/Toronto) On Wednesday July 5, the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice announced that it was temporarily suspending two of Tahoe Resources’ mining licences until a suit against the Ministry of Energy and Mines is resolved for discrimination and lack of prior consultation with Indigenous Xinka communities in the area of the company’s Escobal silver mine. Tahoe has consistently denied the presence of Xinka communities in the area of influence of the Escobal project and failed to report on the strength of opposition of both the Xinka and non-indigenous communities affected by its mining operations.

“The Xinka People have historically been made invisible by the Guatemalan State. Today, we are not surprised that a foreign company like Tahoe is using the same discriminatory mechanisms to negate our existence in the area to protect its investment. This is history repeating itself with the same goal as always: to displace our communities. Who are they to decide who I am and violate my right to self-determination? That is my right,” remarked Moisés Divas, Xinka community member and Coordinator of the Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature (CODIDENA).

The two suspended licences include the Escobal licence where the large underground silver mine was built and operates in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores. The second is the Juan Bosco exploration licence in the municipalities of San Rafael Las Flores, Mataquescuintla, Nueva Santa Rosa, and Casillas. The latter three municipalities all held plebiscites prior to the granting of the exploitation permit for Escobal in which tens of thousands of people voted against any mining in their area. To date, opposition in Mataquescuintla has prevented the company from connecting its mine to the national energy grid.

Despite its denial of there being any Xinka people in the immediate area of its mine, Tahoe has stated in its response to the suspension that it believes the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) has already carried out a consultation process consistent with Indigenous rights.

In a communiqué dated July 6th, MEM argued that it has fulfilled all obligations under Guatemalan law through “dialogue with communities in the area of influence of the mine” and “establishing peaceful relations between communities and the mine since 2012.” It went on to state that the company’s Environmental Impact Study approved by the Ministry of the Environment in 2011 determined there was no Indigenous population in the region.

“The organized opposition to Tahoe’s project shows that whatever so-called consultation process the company and MEM may have carried out, they failed to obtain community consent. Tahoe has been telling shareholders for years that its social problems are taken care of, while treating people who are fighting for a healthy environment with open disdain. Clearly, given the month-long protest in Casillas, and the multiple ongoing legal cases in national and international courts, it hasn’t gotten everything resolved,” commented Becky Kaump for the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).

The Xinka Parliament and Xinka community members have consistently participated in community events and peaceful protests in opposition to the presence of mining in the region. As a result, like many others in the area, they have suffered violence and repression. In March 2013, four Indigenous Xinka leaders, including the then president of the Xinka Parliament, Roberto Gonzales, were abducted while returning from observing a community plebiscite in El Volcancito, in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores. One of those abducted, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, was found dead the next day. The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights has cited this as a killing of a human rights activist.

The Norwegian Council on Ethics, which investigated Tahoe’s human rights problems in 2014, noted that the Xinka and the Xinka Parliament “oppose the mining operation and demand that they be consulted before licenses are granted in the areas in which they live.” As a result of its investigation, the Council advised against any further investment in Tahoe Resources given the high risk of further human rights violations.

“With the support of Guatemalan national authorities, Tahoe has been wishing away the presence of Indigenous people around the Escobal mine since 2010 when founder and then CEO, Kevin McArthur, told participants at the Denver Gold Conference that the Escobal project would not face opposition because there were no ‘indigenous issues’. McArthur was just plain wrong about the absence of Xinka people or lack of resistance. Now the company and its shareholders are suffering the consequences,” commented Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

On Thursday, Tahoe Resources lost a third of its value on the stock market. At least two law firms have also announced investigationsregarding claims that Tahoe violated sections of the U.S. Securities Exchange Act.

Concerned about the prevalence of criminalization, militarization and violence that opponents to the Escobal mine have experienced in recent years, national human rights organizations in Guatemala have publicly expressed support for communities and the Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (CALAS) that brought the suit, calling on the Ministry of Energy and Mines to uphold the sentence and refrain from using violence against peaceful protestors. International organizations are also urging the company and Guatemalan authorities to ensure that area residents and accompanying organizations do not face legal persecution, repression or violence for defending their Indigenous and human rights as a result of this suit and other recent protests, including a month-long demonstration in Casillas that prevented mine-related traffic from reaching the site.

Contacts:

  • Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, (902) 615-0704, btscoordinator(at)gmail.com
  • Caren Weisbart, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, caren.weisbart(at)gmail.com
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at)miningwatch.ca, +613 722 0412
  • Becky Kaump, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, becky(at)nisgua.org +502 5575 2058
  • Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), bfulkerson(at)planevada.org, (775) 348-7557

Police Use Violence Against Community Members During a Peaceful Demonstration Against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal Mine

By NISGUA | June 23, 2017


Since June 7, communities have maintained a 24-hour encampment along the highway in the municipality of Casillas, 15 kilometers from the Escobal mine of U.S.-Canadian company Tahoe Resources. Blocking only mine-related traffic, they are denouncing the negative impacts they experience on a daily basis since Tahoe Resources came to the region. In prior statements published by the resistance movement, they denounce constant tremors stemming from mining activities, continuous heavy-equipment traffic, and increasing environmental impacts of the Escobal project, including the drying up of water sources.

Yesterday afternoon, police used tear gas in an attempt to violently evict them. While community members were forced to scatter, they regrouped yesterday evening in the thousands to continue their peaceful demonstration in the same location. Read below for a detailed account on yesterday’s police violence.

The following account of police violence was written by Nelton Rivera for Prensa Comunitaria. For the full article in Spanish, click here. Translation and editing done by NISGUA.

“This afternoon [June 22] at 1PM, riot police arrived at the demonstration. Without any cause, they began throwing tear gas canisters at community members.

Since June 6th, residents of Casillas have successfully detained mining operations. According to one of the residents who demanded that the company withdraw from the area due to the damages it was causing, the strong tremors they feel as a result of mining operations ceased once they began their demonstration.

At the scene were children, elderly people, and one person in a wheelchair. The presence of the police coincided with the company’s attempt to move one of its trucks through the blockade. According to a witness, “The children began to sing the national anthem at the same time as one of the members of the national civil police began to gather rocks to throw.’

The police began to throw tear gas in all directions – against the population, towards the houses, and even on top of a health center that specializes in providing healthcare to children.

After being dispersed by the police, people scattered to protect themselves. The riot police entered into the center of Casillas and continued throwing tear gas canisters. Residents who were in their homes and schools were affected by the gas; ambulances attended to the people.

Moisés Divas, a representative of the Xinca Parliament, denounced that the arrival of the police without any motive. The police did not present an eviction notice, nor were they accompanied by a Justice of the People. Human Rights representatives were not present, either, when the police began to throw tear gas and evict community members.”

To read the full article, click here. 

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