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.

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. 

Communities Maintain Peaceful Demonstration in Protest of Negative Impacts of Tahoe Resources’ Mine in Guatemala

by NISGUA June 15, 2017


Since June 7, 2017, communities surrounding Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala have maintained a 24-hour peaceful protest of mine-related traffic. They are denouncing the constant tremors they believe are the result of mining activities, the constant heavy truck traffic, and the increasing environmental impacts of the project, including the drying up of water sources.

Communities immediately surrounding the Escobal mine and others as far as the municipality of Casillas, have consistently denounced tremors, which have increased in frequency over the past number of months. The company regularly carries out underground mine blasting, which has caused damage to houses in some communities. On multiple occasions, communities in Casillas and local authorities have called on CONRED, the National Coordinating Body for the Reduction of Disasters, to visit the area and install a seismograph to measure the tremors and determine their cause. However, local confidence in CONRED’s willingness to carry out unbiased monitoring is waning as “official” results do not match what families are experiencing on a daily basis.

The blockade is located at the entranceway of Casillas, 15 kilometers down the road from Escobal, and has prevented mine-related vehicles from accessing the mine in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores. Tahoe’s subsidiary Minera San Rafael (MSR) relies on diesel-powered generators to provide the vast amount of electricity required for mining operations given that the company was denied access to the local power grid located in the neighboring municipality of Mataquescuintla. In 2012, residents from Mataquescuintla overwhelming rejected the presence of the mine and other resource extraction activities in the area and as a result, MSR was denied this critical resource.

Now, Mataquescuintla joins municipal authorities and community members in Casillas, Nueva Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Lima, and San Carlos Alzatate in publicly and peacefully denouncing Tahoe’s project. These same municipalities have also united to form a regional alliance (“mancomunidad”) in order to protect the river basin in the region and uphold the results of the referenda on mining. Individual communities in San Rafael las Flores, where the mine is located, have also joined the current protest, although the municipal authorities have not.

In a press conference on behalf of the regional alliance given at the resistance camp on June 11, Mataquescuintla’s Mayor Hugo Loy said, “If the seismic activity that is taking place in our subsoil is a result of mining operations, then we call on national and international bodies to intervene. Human rights and the right to life must be placed ahead of the right to material things…There are testimonies from people in Casillas and San Rafael las Flores that they feel tremors and that there has been structural damage to their homes. Mataquescuintla is no exception. Between five and six in the morning, we feel tremors as well.”

Tahoe lacks social license to operate in Santa Rosa and Jalapa; legal right to operate in question

Despite Tahoe Resources’ claim that they enjoy broad support, the results of 16 referenda in the area show otherwise. While a pro-mining mayor in San Rafael las Flores prevented a municipal-wide referendum, every other municipality in the surrounding area – and many communities within the borders of San Rafael las Flores – have held referenda in which they rejected the presence of the mine. In addition to concerns about social discord, constant tremors, and the structural damage that mining blasts are having on people’s homes in the area, communities in resistance cite major environmental concerns as one of the many reasons for their opposition. The Escobal mine is located in a large agricultural-producing area and communities are reporting that the massive amount of water to sustain mining operations is already being felt in the region.

Other attempts to halt the Escobal mine have been unsuccessful. A 2015 decision by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court effectively suspended Tahoe’s exploitation license, yet operations continue. The decision by the country’s highest court ruled that the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) bypassed due process when it dismissed, without consideration, the more than 200 complaints filed by individuals who stood to be impacted by Tahoe’s mine. According to Guatemalan law, a company cannot be granted an exploitation license as long as complaints are outstanding. Instead of halting operations to allow MEM to adequately address the environmental concerns, Tahoe plowed ahead, celebrating record profits as communities suffer the very same consequences they attempted to address before Tahoe began operations.

And it’s not only the environmental impacts that communities are feeling. Individuals and entire communities who have opposed the project to defend their water, land, and livelihoods, have suffered militarization, violence, and criminalization. Last November, when community members from La Cuchilla were protesting the cracks in their houses as a result of mining operations, the General Director of Minera San Rafael wrote a letter to the Ministry of Defense, appealing for government support in keeping the peace. This wasn’t the first time that Tahoe has called for an increased military and police presence in the region. In 2013, the Guatemalan government responded by enacting a state of siege, suspending several civil liberties, and carrying out a sweep of criminalization of movement leaders.

Multiple billion-dollar pension funds in Europe have already divested from the company given concerns about violence and human rights violations in relation to the project. In its 2014 Annual Report, the Council of Ethics for the Norwegian Pension Board recommended the exclusion of Tahoe Resources from their investments, stating the company ran an “unacceptable” risk of human rights violations at the Escobal mine and that acts of violence had resulted from the company’s presence in the region. Tahoe is also excluded from the Dutch pension fund Pensionenfonds (PGB). In 2016, this fund cited “human rights abuses in Guatemala” as cause for the exclusion. The fifth edition of Dirty Profits by the German organization Facing Finance listed Tahoe Resources as one of fourteen companies considered a dangerous investment. The article highlights the lack of respect for communities, violence and militarization. 

NISGUA has provided accompaniment and advocacy support to the communities impacted by Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine since 2011. 

For the original article, click here.

Canadian mining convention ignores harsh reality of deadly industry

by , ,  | NOW Magazine | March 1, 2017

Canadian mining kills, but at the planet’s largest mining conference in Toronto this weekend, the industry will spin fantastical tales for investors that ignore the suffering of the communities bearing the brunt of its “successes.”

It’s been called the Superbowl or the Oscars of the resource extraction industry. And between workshops, cultural performances, the annual awards ceremonies, prime ministerial visits and the trade show – 2016’s convention even had a shoe-shining station! – it seems like an exciting place to be.

The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) convention, the largest mining and mineral industry conference and trade show in the world, happens every year in Toronto. This year’s 85th annual event takes place March 5 to 8 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, with some 25,000 people from more than 125 countries attending.

Promoters say the convention injects about $60 million annually into the Toronto economy. Tourism Toronto is a “Gold Plus” sponsor, alongside CIBC. “Platinum” sponsors Barrick Gold and Goldcorp, two of the industry’s biggest players, also happen to share a bad reputation for human rights violations and environmental damage abroad.

But the largely fantastical world of the PDAC convention exists far away from the reality of the communities bearing the brunt of these mining “successes.”

For the full article, click here.