European Report Features Tahoe Resources as a ‘Harmful Investment’, Reveals Billion Dollar Funds Have Divested

Logos

February 9, 2017

(Ottawa/Reno/Guatemala) Tahoe Resources is one of fourteen companies featured as a dangerous investment in the fifth edition of ‘Dirty Profits’ launched today in Hamburg, Germany and edited by the organization Facing Finance.

The publication identifies two billion-dollar European pension funds that have divested from the company, the Netherlands’ Pensioenfonds (PGB) and Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management. The group calls for binding regulations on financial institutions and for the elimination of this and other harmful investments from their portfolios.

Problems cited include Tahoe Resources’ lack of respect for communities that have peacefully and democratically expressed their opposition to its Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala, and a campaign of persecution through unfounded legal cases, violent incidents and militarization.

“The Guatemalan state together with the company criminalize us for defending our territory, especially those who defend the environment and human rights. But the state is corrupt, it sells out for money and criminalizes people, accusing them of serious crimes, so they remain silent. But, we are hard-working farmers and instead of being silenced, we continue our struggle even more earnestly than before because this is for our children,” Oswaldo Anavisca Morales, member of the Mataquescuintla Civil Society Group in the department of Jalapa.

The article about Tahoe Resources further describes how the company was granted a permit to put the mine into operation with disregard for over 200 individual complaints submitted against the license on the basis of environmental concerns. The officials responsible for this decision resigned in mid-2015 over serious allegations of corruption.

“What really hurts is how the [state] defends these companies, like the Ministry of Energy and Mines. […] I don’t know why large investors and authorities don’t open their eyes to see how [the company] doesn’t respect us as Guatemalans, or as human beings,” Julio Osorio, Coordinator of the Diocese Council for the Defense of Nature (CODIDENA) for the municipality of Nueva Santa Rosa in the department of Santa Rosa.

Loss of water supplies, contamination, as well as social divisions and conflicts are just some of the impacts that concern another member of CODIDENA. “We call on investors to put their hands on their hearts, to become aware, and to not invest their money in projects which cause death. We want life giving projects that generate work for our women and men, and especially for our youth,” remarked Paty Gregorio De Arriaga from the municipality of Nueva Santa Rosa.

Tahoe Resources and the state have imposed the Escobal project, and other concessions in the region, despite 18 municipal and village level referenda, organized by CODIDENA and other local groups, in which more than 55,000 people in seven municipalities voted against mining, since 2011.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal recently acknowledged the power imbalance that works to favour corporations in Guatemala in a precedent-setting decision over a suit brought for violence at the Escobal mine.

The January 2017 decision stated: “there is some measurable risk that the appellants will encounter difficulty in receiving a fair trial against a powerful international company whose mining interests in Guatemala align with the political interests of the Guatemalan state. This factor points away from Guatemala as the more appropriate forum.”

The Canadian Pension Plan which held $49 million of shares in Tahoe Resources in 2014, no longer lists any share holdings in the company. The U.S. investment management firm, TIAA-CREF, on the other hand, recently increased its holdings in Tahoe Resources, now worth more than US$12 million dollars.

Find the Facing Finance “Dirty Profits 5” publication online here.
Find the PDF press release here.

Contacts:

International organizations celebrate precedent-setting step toward justice in civil suit against Tahoe Resources in Canada for violence in Guatemala

January 27, 2017

(Guatemala/ Montreal/Ottawa/Reno/Tatamagouche/Toronto/Washington, DC) Canadian and US civil society organizations wholeheartedly welcome a British Columbia Court of Appeals’ decision that Vancouver is the preferred forum for a civil suit to be heard against Tahoe Resources concerning violence against peaceful opposition to its silver mine in Guatemala.

Announced yesterday, the decision opens the door for seven Guatemalan men, shot and injured in 2013 while peacefully protesting the Canadian company’s Escobal silver project, to proceed toward trial in their suit for negligence and battery. Tahoe Resources is registered in B.C. with offices in Reno. At the time of the violent attack, Tahoe Resources’ only project was the Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala, which began commercial production in early 2014.

“This mining project has been a disaster from the get-go and it is high time that the company be held to account,” remarked Ellen Moore for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN). “Since well before the mine went into operation, there has been broad community opposition to which the company developed a militarized security strategy to suppress dissent. A state of fear was instilled in the communities that Tahoe capitalized on in order to push the project forward.”

“Nearly one hundred community members and supporters have been forced to endure unfounded charges and even months of jail time, only to then be absolved. The shooting by Tahoe Resources’ private security against the peaceful protest in April 2013 demonstrated that the company would stop at nothing to ensure this project went ahead. Some real justice is urgently needed in this case,” added Becky Kaump for the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).

Just weeks before the shooting, the Minister of Energy and Mines approved the exploitation license for the project without consideration for over 200 individual complaints filed by local residents over concerns that the mine would negatively affect their health and living environment. The minister, who resigned in 2015, is implicated in a corruption scandal in Guatemala and is currently at large in the United States. Meanwhile, evidence of cracked homes, water shortages and serious environmental contamination around the mine have been documented.

“Impunity is the norm in Guatemala. We applaud this decision that recognizes Canada as the appropriate place to address these abuses,” added Kelsey Alford-Jones of the Center for International Environmental Law.

“We have spent years accompanying mining-affected communities in Guatemala and are pleased with the court’s serious consideration of the precarious situation that is the country’s judicial system, especially in cases where powerful economic and political interests are at play,” stated Lisa Rankin for the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. “Based on what we have observed, we concur with the appeals court that if this case is not heard in Canada, there may be no chance for justice for the victims.”

This marks the first time a Canadian court of appeals has admitted a case concerning the overseas operations of a Canadian mining corporation on the basis that Canada is the best place for the case to be heard, based on a legal concept known as forum non conveniens’. The case against Tahoe Resources joins several others moving through Canadian courts, including three against HudBay Minerals for its negligence in violence in eastern Guatemala and another against Nevsun, also for negligence regarding the use of slave labour in Eritrea.

“This decision is groundbreaking. It is vital that Canadian courts become open for justice given the prevalence of violent conflict and harm in connection with Canadian mining operations in Guatemala, Latin America and around the world,” said Jackie McVicar for United for Mining Justice.

“The Guatemalan plaintiffs should be congratulated for their courage to press for justice against a company that has been relentless against the peaceful opposition to the Escobal project. We want to express our continuing support for this long-term, uphill battle, and our pleasure that it is moving forward,” noted Caren Weisbart for the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.

“Good news like this is very much needed when repression and targeted violence against communities fighting for their land and wellbeing has become the norm. This reinforces our commitment to keep fighting for respect for community self-determination and greater legal protections for those affected by Canada’s globalized mining industry,” concluded Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

See the statement from the lawyers and plaintiffs on the case here.

Contacts:

  • Lisa Rankin (Guatemala) – Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, +011 (502) 4906-5626, btscoordinator(at)com
  • Jen Moore (Ottawa) – MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439, jen(at)ca
  • Caren Weisbart (Toronto) – Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, weisbart(at)gmail.com
  • Becky Kaump (Guatemala) – NISGUA, +011 (502) 5575-2058, becky(at)org
  • Ellen Moore (Reno) – PLAN Nevada, 775-348-7557, emoore(at)org
  • Jackie McVicar (Montreal) – United for Mining Justice, 902-324-2584, unitedforminingjustice(at)com
  • Kelsey Alford-Jones (Washington, DC) – Center for International Environmental Law,202-742-5854, kalford(at)org

 

Murder of Young Assistant from Guatemalan Environmental Organization is Evidence of Escalating Risk to Human Rights Defenders

November 16, 2016

(Ottawa/Toronto/Vancouver/Reno/Washington/Guatemala) North American organizations are dismayed and deeply troubled by the execution-style murder of 22 year-old Jeremy Abraham Barrios Lima, assistant to the director of the Guatemalan Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS), on Saturday in Guatemala City.

A group of Canadian and US legal, environmental and social justice organizations, and solidarity networks publicly express their condolences for the victim’s mother and two young sisters. In addition, they are profoundly worried about the safety and continued work of CALAS and the mining-affected communities that this organization collaborates with. There is no denying the significance of this brutal murder amidst escalating violence against land and environment defenders, journalists and citizens involved in important environmental and social justice struggles in the country and the region.

Jeremy Barrios was cruelly assassinated by unknown assailants with two bullets to the head while doing errands in zone 4 of Guatemala City. He was responsible for managing sensitive information at CALAS and had not received any prior threat or warning of this attack. None of his personal belongings were stolen. His murder is understood as a direct message to CALAS’ director and other personnel. The precise motive for his murder is not yet known.

“This attack on our colleagues’ organization comes as a terrible shock and a disturbing continuation of threats and brutality against human rights and environmental defenders throughout Guatemala. CALAS’s legal director Rafael Maldonado was with us in Vancouver only two weeks ago supporting Guatemalan victims of mining-related violence. We urge a full investigation into the material and intellectual authors of this murder, as well as protection for CALAS and its personnel,” remarked Matt Eisenbrandt, Legal Director for the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ).

“We are extraordinarily worried about the safety and work of organizations like CALAS and mining-affected communities around the country. In our recent study, Guatemala is where we found the highest amount of physical violence in connection with Canadian-owned mining projects,” stated Leah Gardner for the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The Justice and Corporate Accountability Project’s report, The ‘Canada Brand’: Violence and Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America, was released on October 24, 2016 and looked at incidents of violence and criminalization in connection with twenty-eight Canadian companies in thirteen countries in Latin America from 2000 to 2015. It found that at least 44 people have been killed during this time, 30 of which were targeted killings, while more than 400 people were injured, not including work-related injuries. They also found that over 700 people were legally persecuted during this period, including arrests and detentions, for their work in defense of their territories, livelihoods, health and environment.

“The situation for land and environment defenders in Guatemala and Latin America is progressively getting more and more dangerous. It is absolutely urgent that the Canadian government respond to the demands that 180 Latin American organizations – including CALAS – sent in a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau over six months ago to take measures to prevent systemic harms and ensure that affected peoples and communities have access to justice for the many harms taking place,” responded Lisa Rankin for the Breaking the Silence Maritimes-Guatemala Solidarity Network.

Among other things, the letter to Prime Minister Trudeau calls for measures to ensure respect for the decisions of numerous communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who have said no to large-scale mining because of its severe and damaging impacts on the environment and social wellbeing. The letter also called for measures to ensure effective access to Canadian courts. In Guatemala alone, an estimated 1 million people have voted against mining on their lands and in their territories given the negative impacts that have been felt around Canadian held projects, such as Goldcorp’s Marlin mine and Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine.

“In response to this deadly and devastating attack, and profound apprehension regarding ongoing militarization and threats against land and environment defenders in Guatemala, we want to reiterate our commitment to build ever greater solidarity from organizations in the U.S. and Canada to support Guatemalan partners in their essential work for healthy communities and a healthy environment,” emphasized Ellen Moore from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN).

Amnesty International Canada, Breaking the Silence Maritimes-Guatemala Solidarity Network, the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC), the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), MiningWatch Canada, the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG),the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and United for Mining Justice have released this as a joint statement.

Contacts:

  • Matt Eisenbrandt, Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), (604) 569-1778, meisenbrandt(at)ccij.ca
  • Leah Gardner, Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), (514) 267-8542 lgardner(at)justice-project.org
  • Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, btscoordinator(at)gmail.com
  • Ellen Moore, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), (775) 348-7557, emoore(at)planevada.org

Guatemalans to appeal case against Tahoe Resources in BC court; Reminder that Canada must be open for justice

Vancouver/Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal/Guatemala

Monday, October 31, 2016

On November 1st, the BC Court of Appeals will revisit a procedural motion in the case of seven Guatemalans who have brought forward a civil suit for battery and negligence against Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources. The suit dates back to the company’s role in a violent attack in April 2013 when Tahoe’s private security opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the controversial Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala. Video footage shows that the seven victims were shot at close range while attempting to flee the site.

In June 2014, the men filed a lawsuit in Canada against the company but in November 2015, a BC Supreme Court judge refused jurisdiction and said it should be heard in Guatemala.

“The November 2015 decision ignored the fact that Guatemala has one of the highest rates of impunity in the world,” said Jackie McVicar from United for Mining Justice. “The possibility to bring Tahoe’s then chief of security, much less the company itself, to justice in Guatemala for its role in the armed attack is slim, especially considering how State officials have worked to ensure impunity in this case.”

The lead suspect in the criminal case in Guatemala, former head of security for Tahoe, escaped police custody and fled the country just weeks after the BC Supreme Court decision was released in November 2015. Five police officers have been accused of enabling his escape.

“What we are seeing is not a matter of a ‘few bad apple’ companies as the Canadian government has tried to suggest,” said Jen Moore from MiningWatch Canada. “Rather, communities are facing intensifying repression when they defend themselves and their well being from harms by mining operations throughout the region, while companies enjoy favourable laws and strong backing from Canadian authorities.”

Thousands of area residents have peacefully voiced opposition to Tahoe’s project in Guatemala despite the threat of violence for doing so. A recent report from the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project charts hundreds of murders, injuries, arbitrary arrests and detentions throughout Latin America in the past 15 years associated with Canadian mining projects and the failure of the Canadian government to act to redress or stop the violence being perpetrated.

The suit against Tahoe Resources is one of several cases that have been brought to Canada in hopes of finding justice for communities negatively impacted by Canadian mining operations overseas. In 2010, another group of Guatemalans filed a series of lawsuits in Ontario against Hudbay Minerals for negligence in incidents of murder, rape, and shooting causing serious injury near its Fenix nickel mine. In 2014, Eritrean victims filed a civil case in BC against Nevsun over the use of forced labour, crimes against humanity and other abuses at the Bisha mine. Earlier in October, a BC Court ruled that the Nevsun case can proceed in Canada and dozens of victims have stepped forward.

“Our governments must clarify that Canada is an appropriate forum for such cases. People who have been harmed by Canadian companies still face major barriers when trying to hold companies accountable and get their day in court in Canada,” said Ian Thomson of KAIROS.

The plaintiffs in these suits face considerable risks and must endure a lengthy legal process when cases proceed. In the case of Hudbay, key plaintiff Angélica Choc recently faced a violent attack on her home in Guatemala believed to be related to her steadfast commitment to seek justice for her husband’s murder.

“In solidarity with the Guatemalans who are bravely bringing this suit to Canada against Tahoe Resources, the Vancouver Mining Justice Alliance is convening a gathering outside the courthouse on November 1st. We will demonstrate our indignation over the repression and violence they have faced, and the urgency with which Canadian courts and authorities must address all that is taking place,” said Steve Stewart, a member of the Alliance.

For more information and background about this lawsuit and the broader community struggle, please visit www.tahoeontrial.net.

Contacts:

  • Vancouver – To request an interview, please contact Steve Stewart, Mining Justice Alliance at (778) 874-0539 cjgreenbeans@gmail.com
  • Toronto –  Rachel Small, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, (647-769-2472 mininginjustice@gmail.com
  • Ottawa –  Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada (613) 569-3439 jen@miningwatch.ca
  • Ottawa – Ian Thomson, KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives (613) 235-9956 x 222  ithomson@kairoscanada.org
  • Montreal – Jeanne Ricard, Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (514) 496-3131 paqg@paqg.org
  • Montreal – Jackie McVicar, United for Mining Justice  (902) 324-2584 unitedforminingjustice@gmail.com
  • Guatemala – Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the SIlence Network +011 502 4906 5626 btscoordinator@gmail.com

US Securities and Exchange Commission asked to investigate mining company’s failure to disclose secret lawsuits

News Release

August 11, 2016

(GUATEMALA CITY/OAKLAND/TORONTO) – The US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is being asked to investigate a Canadian mining company with offices in Reno, Nevada and operations in Guatemala. The Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP), based in Canada, will submit a thirty-five-page report on behalf of the US-based Network in Solidarity with Guatemala (NISGUA) and the Guatemala-based Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature.

The report asks the SEC to determine whether Tahoe Resources Inc. has failed to meet legal requirements for disclosing human rights abuses and failed to disclose lawsuits that impact the Escobal mine. Tahoe claims strong community support for its Guatemala mine, but the JCAP report says that Tahoe’s annual report shows that opposition is so severe that it cannot connect its mine to the main power grid.  The SEC will determine whether Tahoe provided misleading information to investors.

“Human rights violations have been persistently committed against communities surrounding the Escobal mine, a project implemented without community consent,” says Becky Kaump from NISGUA’s office in Guatemala. “In calls for international advocacy we have denounced the direct violence, threats and criminalization carried out against community members.”

Tahoe denies responsibility for the threats and deaths surrounding its Guatemala mine, but seven farmers who were shot by Tahoe’s private security guards in April 2013 are suing Tahoe in British Columbia. The head of security for Tahoe, Alberto Rotondo, was charged, but escaped while awaiting trial in Guatemala. He was recaptured in January 2016 in his native Peru.

Shin Imai, professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, discovered the lawsuits brought by Tahoe to the Constitutional Court of Guatemala. “I was surprised to find that behind the scenes, Tahoe and mining supporters were bringing lawsuits to try to stop communities from holding referenda on mining. Even more surprising was the secret lawsuit against the President of Guatemala and a half a dozen other government agencies asking for protection from protesters who were impeding the project.” The JCAP report says that Tahoe has not disclosed any of these lawsuits, and this failure may contravene US law.

In January 2015, Norway’s $850 billion Government Pension Fund divested from Tahoe after conducting an investigation, concluding that Tahoe has and will likely continue to pose “an unacceptable risk of…contributing to serious human rights violations.”

For a backgrounder on Tahoe Resources and the basis for the SEC complaint, click here.

Copies of a summary of the report and the full report are linked here: Cover letter and SEC Disclosure.

For additional information or to arrange an interview

Shin Imai, lawyer (English or Spanish) Justice and Corporate Accountability Project simai@justice-project.org + 905-989-1327

Becky Kaump (English or Spanish) Network in Solidarity with Guatemala becky@nisgua.org  +502 5575 2058

Moisés Divas Santos, Director (Spanish only) Consejo Diocesano en Defensa de la Naturaleza xanpiya@gmail.com    +502 5158 3503

Press release: ‘Wanted’ posters featuring photos of Tahoe Resources’ executives and managers posted in Toronto, Nevada, and Vancouver

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Toronto, Canada: Over four hundred ‘wanted’ posters affixed to walls, posts, and newspaper boxes greeted Tahoe Resources shareholders on their way into the mining company’s 2016 shareholder meeting this morning. The posters highlight charges against various Tahoe employees, ranging from ordering the shooting of residents to industrial contamination, as well as human rights and environmental abuses alleged by communities surrounding Tahoe’s flagship mine in Guatemala. Identical posters were also plastered across downtown Vancouver and Reno, the locations of Tahoe Resources’ Canadian and American headquarters.

Above: Hundreds of posters covered the streets surrounding the  Toronto Four Seasons where Tahoe Resources’ AGM was held this morning.

“We wanted to make sure that the executives and shareholders entering Tahoe Resources’ annual general meeting were forced to confront their company’s crimes and the violence that communities around Tahoe’s Guatemalan mine have been subjected to in the name of their corporate profits,” says Rachel Small, a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), a Toronto based group.

On April 27th, 2013, Tahoe Resources’ private security opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the Escobal silver mine, in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores in southeastern Guatemala.The seven victims, allegedly shot at close range while attempting to flee, filed a lawsuit in June 2014 in Canadian courts against Tahoe for its role in the violence. The company requested that the court decline jurisdiction, arguing that paying for translators and the international shipment of evidence would be too costly and ‘inconvenient’. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow agreed and stayed the lawsuit in November 2015, encouraging the plaintiffs to instead file in Guatemala, despite well-documented evidence of corruption, and widespread impunity for violent offenses in Guatemalan courts. This judgment is currently being appealed.

Above: Posters plastered throughout Vancouver’s financial district

Alberto Rotondo, former military officer from Peru and security manager for Tahoe at the time of the shooting, escaped police custody by fleeing house arrest in late 2015 while awaiting trial in Guatemala for allegedly ordering security to open fire on protesters and then covering up the evidence. After approximately one month as an international fugitive from justice, Rotondo was detained in January by INTERPOL in Peru and is currently awaiting extradition back to Guatemala.

These lawsuits in Guatemala and Canada are only a small part of the bigger controversy surrounding Tahoe Resources’ Guatemalan mine. Since Tahoe Resources arrived in the region, Guatemalan community leaders opposing the mine have faced repression, criminalization and violence. Despite the conflict — or perhaps because of it — Tahoe rushed to put the mine into operation before establishing reliable mineral reserves, reaching commercial production in January 2014. Through 14 community-led consultations in six jurisdictions, over 50,000 people have voted against Tahoe’s mine and its expansion in the area.

Below: Posters mounted in Reno, Nevada, near Tahoe’s US headquarters.

The ‘wanted’ posters describe human rights and environmental abuses linked to this company including murder, criminalization of land defenders, and industrial water contamination. In addition to Kevin McArthur, Tahoe’s founder and CEO, and Alberto Rotondo, the posters feature Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón, facing trial for water contamination endangering the lives of residents near the Escobal mine; the unknown assailants who killed 16 year old youth leader Topacio Reynoso and severely injured her father; and Tahoe employees and associates for targeted criminalization and stigmatization of community leaders opposing the Escobal mine. Out of 90 baseless accusations filed against mining impacted community members between 2011-2015, only one case ever went to trial.

“While the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network dreams of a world where jails are not the main way we promote accountability and justice,” says MISN member Kate Klein, “Tahoe Resources and other Canadian mining companies are operating in a context where corporate impunity reigns. Their lawlessness is especially galling when compared with the intense criminalization and repression human rights and environmental leaders face. This cannot continue.”

____________________________________________________________

The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) is a Toronto-based volunteer group that works closely with communities impacted by Canadian extractive industries globally in order to support their self-determination, educate the Canadian public, and bring companies to justice.

Media contact: Rachel Small, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, 647-769-2472,mininginjustice@gmail.com.

High resolution versions of the wanted posters:
Wanted – Kevin McArthur, Tahoe CEO
Wanted – Alberto Rotondo, Head of Security
Wanted – Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón, mine manager
Wanted – Attackers of Topacio and Alex Reynoso
Wanted – Tahoe, criminalization

High-resolution photos available upon request.

For more information:
www.mininginjustice.org
www.tahoeontrial.net
#tahoeontrial
A timeline of Tahoe’s Escobal mine: http://bit.ly/1I2l3XZ

Tahoe Resources’ Former Security Manager Turns Fugitive

(Guatemala City/Ottawa/Tatamagouche) On Monday, plaintiffs in the criminal case against Tahoe Resources’ former security manager, Alberto Rotondo, were informed that he had escaped police custody. Rotondo is accused of having ordered private security guards to attack peaceful protestors outside the Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala on April 27, 2013, wounding seven men.

“This demonstrates that the Guatemalan justice system, especially the National Civil Police, still suffers from high levels of corruption and influence peddling. The police failed to implement the judge’s order to ensure constant police supervision of Rotondo, now turned fugitive,” remarked Rafael Maldonado, Director of the Center for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (CALAS).

“The Public Prosecutor, however, acted professionally, immediately calling for the international capture of Tahoe Resources’ ex-security manager.”

Rotondo, an ex-military officer from Peru, was arrested on April 30, 2013 at Guatemala’s international airport while attempting to flee the country, but was granted house arrest. He was indicted on charges of causing serious and minor bodily harm to four of the seven men injured in the attack, as well as for obstruction of justice; crimes that could lead to up to 28 years in prison. The trial is set to begin January 20, 2016.

During the last two and a half years, the Public Prosecutor has twice appealed the decision to grant Rotondo house arrest, finally winning the appeal in October 2015. The decision was in process late last week when the judge requested to see Rotondo and found him missing. This was reported to CALAS on Monday.

“Rotondo’s escape puts justice further out of reach for these seven men, coming as it does on the heels of the British Columbia Supreme Court’s decision to decline jurisdiction over a civil lawsuit that these same men filed against Tahoe Resources for its role in the April 2013 violence,” comments Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow ruled that the case against Tahoe Resources should be heard in Guatemala, saying it would be inconvenient to hear the case in Canada.

“Justice Gerow ignored the fact that Tahoe Resources’ management has failed to show up to court in Guatemala when summoned for another legal case, just one indication of the tremendous power imbalances these men are up against in trying to sue a transnational corporation,” states Jackie McVicar for the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network.

Since receiving its exploration license in 2011 without the consent of the local community, Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine has been mired in conflict, and subsequent judicial proceedings. Over 50,000 people have voted against the mine’s operations and its expansion in the area. In response to peaceful protest, the company and the Guatemalan government have used repression, criminalization, and militarization to try to silence peaceful resistance to mining activities in the area, including the violent attack in April 2013, for which Rotondo is accused.

Contacts:

  • Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, jen(at)miningwatch.ca, (613) 569-3439
  • Jackie McVicar, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, btsguatemala(at)gmail.com (902) 324-2584
  • Megan Whelan, Network in Solidarity with the Peoples of Guatemala (NISGUA), (510) 763-1403, megan(at)nisgua.org

Upcoming ‘Under Siege’ Speaking Tour: Peaceful Resistance to Canadian Mining and Militarization in Guatemala

(Ottawa/Toronto/Montreal) Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources and the Guatemalan government have used repression, criminalization and militarization to try to silence resistance to the company’s Escobal mine project, according to a forthcoming report from Guatemalan investigative journalist Luis Solano.

Solano will be in Canada from November 9 to 13, to present his findings about the militarization of communities in the area of the Escobal mine project, located in southeastern Guatemala. Events will be taking place in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

For five years, communities affected by Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine have been peacefully defending their lands and livelihoods. Multiple plebiscites have been organized in which more than 55,000 people in seven municipalities have voted against the silver mine and proposed expansion plans. Despite their clear message, the company and the Guatemalan government, with tacit support from the Canadian Embassy, have continued to impose the project.

“The company has employed US and Latin American security contractors to design a militarized security strategy oriented to keep down local opposition to its mine,” remarks Luis Solano.

“The Guatemalan government has collaborated closely with the company to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that defines people who are peacefully defending their agricultural ways of life as a threat to national security and a target for military control and surveillance.”

The result has been persistent violence and conflict, including one incident for which Tahoe Resources is now being sued in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Norway’s Council on Ethics cited the risk of further human rights violations earlier this year when it recommended against investment in Tahoe Resources.

Luis Solano is author of the book ‘Oil, Mining and Power in Guatemala’, as well as an economist and political analyst. He works as an investigative journalist writing for diverse media outlets and organizations, such as Inforpress Centroamericana, El Observador and Plaza Pública.

MiningWatch Canada and the International Platform against Impunity commissioned his forthcoming report on the militarization of communities around Tahoe Resources’ Escobal project. He will travel to Geneva to present the report following his visit to Canada.

Solano’s findings are illustrative of a broader trend of the intensifying criminalization of mining-affected communities and their allies in connection with Canadian interests in Guatemala and the Americas, as documented by MiningWatch Canada, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) and Voices-Voix.

“Increasingly, mining-affected communities and organizations that support them are being treated as if they are national security threats when they stand up for their land, water and ways of life,” remarks Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. “Meanwhile, with laws and government supports stacked in their favour, Canadian mining companies operating around the world continue to cause great harm and get away with it.”

Between November 9 and 13, Luis Solano will travel to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal for public events and meetings. He will be available to speak with media.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen@miningwatch.ca

Public Events:
OTTAWA
Tuesday, Nov 10, 2015
7pm – 9:30pm
University of Ottawa
Vanier Hall (VNR), Room 5070
With guest Aniseto López, Miguelense Defence Front (FREDEMI), Guatemala
On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/847622812016887/

TORONTO
Wednesday, Nov 11, 2015
6:30pm – 9pm
Friends Quaker House
60 Lowther Ave (near St.George subway station)
With guests Mónica Gutierrez & Francisco Ramírez Cuellar, Colombia
On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1005815862772030/

MONTREAL
Thursday, Nov 12, 2015
6:00pm – 8:30pm
McGill University
Otto Maass Building, Room 112
With Pearl Eliadis, human rights lawyer, and guests
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/992424590798873/

Tour Supporters: Amnesty International Canada, Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability, Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL), Education In Action, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, L’Entraide Missionaire, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America (MICLA), Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, MiningWatch Canada, Projet Accompagnement Québec Guatemala (PAQG), the Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund, Coalition québécoise sur les impacts socio-envionnementaux des transationales en Amérique latine (QUISETAL), Territorio Libre, and Voices-Voix.

Shooting attack in Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, against opponents of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) – Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS) – MiningWatch Canada – Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) – Projet Accompagnement Québec Guatemala (PAQG)

(Guatemala/Ottawa/Washington/Tatamagouche) Forty-eight international organizations are calling for an investigation into the second armed attack in as many years against a well-known activist who is part of the peaceful resistance to Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala.

On Saturday, October 17, Alex Reynoso – a human rights and environmental activist – was shot by unknown assailants while traveling with five others in Mataquescuintla, Jalapa, Guatemala. Two other men, Marlon Loy Dominguez and Estuardo Bran Clavel, were also injured in the attack.

Reynoso was first shot and injured in April 2014 in an assault that killed his 16-year old daughter, Topacio, a well-known youth activist. Both Alex and Topacio were active in the peaceful resistance against US-Canadian company Tahoe Resources, which announced commercial production at its controversial silver mine in 2014. Alex is currently in stable condition, recuperating from a gunshot wound in his lower back.

There has been constant opposition to the Tahoe Resources project since it was proposed in this largely agricultural area. Before the mine went into operation, tens of thousands of people in the area had voted in community and municipal plebiscites against any mining. In Mataquescuintla alone, in 2012, over 23,000 people participated in a local plebiscite, and 98.3% voted against mining. Reynoso played a key role in organizing the vote. During Guatemala’s elections in September 2015, local mayors, including the two-term mayor from Mataquescuintla, and councilors won running on anti-mining platforms.

“The attack wasn’t only against me, but also the local community development councils. We were at a meeting with the mayor to hear about the latest steps in the consultation process over mining and to thank the community for their work during the elections. On our way back home, the gunmen opened fire,” said Reynoso from the hospital.

Despite widespread public opposition to the project, however, Tahoe Resources maintains that it has had “great success” in educating local residents about the benefits of the project.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that people who oppose the Escobal mine have been attacked,” said Ellen Moore, Programs Coordinator with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA). “There is a clear and documented pattern of violence and persecution of environment defenders and community leaders who oppose Tahoe’s mine project. Also consistent is the impunity that surrounds those crimes.”

In 2013, private security guards shot seven men who were part of a peaceful protest outside the mine site. The former head of security for the company was charged in connection with the shooting after wire-tap evidence indicated that he targeted peaceful protesters, then tried to cover up the crime and flee the country. In June 2014, the seven men filed a civil suit against Tahoe Resources in the British Columbia Supreme Court for negligence and battery in connection with the violence.

Alex Reynoso blames impunity for last Saturday’s attack: “There was already an attack in which Topacio was killed, and there was no investigation. That’s why they keep attacking.”

The letter sent from international organizations to Guatemala’s Attorney General calls for a full and impartial investigation, and for protection for Reynoso and others whose lives are at risk for defending their land, water and peace in their communities. The international organizations also called on Canadian and US Embassies in Guatemala to be attentive to the situation as it develops. They concluded by expressing their solidarity with the affected communities.

Despite repeat requests, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board has refused to divest from Tahoe Resources. The CPPIB holds a $26 million investment in the company. In January 2015, Norway’s Council on Ethics recommended against investment in Tahoe Resources due to “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to serious human rights violations through its operation.”

Click here to add your name to the call for a full and impartial investigation.

Contacts:

  • Amanda Kistler, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), 202-742-5832, akistler(at)ciel.org
  • Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, btscoordinator(at)gmail.com
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca
  • Megan Whelan, Network in Solidarity with the Peoples of Guatemala (NISGUA), (510)763-1403, megan(at)nisgua.org
  • Laurence Guénette, Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala, (514) 495-3131, paqg(at)paqg.org

Attachment:
Click here to read the full letter in English.
Click here to read the full letter in Spanish.

Tahoe Resources’ Administrative Manager detained on charges of industrial contamination

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April 15, 2015

(Guatemala City/Ottawa) Monday, a Guatemalan judge denied bail to the Administrative Manager and Legal Representative, Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón, of Tahoe Resources’ subsidiary, Minera San Rafael S.A., and ordered him to pre-trial detention on charges of industrial contamination. The Guatemala’s Public Prosecutors’ Office for Crimes Against the Environment launched an investigation in 2012 into the company’s contamination of water sources near its Escobal silver mine. The trial date is set for June 12.

Tuesday, Tahoe Resources issued a press release downplaying the decision and Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón’s role in the company, referring to him as an “employee”, not the “mine manager”. Nonetheless, a February 2013 Constitutional Court decision refers to Mr. Morales Monzón as the Administrative Manager and Legal Representative for Minera San Rafael. The company also said it will appeal Monday’s decision.

“This is remarkable. Tahoe Resources now has two managers from the Escobal mine in pre-trial detention, beginning two years ago with the company’s former security manager who was detained on charges of assault and obstruction of justice. It will be even more remarkable if these cases continue to proceed,” stated Ellen Moore for the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.

The criminal case, which carries a sentence of up to eight years in prison if convicted, is the result of a complaint that the Center for Social Legal Action in Guatemala (CALAS) filed for contamination of the Escobal Creek and the El Dorado River, located near the community of Los Planes, just steps from Tahoe’s project. The alleged contamination occurred while the project was still in the exploration phase.

The Guatemalan Ministry of Health confirmed that a discharge of water from the mine installations was contaminated with suspended solids. Around this same time, local residents were reporting that contamination was affecting water used for crop irrigation. Since then, community members have been denouncing increasing scarcity of water in the area immediately surrounding the project, similarly believed to be a result of Tahoe’s mine. This latter concern is not part of the legal process.

“With several legal processes underway against the company and its affiliates, along with ongoing community resistance to the mine and its expansion plans, it should be ever more clear to investors that this company is a dangerous investment,” commented Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

The extent of local concern over negative environmental and social impacts, present and future, of the mine on water supplies and community wellbeing has generated widespread community opposition to the project. As of March 2013, tens of thousands had voted against the project in local plebiscites and residents had filed more than 250 specific complaints against the granting of Tahoe’s final permitting license. The Ministry of Mines and Energy dismissed the complaints without consideration immediately before granting the company a license in April 2013. A lawsuit is pending in Guatemala’s Constitutional Court for lack of due process in this regard, which has raised questions about the legality of Tahoe’s exploitation license.

Protests that emerged in the wake of the Ministry’s hasty decision to grant Tahoe’s final permit faced police repression and an armed attack by company security guards on April 27, 2013 that left seven men injured. This latter event is the subject of a criminal case in Guatemalan courts against Alberto Rotondo, former security manager for Tahoe Resources, accused of having ordered and then attempted to cover up the attack. The seven men have also brought a civil suit against Tahoe Resources in British Columbia for negligence and battery in connection with the shooting.

In January 2015, the Norwegian Ethical Fund recommended against investing in Tahoe Resources, citing “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to serious human rights violations through its operation” at the Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala.

Contacts:

  • Ellen Moore, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), ellen(at)nisgua.org, (510) 868-0612
  • Jackie McVicar, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, jackiebtsguatemala(at)gmail.com, (502) 4824-0637
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at)miningwatch.ca, (613) 569-3439

For more information about this situation, follow tahoeontrial.net.