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

April 9, 2018

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

Let it be known that:

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

Given the above, we call for:

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

WE ARE A PEOPLE OF PEACE THAT DEFENDS OUR TERRITORY

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

GUATEMALA DE LA ASUNCIÓN, APRIL 2018

XincaAltepetWiriki’

Voice of the Xinca Guatemalan Nation

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

For full press release, click here.

Guatemalan Constitutional Court Keeps Tahoe Resources Operations Suspended, Orders Presentation of Further Documentation

March 9, 2018

(Ottawa/Washington D.C.) On Wednesday, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court published a resolution and held a press conference calling for more evidence to be presented as part of the legal process that has temporarily suspended two of Tahoe Resources’ mine licences since July.

Three Guatemalan government ministries and researchers at two Guatemalan universities have been given between 48 hours and 15 working days to present the information requested. This includes research centres at the San Carlos University and the Universidad del Valle, as well as the Ministry of Culture and Sport, that were ordered to each complete an anthropological study regarding the presence of Indigenous people in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores.

In reaction to the announcement, Kelvin Jiménez attorney for the Xinka Parliament, an intervenor in the suit said, “It is not up to the Constitutional Court to decide if we, the Xinka people, exist or not. This is not a disputed fact. According to jurisprudence set by the Inter-American Court, no court has the right to place in doubt the self-identification of a people. According to the same jurisprudence, as Indigenous people, we have the right to free, prior and informed consent over large projects – like the Escobal mine – that impact our lives and territory.”

“We believe the Court already has sufficient information to make a decision, specifically a survey that the Catholic Diocese that serves the region of Santa Rosa undertook to better know and serve the needs of their congregation. This survey was done independent of this lawsuit and confirmed that six thousand Xinka people live in San Rafael Las Flores, not to mention the thousands of Xinka in nearby municipalities that are also affected by the mine,” Jiménez continued.

“Nonetheless, we trust that the Constitutional Court will continue to carry out its work with transparency and in accordance with the law, and hope that the additional information will confirm what we already know to be true. We exist and we have the right to free, prior and informed consent.”

To date, there have been eight municipal level consultation processes held in the affected area of the Escobal project, in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, in which tens of thousands of people, including Xinka, have voted against any mining activity there. Two municipalities have refused to receive any royalties from the mining company since operations began in 2013, with three others following suit since 2015.

In addition to anthropological studies, the Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of the Environment to immediately report on the approval processes for Tahoe Resources’ mine licenses and environmental permissions.

Notably, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) approved the exploitation license for Tahoe’s Escobal mine on April 3, 2013, immediately after dismissing without consideration more than 200 individual complaints submitted by local residents based on environmental and health concerns, including one from Kelvin Jiménez. Jiménez appealed his complaint’s dismissal, and in July 2013, a Guatemalan Appeals Court found that the Ministry of Energy and Mines did not follow due process. The court ordered MEM to hold an administrative hearing to address the substance of Jiménez’s complaint. Lawyers for affected communities argued at the time that the appeals court decision put Tahoe’s licence in limbo.

That same month, MEM appealed the decision to the Constitutional Court, which upheld the lower court decision and again ordered MEM to carry out an administrative hearing. In June 2016, MEM began the hearing process before suspending it indefinitely. To date, the complaint remains unresolved, as does the larger issue of community right to due process concerning these complaints under the terms of the 1997 Mining Law.

Shareholders have recently raised concern about uncertainty over company permits and lack of social license in class action lawsuits filed against the company after its shares fell more than 30% in July when its mine licences were first suspended by the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice.

Contacts:

  • Ellen Moore, Earthworks, emoore@earthworksaction.org, 608-207-8690
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen@miningwatch.ca, 613-569-3439

Further Detail: 

In its resolution, the Constitutional Court has called for:

  • Specific institutes at the San Carlos University and the Universidad del Valle, as well as the Ministry of Culture and Sport, to each complete an anthropological study regarding the presence of Indigenous people in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores within 15 days.
  • Specific institutes at these same two universities to submit an opinion to the court concerning Tahoe Resources’ Environmental Impact Assessments and studies carried out by the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and the Ministry of Environment (MARN) related to the Escobal project, all with regard to mitigation measures to avoid water contamination and related issues within 15 working days.
  • The Ministry of Environment to present its monitoring reports related to preventing water contamination at the Escobal mine within 5 working days.
  • The Ministry of Energy and Mines to report within 48 hours about how it approved exploration and exploitation licences for the Juan Bosco and Escobal concessions respectively.
  • The Office of Sustainable Development within the Ministry of Energy and Mines to report all actions taken in relation to the Juan Bosco exploration and Escobal exploitation concessions.
  • The Ministry of Environment to send the Environmental Evaluation Instrument it approved for the Juan Bosco licence and a copy of the resolution approving the Instrument.

For full press release, click here.

Xinca Parlament Denounces Provocations by Tahoe Resources and Minera San Rafael

February 16, 2018

The following information was published by the Xinca Parliament regarding the misreporting by local news sources, which are alleging the “detention” of two Tahoe Resources/Minera San Rafael executives in a community in Santa Rosa. The original publication can be found in its entirety at the bottom of the page. The translation by NISGUA is as follows:

(Santa Rosa/Jalapa/Jutiapa) URGENT URGENT! We reject this clear attempt by Minera San Rafael [subsidiary of Tahoe Resources] to provoke communities, acting against the legal resolution [suspending mining operations], they continue to work and challenge communities. That situation motivated residents to ask the two people from Minera San Rafael [and Tahoe Resources] to sign an agreement that they promise to stop entering into their territories. There have been no attempts to harm them in any moment, as has been misreported to the public.

We reject the biased declarations made by the Chamber of Industry and by José Valdizan of Emisoras Unidas, Prensa Libre and other media outlets which are attempts to blame and pressure the Constitutional Court.

We call on the National Civil Police and the Ombudsman for Human Rights to enact the correct protocol to resolve this conflict and call for both parties’ human rights to be respected.


Original publication in Spanish:

URGENTE URGENTE! Rechazamos la clara provocación de Minera San Rafael a las Comunidades, pues aún contra una resolución judicial, siguen trabajando y retando a las Comunidades, situación que provocó que la población esta pida 2 personeros de Minera San Rafael firmen un acta de compromiso para no seguir entrando a sus territorios, en ningún momento se ha intentado agredirles, cómo se ha mal informado a la población.

Rechazamos las declaraciones tendenciosas del representante de la Cámara de Industria y José Valdizan en Emisoras Unidas, Prensa Libre y otros medios de comunicación, pues tratan de culpar y presionar a la Corte de Constitucionalidad.

Hacemos un llamado a la PDH y PNC para que se usen los protocolos adecuados para resolver este conflicto y que se respeten los DDHH de ambas partes.

 

For full press release, click here.

Canadian Lawyers Rally to Support Guatemalan Colleague Fighting World’s Second Largest Silver Mine

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Guatemalan lawyer under attack after representing Indigenous people opposed to controversial Canadian miner Tahoe Resources.

Toronto, January 3, 2018 – Canadian lawyers and international organizations are pressuring the Canadian and Guatemalan governments to ensure the safety of Guatemalan lawyer Rafael Maldonado. The Canadian Bar Association wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressing concern for Mr. Maldonado’s safety on December 20, 2017. Earlier in the fall, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a group located at Osgoode Hall Law School wrote to the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala. Letters were also sent to the President of Guatemala by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of England and Wales.

Mr. Maldonado has actively defended community members concerned about the impacts of Canadian silver miner Tahoe Resources. He has received death threats, his office has been ransacked and shots were fired at his car earlier this year. The director and founder of the environmental organization where he works, the Guatemala Centre for Social and Environmental Legal Action (CALAS), survived an assassination attempt in 2008, and an employee was murdered in 2016. No one has been charged for any of these crimes.

In June, 2017, Mr. Maldonado successfully argued that the silver mine should be suspended because the Guatemalan government had ignored the existence of Xinca Indigenous people in the area affected by Tahoe’s Escobal project. Within two days, Tahoe stocks plummeted 40%. Supporters of the Tahoe mine took out advertisements attacking Mr. Maldonado’s organization, CALAS.

“Advertisements like this are very dangerous in a country like Guatemala, which has one of the worst records in the world for the murder of human rights defenders,” said Lisa Rankin who has supported communities around the mine for the last five years. International organizations such as Frontline Defenders, from Ireland and Amnesty International have also profiled Mr. Maldonado as a human rights defender in need of protection.

“Canada needs to be seen to be protecting the right to carry out legal representation without being intimidated or murdered” said Shin Imai, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and counsel to the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project.

 

Contact:

Shin Imai, Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, simai@justice-project.org, +1 416 524 2312

Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, btscoordinator@gmail.com, +11 502 4906 5626

For full press release, 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

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

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

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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