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

Tahoe Resources’ Administrative Manager detained on charges of industrial contamination

BTS-NISGUA-MiningWatchLogo

 

 

 

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.