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Background: Tahoe Resources, Goldcorp and Mining Conflict in Guatemala

Jen Moore Jennifer Moore worked as MiningWatch's first full-time Latin America Program Coordinator from 2010 to 2018.

Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver project in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores, southeastern Guatemala, is the subject of local opposition and ongoing legal processes against the validity of the exploitation licence. Community leaders have faced repression, criminalization and violence for their efforts to promote community consultation processes. Despite the conflict – or perhaps because of it – Tahoe has rushed to put the mine into operation even before establishing reliable mineral reserves. It reportedly brought its underground mine into operation in January 2014.

Tahoe lacks a social licence for the mine.

  • To date, fourteen referenda have been held in which tens of thousands of people in the six municipalities closest to the project have voted against the Escobal mine given their concerns over actual and potential environmental and social impacts.

The Escobal project has led to violence and criminalization.

  • The company’s former security manager, an ex-military officer from Peru, Alberto Rotondo, is currently under arrest awaiting trial for allegedly ordering security guards to fire at protesters outside the mine on April 27, 2013. Seven victims of this attack are now bringing a civil lawsuit in British Columbia against Tahoe Resources for negligence and battery in connection with this incident.
  • The Guatemalan government imposed a military state of emergency for a month after the shooting on April 27, 2013 in municipalities where people overwhelmingly voted against mining.
  • In June 2012, Tahoe sued the Guatemalan government, demanding that it do more to protect the mine. A Guatemalan court dismissed the lawsuit in February 2013, mere months before the military siege was imposed.
  • Since September 2012, some 90 people have been slapped with unfounded criminal charges and have had to endure legal processes causing them distress and hardship. Several spent months in jail before being cleared of all charges.

Guatemalan regulators failed to address residents’ complaints prior to granting Tahoe’s exploitation licence, putting the licence in doubt.

  • The Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines dismissed some 250 formal community complaints without a proper hearing shortly before granting Tahoe's exploitation licence on April 3, 2013.
  • In July 2013, the plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of a complaint and won, putting the validity of the licence in doubt. A final decision from Guatemala's Constitutional Court is expected soon.

Tahoe  given its close relationship to Goldcorp knows better than to proceed without community consent and when its project has already given rise to violence and repression.

  • Goldcorp holds 40% of Tahoe's shares.
  • Six of eight of Tahoe’s directors are current or former Goldcorp executives, including Tahoe founder and CEO, Kevin McArthur, who was CEO of Glamis Gold and Goldcorp until 2008.
  • Goldcorp’s Marlin mine in Guatemala was also put into operation in the midst of widespread opposition and repression. As a result, it has been the subject of repeat international human rights declarations calling for suspension of the mine and raising concern over impacts on community health, the environment and right to self-determination of neighbouring Maya Indigenous communities.
  • The Inter American Commission on Human Rights recently admitted a case against Indigenous and human rights violations at the Marlin mine.

Tahoe Resources Inc. is a silver exploration and development company that lists on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, with offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Reno, Nevada, USA. Escobal is its only project.