Blog Entry

Guatemalans Denounce Tahoe Resources’ Plan to “Pick Them Apart”

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

On October 11th, representatives from the departments of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa who have been participating the protest camp against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine since June held a press conference to denounce attempts to discredit and criminalize their movement, specifically recent damage to a helicopter.

Local leaders speaking to Guatemalan press in the municipality of Casillas repudiated the attack on the helicopter and raised concerns about this and other acts of provocation that they suspect Tahoe Resources may be behind and could be using to create conflict and an image of unlawfulness in order to justify their violent eviction.

They further stated that when they proposed a dialogue process in early June that this was never considered.

Recent statements at the Denver Gold Forum on September 25th from Tahoe Resources CEO Ron Clayton fail to build confidence in the company’s approach.

In his comments, Clayton repeated misinformation about the protest, stating that local residents are being manipulated, paid to participate or motivated by issues other than the Escobal mine.

Clayton also stated that, upon Tahoe’s request, the U.S. government “had a big influence on even this last court decision”, referring to U.S. intervention over a Guatemalan Supreme Court ruling in September to temporarily reinstate the company’s operating license. During July and August, the company was heavily lobbying both U.S. and Canadian authorities for support.

Clayton further explained the company’s current approach, stating: “What we are trying to do is pick them apart and get some agreements…”.

Given repeat court decisions in past months denouncing the discrimination and lack of consultation over Tahoe’s mine project, and overwhelming results in local municipal and community plebiscites against the project since before it went into operation, it is deeply troubling that Tahoe would opt for a strategy based on “picking apart” anyone. The mere suggestion infers a process intent on creating division or escalating tension, which is problematic given the company’s track record in dealing with opposition to its project. From 2011-2014 Tahoe employed a militarized security strategy to get the mine operating, during which time seven people were killed, over thirty injured and nearly one hundred legally persecuted for participating in protests or trying to organize local consultation processes.

Tahoe’s refusal to face up to its lack of social licence in the region, and disregard for the impacts from its mining activities that communities have felt – and still fear – on their lives and livelihoods, makes future human rights abuses and violence at the Escobal mine all the more likely.

Public Communiqué

Issued at the protest encampment against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal project

Municipality of Casillas, Guatemala

October 11, 2017

Translated from the original in Spanish

Based on the events that occurred at the peaceful resistance in Casillas, Santa Rosa since June 6, 2017 to today, it is clear that the ultimate goal has been to discredit this resistance. There have been criminal acts attributed to the resistance by the media that have sought to confuse the population and damage the credibility of the protest.

In response to the events that occurred on October 9, 2017 against helicopters that were illegally transporting products to Minera San Rafael’s installations, we wish to communicate the following information to the media, to MSR’s suppliers, to state institutions and the general public:

Let it be known:

  1. We condemn the acts carried out against said helicopter and we request that the Public Prosecutor investigate those responsible, including the possibility that this was an attack carried out by the company against itself in order to frame the peaceful resistance in Casillas, Santa Rosa. We ask that the law be applied equally to those responsible for the attack.
  2. We condemn all acts of provocation that threaten the peaceful resistance and its ability to lawfully and peacefully protest in defence of our territory.
  3. We hold Minera San Rafael responsible for all acts of provocation that seek to destabilize the peaceful and lawful resistance in Casillas against its mining project.
  4. Regarding the environmental mitigation work that the company is supposedly carrying out, we would like to report that we have never seen the court order from the appropriate judge that has been talked about in the media.
  5. Regarding dialogue with the peaceful resistance, at the time that this protest began in June of this year, we proposed that a dialogue process be struck with representatives from all of the municipalities in resistance, with mayors from the region, as well as state entities (Ministry of Energy and Mines, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defence and Director of Civil Aeronautics), as well as mediators and good faith witnesses such as representatives from the Catholic Church, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office, and the Office of the High Commissioner for the United Nations. We further proposed that the meetings be transmitted live to local municipalities so that the population would be informed of advances in the dialogue, as well as be assured that the dialogue included discussion of the definitive closure of the mining company’s operations given all the damage these have caused in their communities. This proposal was never considered.
  6. [We call on] the Guatemalan Government to responsibly analyse the fact that the company does not have the social license to operate in the region and that it is time to consider other types of development for our communities.

For these reasons, we express our concern about the acts of provocation that seek to generate conflict in the region, which would only benefit Minera San Rafael and its interest to justify the use of force by the state against the resistance.

Resistance is a constitutional right: Without social license, there can be no mining.

We are a region that fights for the common good and the environment. We confirm our conviction that we want what is best for our future generations, which must be FREE FROM CHEMICAL MINERAL MINING.

Public Communiqué Issued at the protest encampment against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal project, Municipality of Casillas, Guatemala, October 11, 2017