Guatemala court clarifies consultation area, denies action on export permit

Mining Weekly

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VANCOUVER ( – The TSX-listed stock of beleaguered minerTahoe Resources fell as much as 13.5% on Wednesday, after the Guatemalan Supreme Court issued a ruling clarifying the specific geographical areas that need to be included in a fresh round of indigenous consultations; the court also denied action to force the Energy and Mines Ministry (MEM) to renew the company’s mineral export permit.

The Vancouver-based miner noted that the court directed the MEM to undertake a new consultation process, under the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169, with the Xinca communities in four municipalities in the region of the flagship Escobal mine, including Casillas, Nueva Santa Rosa, Mataquescuintla and San Rafael Las Flores.

The Supreme Court also declined to review Tahoe’s request to order the MEM to issue the annual renewal of Escobal's export credential. The company said it was evaluating its legal and administrative options.

The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on all appeals of the Supreme Court's decision on the definitive amparo by the end of the year.

Tahoe said it continues to focus on reaching a peaceful and expeditious conclusion to the roadblock at Casillas, about 16 km away from the Escobal mine, in San Rafael Las Flores. The company said it was making progress with engaging stakeholders at the Casillas roadblock.

However, anti-mining activists are working hard to delegitimise Tahoe’s presence in Guatemala, spreading reams of misinformation among the local communities and claiming that the Escobal mine – the world’s third largest silver producer – was rammed through the permitting process by State authorities, despite vigorous local opposition.

According to nongovernmental organisation MiningWatch Canada, residents from six municipalities in the area of Tahoe’s silver mine had initiated a check-point in the municipality of Casillas to prevent mine-related traffic from reaching the project since June 7. It argues that, contrary to Tahoe’s assertions that the blockade is illegal, the community-led demonstration is taking place roadside, on private property.

“Since 2011, tens of thousands of residents in eight municipalities around the Escobal mine have voted in municipal plebiscites demonstrating their opposition to the project, or any mining in the area, out of concern for their water supplies, health and local agriculture. Five municipalities refuse to receive any royalty payments from Tahoe’s mine operations and are now parties to the legal proceedings over discrimination of the Xinka indigenous population and the MEM’s failure to consult with them,” noted a statement issued by MiningWatch.

On July 5, the Supreme Court of Justice temporarily suspended work at the Escobal mine, owing to discrimination and the lack of prior consultation of indigenous Xinka communities, whose ancestral territory is affected by the project. The country’s Constitutional Court confirmed the suspension in late August, before overturning it earlier this month. However, the ongoing roadblock prevents Tahoe from restarting the mine, which it said would take about a week.

“Discrimination and lack of respect for the self-determination of indigenous peoples is one of the problems at the centre of the indigenous movement’s struggle in Guatemala, there was no way that we could stand by while a mining company, in collusion with the Guatemalan state, has been denying the existence of an indigenous people. This is an important case with national repercussions,” commented Western Mayan Peoples Council representative Francisco Rocael Mateo.

The company’s TSX-listed stock lost as much as C$0.95 a share on Wednesday morning, to an intraday low of C$6.10 apiece.