(Ottawa/Toronto/Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia) Today, B.C. mining billionaire Ross Beaty will speak at the Association for Mineral Exploration (AME-BC) RoundUp Conference as an “internationally-recognized leader” on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) best practices. But his high-profile presence at the conference is raising eyebrows in light of recent attacks against opponents of Beaty’s Escobal project in Guatemala.
Beaty is the chairman and founder of Vancouver-based Pan American Silver (PAAS). The company is a signatory to the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining, and boasts that its core values include positive long-term relationships with affected communities and responsible environmental management.
Beaty’s participation in the conference comes only days after Julio González Arango, a member of the Peaceful Resistance against Pan American Silver’s Escobal mine in Guatemala, was shot and seriously wounded at his home by armed assailants. The following day, two other members of the peaceful resistance also received messages threatening their lives.
“The latest attacks against members of the peaceful resistance to the Escobal mine follow a pattern where mine opponents have been criminalized, threatened, and even killed for speaking out,” says Kirsten Francescone, MiningWatch Canada. “As chairman of Pan American Silver, Ross Beaty played a role in acquiring the Escobal mine in spite of this legacy of violence. That violence continues today.”
Operations at the Escobal mine have been suspended since 2017, when Guatemalan courts ruled that the Indigenous rights of affected Xinka communities were violated when they were not consulted prior to the start of operations. Later, the Constitutional Court ordered that the Xinka be consulted in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 before operations at the mine could resume. The consultation is still pending.
Today, in response to the shooting of Mr. González Arango, 195 international organizations wrote an open letter to Guatemalan authorities, Canadian government officials, and executives of Pan American Silver to condemn this ongoing violence. They demand that Pan American Silver “uphold the order of the Constitutional Court by halting its community relations work, an undeniable part of mine operations that results in increased tensions in the region and contributes to the insecurity of its residents.”
“Just because there’s no silver currently coming out of the ground at the Escobal mine doesn’t mean Pan American Silver’s presence isn’t felt in the region. Organizations like the Xinka Parliament have repeatedly denounced the company for continuing activities that violate the Constitutional Court order,” says Lisa Rankin of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network.“We are concerned that Pan American Silver’s actions are stoking tensions in the region and are violating the rights of Xinka communities to freely participate in the consultation process.”
This letter is the latest in a series of actions and reports to draw attention to acts of discrimination and legal irregularities already noted in the consultation process. In 2020, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs passed a resolution recognizing the increased threats and tensions facing the Xinka people and urging Pan American Silver to only engage in a consultation process that fully respects the rights of the Xinka.
“Pan American Silver, led by Ross Beaty, continues to trample on the rights of Indigenous communities who have already said no to mining,” says Valerie Croft of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network. “As the Canadian mining industry increasingly emphasizes voluntary ESG factors as a way to deal with serious human rights and environmental abuses, AME RoundUp conference participants should know who they are turning to as an expert in the field.”