MAC: Mines and Communities

Guatemala: More Mining Violence and Impunity

Published by MAC on 2013-01-21
Source: Statements, Bloomberg

Guatemala in 2013: More Mining Violence and Impunity

By Grahame Russell

Rights Action

16 January 2013

A new year in Guatemala; same problems of violence, repression and impunity related to mining. The first two weeks of January witnessed outbreaks of violent protests and attacks at three mining operations. Dozens have been wounded; at least 3 people have been killed.

Tahoe Resources (Goldcorp Inc.) in San Rafael las Flores

The most serious outbreak of violence took place in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores (department of Santa Rosa) where Tahoe Resources is hoping to open a gold mine. Goldcorp Inc. is the principal shareholder (40%) in Tahoe that is headed up by Kevin MacArthur, former CEO and President of Goldcorp.

For over two years, local citizens have peacefully protested against this unwanted and illegitimate mining operation. The operation does not have all of its permits, though Tahoe proceeds with work, and the local citizenry have been denied their right to hold a community consultation as to whether they want or do not want this type of "development" in their community. Community leaders have been threatened. Trumped up criminal charges (the 'criminalization of community defenders') have been laid against a number of community leaders.

Now, a bad situation has gotten worse. On January 12, a group of people, not from the San Rafael Flores municipality, cut electricity to the mine site, blocked roads, and then attacked armed security guards hired by Tahoe Resources. Three people were killed (including two Tahoe security guards) in the gunfire and 7 more wounded.

As a tense calm reigns in the region, the head of Guatemala's Department of the Interior, Mauricio López Bonilla, ominously stated that 'the attack might have been organized by the communities.' Local citizens are now even more afraid that the military supported regime of President Otto Perez Molina - himself a former General now accused of being an intellectual and material author of war crimes during Guatemala's worst years of State repression and genocide, 1978-1985 - will use this outbreak of violence as a justification to militarize the mining operation (in name of protecting it) and further repress the citizen opposition.

Goldcorp Inc. In San Miguel Ixtahuacan

Since 2004, Goldcorp Inc. has been operating a harmful and widely opposed mountain-top removal, cyanide-leaching mine in the indigenous Mayan Mam regions of the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan (department of San Marcos). Widely documented are: fundamental lack of initial consultation with and permission from the affected communities; pressured and forced land sales; deforestation; use of explosives and massive mountain-top removal; cracked walls in hundreds of homes; air and water contamination; health harms in humans and animals; repression against local community leaders opposing the harms (including threats, attacks, shootings and deaths); etc.

On January 8, dozens of local citizens were protesting at the gates of the mine concerning a lack of new jobs and a company decision to not pay certain benefits owed to 2012 workers. Goldcorp security guards opened fire on the protesters and at least 7 locals were wounded.

Nickel Mining in El Estor

Since the 1970s, a series of mainly Canadian nickel companies have been trying to operate a nickel mine in indigenous Mayan Qeqchi lands of the municipality of El Estor (department of Izabal). These operations - INCO in the 1970s & 80s; Skye Resources and Hudbay Minerals from 2004-2011 - have been characterized by: violent, illegal evictions of entire communities; repression against community leaders, including assassinations and shootings; gang rapes of women villagers; threats; jailings on trumped up criminal charges; etc.

Though Hudbay sold its subsidiary company CGN (Guatemalan Nickel Company) to the Cyprus based Solway Investment Group in 2011 for an estimated loss of $290,000,000, Hudbay still faces lawsuits in Canada for a murder, a shooting-paralyzing and the gang-rape of 11 women villagers that Hudbay was directly and/or indirectly responsible for.

On January 7, local citizens were protesting over labour issues - some wanted to be re-hired as unskilled labour, some wanted jobs for the first time. They were told there were no jobs available for unskilled labour. On January 8, the angered locals took some CGN employees hostage, later to be released unharmed. One night later, some men set fire to buildings owned by CGN; others looted the buildings. On January 9, unknown men started shooting at the protesters, who were walking along the main road from the mine plant back to the town of El Estor. At least five men received medical treatment for bullet wounds.

Normal State of Affairs

Global mining companies, and a long list of private and public investors, are knowingly doing business in a profoundly undemocratic country wherein the rule of law is weak and corrupted in favour of the wealthy sectors. Violence and repression are not a crisis in Guatemala; they are predictable and logical and this situation will not change any time soon.

The Canada Pension Plan continues to invest heavily in Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources. Do you know where your private and pension funds are invested?

The consistent response of the resource extraction industry, public relations statements aside, is to hire more private security guards, and get more "protection" from the Guatemalan army and police, ... all of which can only result in more violence and repression.

This vicious cycle will not stop, until North Americans, particularly Canadians in this case - from the government and elected politicians, to citizens and investors - hold their companies and investors to account for violence and repression that their mining operations and investments cause and benefit from, directly or indirectly, in many countries around the world.

2 Tahoe workers killed in ambush at Guatemala mine


14 January 2013

Bloomberg - Tahoe Resources Inc., the company developing the Escobal silver mine in Guatemala, said two security guards were killed in an ambush at the mine on Jan. 12.

Other Escobal security workers repelled the attackers, the Reno, Nevada-based company said in a statement today. The assault was one of three against mining entities in Guatemala this week, Tahoe said.

"In the last year, numerous businesses have been subjected to intimidation and violence from criminal elements intent on stopping development," Tahoe said in the statement. "The Company thoroughly rejects the notion that these unprovoked violent acts are justified."

Goldcorp Inc., the world's second-largest gold company, is Tahoe's largest shareholder with a 40 percent stake, according to a Dec. 23, 2010 filing.

Tahoe plans to produce 20 million ounces of silver a year from the mine, which is 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) southeast of Guatemala City, the company said. Tahoe remains on schedule to commission Escobal's mill in the second half of this year and begin commercial production in early 2014.

Tahoe didn't receive the final permit required for exploitation of the Escobal project as expected in 2012, the company said. "The Guatemalan President and the Minister of Energy and Mines have reassured us that the license is forthcoming," Ron Clayton, Tahoe's chief operating officer, said in the statement.

Barrick Gold Corp. is the world's largest gold producer by market value.

--Editors: Jessica Resnick-Ault, Jasmina Kelemen


Tahoe Reports Incident and Updates Escobal Project

Company press release via Marketwire 

14 January 2013

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Tahoe Resources Inc. regrets to report that a security patrol at the Escobal project in Guatemala was ambushed by armed criminals shortly after midnight on January 12, resulting in the deaths of two contract security guards.

The Escobal security team repelled the attackers who left behind numerous automatic weapons and incendiary devices. According toGuatemala news reports a high-ranking government official close to the investigation stated that this was not a local protest but an organized, nighttime incursion by a well-armed group from outside the area. This was one of three attacks against mining entities in Guatemala during the week.

"One of Tahoe's top priorities is the health and safety of its employees, contractors and communities," said Tahoe President and CEO Kevin McArthur. "Our workforce and entire management team are devastated by the deaths and injuries that occurred on January 12. We would like to express our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families," he added.

In the last year, numerous businesses have been subjected to intimidation and violence from criminal elements intent on stopping development. The Company thoroughly rejects the notion that these unprovoked violent acts are justified and urges the Guatemalan government to thoroughly investigate these crimes and protect human rights and property interests in our local communities.

Permitting & Project Update

The final permit required for exploitation of the Escobal project was not received in 2012 as anticipated. "The Company was notified by the Guatemalan government in the first quarter of 2012 that all legal requirements for approval of the exploitation license have been met. The Guatemalan President and the Minister of Energy and Mines have reassured us that the license is forthcoming," said Ron Clayton, Tahoe's Chief Operating Officer. He added that the Company continues to work closely with the government to complete this process and that no delays to the project schedule are expected.

As of December 31, 2012, the Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management (EPCM) was 69% complete and underground development was 70% complete. Mine activities are focused on completion of the 1290 and 1265 level footwall laterals, primary decline development to deeper mine levels, preparation of the initial production stopes, development of ventilation, backfill and other supporting infrastructure, and production miner training.

Activities in the mill are focused on completing installation of structural steel, mechanical equipment, electrical, piping and other services. The Company expects to begin hiring and training process plant employees by the end of the first quarter.

Despite the events in the early morning hours of January 12, construction and development work at Escobal continues. The project remains on schedule for mill commissioning in the second half of 2013 and for commercial production in early 2014.

About Tahoe Resources Inc.

Tahoe's strategy is to develop the Escobal project into a profitable mining operation and to position itself as a leading silver producer with high quality, low cost assets in the Americas. Tahoe is a member of the S&P/TSX Composite and TSX Global Mining indices and the Russell 3000 on the NYSE (NYX). The Company is listed on the TSX as THO and on the NYSE as TAHO.

Tahoe Resources Inc.
Ira M. Gostin
Vice President Investor Relations

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