Guatemala: Communities demand cancellation of Las Lajitas licencePublished by MAC on 2017-02-12
Source: Nisgua, Mining Watch Canada (2017-02-23)
Tahoe Resources named a "dangerous investment" by German organization
Residents from the municipalities of Casillas and San Rafael las Flores have filled a courtroom to hear arguments in a civil suit against the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) that seeks the cancellation of a mining concession in their communities.
The communities have filed a complaint against the Ministry for having granted the concession despite the results of the 2011 municipal referenda in Casillas, in which 98.6% of voters rejected metal mining in their municipality.
See also: 2015-12-30 Canadian Mining Companies Leave Behind Decades of Violence in Guatemala
More attempts made to suspend Las Lajitas license
February 10, 2017
On January 24, residents from the municipalities of Casillas and San Rafael las Flores filled the courtroom to hear arguments in a civil suit against the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) that seeks the cancellation of a mining concession in their communities. Casillas resident Bernabé Rivas appealed to the court, expressing concern and frustration that community opposition to mining has been ignored.
The communities have filed a complaint against the Ministry for having granted the concession despite the results of the 2011 municipal referenda in Casillas in which 98.6% of voters rejected metal mining in their municipality. They have filed an additional complaint for the violation of their human right to water and a healthy environment.
The exploration license known as Las Lajitas was granted by MEM in 2015 and is located approximately five miles southwest of Tahoe Resources’ controversial Escobal mine. In his remarks, Rivas told the judges that their municipality has seen firsthand the impacts the Escobal mine has had in polluting and drying out community water supplies. He explained that their farming communities rely on coffee, corn, and bean cultivation and the negative impacts to water as a result of the mining project would seriously impact their way of life.
This complaint forms part of a broader regional strategy that seeks to stop Las Lajitas in its early phases. Similar complaints against MEM have been filed by the municipality of Casillas, represented by the Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS), for having violated the municipality’s right to consultation. While that complaint was initially blocked by a lower court from proceeding, the Constitutional Court overturned the decision and, on December 21, 2016, ordered the temporary suspension of the license. It remains unclear if MEM has acted on the orders of the court and temporarily suspended the license.
Juan Rodríguez Cano, the President of the Guardians of Nature of Casillas, made the following statement outside the court on January 24:
“It is deplorable that this is happening in Guatemala, even after we are seeing the problems in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores as a result of the Escobal mine. We have seen water shortages. The houses in the community of La Cuchilla are now uninhabitable. We see the polluted rivers and the conflict in communities [that has arisen as a result of mining projects]. We see that the Public Prosecutor’s office is more aligned with corporate interests than the people.
We hope that the municipality of Casillas will be free to uphold the results of the referendum in which the municipality said ‘no’ to mining activities and to the pollution of our water and earth.”
The judges did not announce a date in which they would issue a decision.
Like in many cases in Guatemala and around the world, communities were not informed nor gave their consent before the license was granted. While the Las Lajitas concession was awarded to an individual – Esperanza Elizabeth Castro Picón – communities have discovered that it may, in fact, be tied to Canadian mining company Gunpoint Exploration. No record of the Escorpión license can be found at MEM; information on the company’s website shows that it is located in the same area as Las Lajitas license and was granted on the same day, leading communities to believe if may be the same license.
Residents from Casillas and San Rafael las Flores wrote to the President of Gunpoint Exploration last July to demand more answers and ask why his company had chosen to go forward with a project despite the firm decision by communities in the area against mining. To date, there has been no response. Read the full letter sent to Randy Reifel, CEO of Gunpoint Exploration.
European Report Features Tahoe Resources as a ‘Harmful Investment’, Reveals Billion Dollar Funds Have Divested
February 9, 2017
The publication identifies two billion-dollar European pension funds that have divested from the company, the Netherlands’ Pensioenfonds (PGB) and Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management. The group calls for binding regulations on financial institutions and for the elimination of this and other harmful investments from their portfolios.
Problems cited include Tahoe Resources’ lack of respect for communities that have peacefully and democratically expressed their opposition to its Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala, and a campaign of persecution through unfounded legal cases, violent incidents and militarization.
“The Guatemalan state together with the company criminalize us for defending our territory, especially those who defend the environment and human rights. But the state is corrupt, it sells out for money and criminalizes people, accusing them of serious crimes, so they remain silent. But, we are hard-working farmers and instead of being silenced, we continue our struggle even more earnestly than before because this is for our children,” Oswaldo Anavisca Morales, member of the Mataquescuintla Civil Society Group in the department of Jalapa.
The article about Tahoe Resources further describes how the company was granted a permit to put the mine into operation with disregard for over 200 individual complaints submitted against the license on the basis of environmental concerns. The officials responsible for this decision resigned in mid-2015 over serious allegations of corruption.
“What really hurts is how the [state] defends these companies, like the Ministry of Energy and Mines. […] I don’t know why large investors and authorities don’t open their eyes to see how [the company] doesn’t respect us as Guatemalans, or as human beings,” Julio Osorio, Coordinator of the Diocese Council for the Defense of Nature (CODIDENA) for the municipality of Nueva Santa Rosa in the department of Santa Rosa.
Loss of water supplies, contamination, as well as social divisions and conflicts are just some of the impacts that concern another member of CODIDENA. “We call on investors to put their hands on their hearts, to become aware, and to not invest their money in projects which cause death. We want life giving projects that generate work for our women and men, and especially for our youth,” remarked Paty Gregorio De Arriaga from the municipality of Nueva Santa Rosa.
Tahoe Resources and the state have imposed the Escobal project, and other concessions in the region, despite 18 municipal and village level referenda, organized by CODIDENA and other local groups, in which more than 55,000 people in seven municipalities voted against mining, since 2011.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal recently acknowledged the power imbalance that works to favour corporations in Guatemala in a precedent-setting decision over a suit brought for violence at the Escobal mine.
The January 2017 decision stated: “there is some measurable risk that the appellants will encounter difficulty in receiving a fair trial against a powerful international company whose mining interests in Guatemala align with the political interests of the Guatemalan state. This factor points away from Guatemala as the more appropriate forum.”
The Canadian Pension Plan which held $49 million of shares in Tahoe Resources in 2014, no longer lists any share holdings in the company. The U.S. investment management firm, TIAA-CREF, on the other hand, recently increased its holdings in Tahoe Resources, now worth more than US$12 million dollars.
Find the Facing Finance “Dirty Profits 5” publication online here.
- Moisés Divas, (Guatemala), Comisión Diocesana de Defensa de la Naturaleza (CODIDENA), (502) 4212-4089, xanpiya(arroba)gmai
- Lisa Rankin (Guatemala) - Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, +011 (502) 4906-5626, btscoordinator(at)g
- Jen Moore (Ottawa) - MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439, jen(at)miningwat
- Ellen Moore (Reno) - PLAN Nevada, 775-348-7557, emoore(at)planev
- Marie-Dominik Langlois (Montréal), Projet Accompagnement Québec-
Guatemala (PAQG), 438-238-9489, mariedominik(at) hotmail.com