“Water and life are worth more than silver or gold. You are intelligent, don’t let them fool you.” Community organized billboard campaign in Santa Rosa and Jalapa. Photo NISGUA

In February 2013, the community of San Juan Bosco, located just 8 miles from Tahoe Resources’ massive Escobal silver mine, held a referendum in which 99% of people voted against mining. Local residents were not just concerned about impacts of the Escobal mine on their water and crops, but about another Tahoe exploration license, Juan Bosco, which is located, as the name suggests, right on top of the small farming community. Now, nine months after Tahoe announced a start to operations at Escobal, the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Juan Bosco license has been published for public comment, indicating an important step forward in the granting of the exploitation permit.

In an ongoing attempt to make their voices heard, communities of Santa Rosa and Jalapa announced last Monday the launch of a campaign to halt Tahoe’s expansion. The company’s plans to exploit at least 12 mineral veins in an area covering 2,398 square kilometers are moving swiftly ahead despite community opposition and more than a dozen referenda in which more than 53,000 people in six municipalities voted against mining in their territory. See the full press release from communities below.

Residents of Mataquescuintla map Tahoe mining licenses compared to the location of communities, local water sources and forests. Photo NISGUA

Tahoe’s decision to move forward with the Juan Bosco license was met with concern and frustration by local residents. At a press conference in Guatemala City on September 1, one resident commented, “In San Juan Bosco we feel indignant because we already had our referenda. We are a community that depends on agriculture and this mine threatens our water. That is why we continue to oppose these projects.”

Likewise, representatives from 10 communities, including three Xinca indigenous communities impacted by Tahoe’s expansion plans in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, expressed concern that neither Tahoe, nor the Guatemalan government respect their right to consultation and self-determination. They also denounced local mayors who are accepting mining royalties against the will of the people.

A representative from the municipality of Santa Rosa de Lima, where in 2012, more than 98% of the population voted against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine explained: “Our mayor, and others in the region, accepted the royalties – but the money is only serving to line their own pockets… We demand that the government and the company respect our referendum. We may be farmers but we still deserve rights. The constitution applies to everyone.” A representative from San Juan Bosco, in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores where the mine is located agreed: “We haven’t seen development. All we have seen are increased conflicts.”

Community representatives also addressed Tahoe Resources’ statements contending that the company has social support for the project and that it consulted with local communities, stating “The company says that they consulted with us and that is a lie. What the company does is gather signatures by deceiving people and take advantage of their poverty. The company offers trees or fertilizer and so people give their signatures and ID number. That’s not a real consultation.”

A leader from the Xinca community of Jumaytepeque questioned the discourse of the government and the multinational companies stating, “When they come and tell us that mining brings development, I have to ask, ‘then why are we in the same situation, or worse off, than we were 10 years ago?’ Every day more and more people are living in poverty. And people living near the mines are faced with health problems they never had before.”


Press Release: Communities of Santa Rosa and Jalapa Organized in Defense of Territory and Nature 

Since 2012, we have held citizen requested municipal referendums, in which more than 53,000 residents have manifested, through the legitimate exercise of our rights as citizens, that WE DO NOT AGREE with chemical mineral mining in any part of our territory. According to the Constitutional Court, these consultations have been declared constitutionally legal and binding at the municipal level.

Despite the clear rejection of chemical mining of metals in our territory, and with the complicity of the

[Guatemalan] government, the company, Minera San Rafael, continues actions focused on entering our municipalities through underhanded measures, knowing full well  that the only thing they achieve is the generation of increased conflict, while disturbing the peace and community tranquillity. Clear proof of this is the granting of the exploration licenses named Juan Bosco and Andres during the first quarter of 2012. These licenses affect municipalities located in [the departments of] Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Guatemala. Now, despite the evident opposition of our communities and in a demonstration of disrespect for the clear wishes of the people, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources has published the Environmental Impact Assessment (2014-EIA-4413) for the  Juan Bosco Mine Exploitation License (LEXR-089-08), for public comment.

According to a presentation and information presented to investors in June in Vancouver, Canada, Tahoe Resources Inc. (owner of the Minera San Rafael, S.A.) plans to exploit at least 12 mineral veins in our territory,  including gold, silver, zinc, etc. [According to Tahoe Resources] an area of 2,498 km2 will be exploited through various licenses, some that have already been obtained, others that are still in process. However, [the company] is selling this project to investors as though it already owns the land, arguing that the current government is pro-mining and that in Guatemala they pay an extremely low tax rate, making it a profitable business opportunity.

Faced with this grave situation, we have expressed our opposition to the chemical metal mining in our territories through municipal and good-faith community referendums. Today we are launching a campaign that seeks to make clear to the pro-mining and sell-out Guatemalan government, as well as the mining companies and their investors, that our land is not for sale. We have a development model that respects the environment and Mother Earth. For us, water and life are worth more, much more, than silver or gold.

Therefore, on more than 100 km of highway in our municipalities we have placed signs so that those who enter our territories know that more than 98% of residents do not want the chemical mineral mining and that we are in constant peaceful resistance to these projects.

Guatemala, August 2014

NISGUA has accompanied communities in opposition to the Tahoe Resources Escobal mine since 2011.