|CALAS and the Xinca Parliament announce the suspension of
Tahoe Resources’ mining license on Wednesday morning. Photo: Prensa Libre
(Ottawa/Guatemala City) On Tuesday, the Civil and Mercantile Division of Guatemala’s First Court of Appeals notified the Centre for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS) that it is upholding an appeal associated with Tahoe Resources’ production license for the Escobal project.
Quelvin Jimenez of the indigenous Xinka Parliament presented the appeal in May with legal support from CALAS, claiming lack of due process regarding a complaint he filed against the company’s license prior to it being granted on April 3, 2013. The Xinca Parliament, the San Rafael Las Flores Committee in Defense of Life and Peace, and the Santa Rosa Diocese Council for the Defence of Nature (CODIDENA) supported the appeal process.
The Appeals Court found in favour of Jimenez and ordered the Ministry of Energy and Mines to adequately attend to his complaint, which was based on concerns over negative impacts on water supplies in the area of Tahoe’s Escobal silver project, currently under construction.
CALAS lawyer Rafael Maldonaldo remarked, “This is a historic sentence for the rights of all Guatemalans. The decision means the suspension of Tahoe Resources’ exploitation licence, preventing the company from putting the mine into production.”
Since November 2011, Jimenez and more than 200 other affected community members presented formal objections to Tahoe’s request for a licence from the Ministry of Energy and Mines. Less than an hour before the Ministry announced that it had granted Tahoe its license, Jimenez and others were notified that their objections would not be heard.
Jimenez regards the decision as a sign of hope for the affected communities where tensions have run high in recent months. During a press conference Wednesday morning he remarked, “The only thing the Escobal mine is currently producing in the area is conflict.”
Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine has been mired in controversy given broad community opposition and incidents of violence, the most recent of which has been linked to company personnel. Then Security Manager of the Escobal mine, Alberto Rotondo, is under house arrest awaiting trial for alleged participation in an April 27 shooting against people protesting outside the mine that left six wounded.
Goldcorp owned the Escobal silver project until 2010 and currently holds 40% of Tahoe Resources’ common shares. Most of Tahoe’s directors have prior or current connections back to the gold producer whose Marlin mine in northwestern Guatemala has been a site of permanent conflict, given lack of respect for community consent and ongoing concerns over impacts on water supplies and the health of indigenous communities.