A resident of Nueva Santa Rosa holds up her index finger after exercising her right to vote. Delmi Arriaza
Authorities prepare for the vote in the community El Anonillo of the municipality of Nueva Santa Rosa. Francois Guindon
|A resident of Joya del Cañal village votes in the referendum in Santa Rosa de Lima. Francois Guindon|
A week later, on Sunday, July 10th, the neighboring municipality of Santa Rosa de Lima organized the second community referendum in the region. Late that evening, the mayor declared the municipality of Santa Rosa de Lima “Free of Chemical Metal Mining”. Of the 5,338 residents that participated, 98.34% voted “No” and 1.66% voted “Yes” to metal mining projects.
The Escobal Project and Tahoe Resources
Tahoe Resources acquired the Escobal project from Goldcorp in 2010. The founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tahoe Resources, Kevin McArthur, was CEO of Glamis Gold and Goldcorp until 2008.
After acquiring the Escobal project, McArthur expected little opposition from the local population. In September 2010, during a presentation at the Denver Gold Conference, McArthur stressed that “The Escobal project is in a region that is receptive to the mining industry…We are not in the Guatemalan Mayan highlands; we are down in the southeast portion of the country. We will not have the indigenous issues that Marlin and some of the other mines in the country have had.”
With a third referendum underway in another municipality near the Escobal project, the population is demonstrating its opposition to metal mining based on rights defined in Guatemala’s municipal code. Tahoe Resources lawyers have challenged the validity of this type of referendum.
Meet Minera San Rafael S.A., a subsidiary of Tahoe Resources
On July 9th, a day before the referendum, residents of almost every village of Santa Rosa de Lima found thousands of pro-mining materials, including materials promoting Tahoe Resources subsidiary, San Rafael S.A.
|Pamphlet “ABCs of Mining”: A) “Benefits of mining in our lives”, B) “Legal framework of Mining”, C) Collaboration between the Church and the mining sector”.|
|Pamphlet 2: “Nice to meet you, we are Minera San Rafael, S.A…If you have this informative text in your hands, it means you and your family are willing to give the development of Guatemala a chance.”|
Pro-mining propaganda is not new in the region. Transnational companies have spent large sums of money on publicity in mass media. In San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa, the community tabloid Buenos Días has been published since October 2010:
|First issue of Buenos Días|
|Articles in the first issue of Buenos Días: “Mining in the Twenty First Century” and “Advice on How to Preserve the Environment at Home”.|