Guatemalan communities are saying no to Tahoe Resources — It’s time for U.S. investors to say NO too!
TIAA-CREF Board of Trustees
U.S. and Canadian listed mining company Tahoe Resources has one mine operation, the Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala. It is widely opposed by local communities and there has been serious violence and repression in connection with its operations, which are now the subject of pending legal actions
Norway’s Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) recently confirmed many of these concerns in a report that urges the exclusion of Tahoe Resources from the fund’s portfolio. The Council cited “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to serious human rights violations through its operation” in southeastern Guatemala.
Goldcorp, known for ongoing human rights violations at the Marlin mine in Guatemala, holds 40% of Tahoe Resources’ shares.
Tahoe Resources is a dangerous investment. Here’s why:
- Tens of thousands of people have voted against mining in the area around Tahoe’s project, where prominent opponents have been met with deadly violence. In an April 2014 attack seven kilometers from the mine, youth resistance leader, Topacio Reynoso, was shot and killed. Her father was seriously injured. In just one of fourteen local referenda to date – in Topacio Reynoso’s hometown of Mataquesquintla – over half of eligible voters participated and 96% said no to mining.
- The company and former employees are facing lawsuits for their role in violence at the mine site. In 2013, mine private security shot and injured seven men, including two minors. Alberto Rotondo is scheduled to stand trial in Guatemala for his alleged role in violence at the Escobal mine when he was head of security for Tahoe. Also, a civil lawsuit filed in Canada against the company for negligence and battery in connection with April 2013 shooting is proceeding to its first hearing this spring about where the case should be heard.
- Government military tactics are used to repress local dissent. A pilot project aimed at suppressing mining opposition was initiated in San Rafael Las Flores with the support of Tahoe Resources. The “Inter-institutional Group on Mining Affairs,” frames opposition to mining as a national security threat and is overseen by Coronel Ricardo Bustamante, Technical Secretary for the National Security Commission. There has been heightened military presence in the area ever since a state of siege was ordered in May 2013 in three of the municipalities that had voted against the mine.
- Criminalization increased as Tahoe ramped up toward production in early 2014. Since 2012, nearly 90 legal cases have been filed against people opposed to the project. Tahoe CEO Kevin McArthur has now been summoned twice to testify in Guatemalan courts about Tahoe’s criminalization practices.
- Tahoe’s mining concessions – where it hopes to continue expanding its project – pose a threat to Indigenous communities, communities in resistance and protected areas. A new map shows that almost half of Tahoe’s exploration and reconnaissance concessions directly impact or border Indigenous communities. Exploration licenses also directly affect communities that have demonstrated overwhelming opposition to Tahoe’s operations, such as San Juan Bosco and Mataquescuintla.
CALL ON TIAA-CREF TO DIVEST FROM TAHOE RESOURCES!
TIAA-CREF Board of Trustees
From: [Your Name]
To TIAA-CREF Boards of Trustees:
I am writing this letter to call on TIAA-CREF to divest from Tahoe Resources due to broad local opposition to the Escobal mine and its future expansion, as well as militarization and criminalization aimed at suppressing dissent, and numerous pending legal actions against the company, past employees and mine operations.
Norway’s Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) confirmed many of these concerns in its 2014 Annual Report, urging the exclusion of Tahoe Resources from the fund’s portfolio. The Council cited “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to serious human rights violations through its operation” in San Rafael Las Flores, in southeastern Guatemala.
After considerable investigation, including communications with Tahoe Resources and information gathered from diverse sources such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala, the Council determined that the project poses a high level of risk given insufficient consultation processes, considerable resistance to the mine, inadequate measures to avoid human and Indigenous rights abuses and militarization of the area.
The Council did not believe Tahoe’s claims that the apparent calm around the Escobal mine is a sign of support for the mine. The report reads: “…the company's statement that the situation in and around SRLF is now more peaceful than in the months preceding the state of emergency [in May 2013] is probably correct. As the Council understands it, this is due to the militarization occasioned by the conflict.” The Council attributes militarization with the breaking up of organized resistance and a temporary stoppage of local consultation processes.
It is important to note, however, that militarization did not take place solely as a result of the state of siege and ongoing military presence in the area. On March 26, 2013, the Guatemalan government secretly commenced a pilot initiative in San Rafael Las Flores called the “Inter-institutional Group on Mining Affairs” that frames opposition to mining as a national security threat. Coronel Ricardo Bustamante, Technical Secretary for the Guatemalan National Security Commission oversees the group. It has a low profile office on the edge of San Rafael Las Flores that was established with the help of Tahoe Resources. Locally, the office goes under a different name: “The Inter-institutional Office for Comprehensive Development.” Guatemalan organizations and local activists believe the initiative is a military intelligence operation and have denounced it as a “counterinsurgency” tactic that characterizes peaceful and legitimate protestors as an internal enemy.
Additionally, several lawsuits are proceeding against Tahoe Resources and company employees. A criminal case against Alberto Rotondo will move to trial for his alleged role in violence at the Escobal mine when he was head of security for the company. Rotondo is accused of ordering private security guards to open fire on peaceful protesters on April 27, 2013 and then tampering with the evidence. Seven men, including two minors, were seriously injured. On December 17, 2014, a Guatemalan judge ordered Rotondo to stand trial for injuries caused to four of the seven men.
A civil lawsuit filed in Canada against Tahoe Resources for negligence and battery in connection with April 2013 shooting is also proceeding to its first hearing about where the case should be heard. The seven men who were shot at close range by Tahoe security guards are suing the company for negligence and battery. Tahoe is seeking an order to strike, dismiss or stay the case, arguing that the British Columbia court should decline jurisdiction and that Guatemala is the more appropriate forum for the men’s claims.
Furthermore, in early January, 2015, Tahoe CEO Kevin McArthur and Guatemala manager Donald Grey were summoned to testify about the company’s criminalization practices. Since September 2012, some 90 people have been slapped with unfounded criminal charges and have had to endure legal processes causing them distress and hardship. This is the second time that Tahoe CEO Kevin McArthur has been summoned to testify about this pattern of abuse.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to a new map that illustrates the threat that Tahoe’s mining concessions represent to communities in Santa Rosa and Jalapa. It was created based on information from Xinka indigenous leaders, community organizations and government authorities. The map shows that almost half of Tahoe’s exploration and reconnaissance concessions directly impact or border Indigenous communities. Exploration licenses also directly affect communities that have demonstrated overwhelming opposition to Tahoe’s operations, such as San Juan Bosco and Mataquescuintla. Several protected areas also fall within or near a number of mining concessions that Tahoe has been granted or requested.
In conclusion, evidence that Tahoe Resources is contributing to and is likely to continue contributing to serious human rights abuses around the Escobal mine is mounting. Ongoing investment in Tahoe Resources and its Escobal project is ethically unacceptable and represents a real risk to the men, women and children living in the company’s area of influence. Guatemalan communities and Norway’s Council on Ethics have said no to Tahoe Resources. It is time for US shareholders to do the same.
I appreciate your attention to these concerns and look forward to your response.
Norway’s Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) report: http://etikkradet.no/files/2015/01/Council-on-Ethics-2014-Annual-Report.pdf