Vancouver-based company apologizes to injured human rights defenders in Guatemala

Published by Brent Patterson on

On April 27, 2013, private security forces employed by Tahoe Resources began shooting at land defenders opposed to the Escobal silver mine, located about 75 kilometres southeast of Guatemala City.

Misael Martinez told Al Jazeera, “We were peacefully protesting at the site, in front of the entrance to the mine.”

Al Jazeera reports, “Martinez, a farmer from a nearby village, was shot in the back. Six other protesters were also hit. All survived, although one teenager shot in the face required extensive reconstructive surgery.”

This media release notes, “The victims retained Vancouver-based Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM Lawyers) to represent them in a civil suit against Tahoe in Canada.”

Now, Agence France-Presse reports, “A Canadian mining firm has apologized after reaching an agreement with demonstrators shot and wounded while protesting the company’s Guatemalan gold and silver mine, according to statements Tuesday from both sides.”

That article highlights, “In a separate statement, Pan American Silver acknowledged protesters’ human rights had been violated.”

Pan American Silver now owns Tahoe Resources Inc.

According to the website of Vancouver-based Pan American Silver, “On February 22, 2019, Pan American Silver and Tahoe Resources Inc. completed the plan of arrangement whereby Pan American acquired all of the issued and outstanding shares of Tahoe.”

The CFM Lawyers media release (referenced above) notes, “In 2017, the BC Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision and confirmed that the case should be heard in Canada, concluding that there was a real risk that the Guatemalan protestors would not get a fair trial in their own country.”

Joe Fiorante, a partner at CFM Lawyers, says, “The case sets a very important precedent. It confirms that Canadian courts are the appropriate forum for human rights claims arising from the foreign activities of Canadian mining companies.”

At this media conference yesterday, Fiorante also noted, “These cases are Canadian human rights cases as much as Guatemalan cases.”

The Escobal mine went into operation in early 2014, but after continued protests a Constitutional Court ruling stopped production at the mine in 2017 given indigenous communities had not been consulted about its development.

Al Jazeera notes, “The language of the [Constitutional Court ruling in 2017] suggests that the mine may resume operation following the consultation regardless of the outcome. Xinka residents are pushing for a free and fair consultation process, but have no plans to consent to the mine or allow production to resume.”

This Earthworks Action petition highlights, “During [Pan American Silver’s] first shareholder meeting since the purchase [in February], Founder, Director and Chairman of the Board, Ross J. Beaty, said ‘I believe that there’s no sensible reason, social, environmental, or political, that Escobal shouldn’t be generating $400M per year’.”

This statement from NISGUA and allies expresses concern about the recent “escalation of tension, threats and defamation” against the Peaceful Resistance of Mataquescuintla that opposes the reopening of the Escobal mine.

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