Canadian court rules in favor of Guatemalans in appeal against Reno-linked mining company

an Investigative Report by Jose Olivares

On Jan. 26, the British Columbia Court of Appeals, the highest appellate court in that Canadian province, sided with Guatemalan activists, declaring Canada is the proper jurisdiction for their civil case against mining company Tahoe Resources.

This decision reversed a lower court’s decision from 2015, which refused jurisdiction over a civil case against Tahoe Resources. The Guatemalan activists say they were shot by the Tahoe Resources’ private security guards in 2013.

Logo for the Tahoe Resources company. According to Wikipedia: … “Tahoe Resources Inc. is a mining company and intermediate precious metals producer with silver and gold mines in Canada, Guatemala and Peru. It was founded in Vancouver, BC by Kevin McArthur, former CEO of Glamis Gold and Goldcorp. Incorporated in British Columbia, Canada, the company’s U.S. headquarters is located in Reno.”

A Case Concerning Injured Activists

As the Reynolds MediaLab Investigative Unit reported in November, the case is a civil suit against Tahoe Resources by the Guatemalan activists who say they were shot and injured by mining security forces in 2013.

Tahoe Resources owns the Escobal mine in Guatemala through its subsidiary Minera San Rafael. Since the exploration license was granted in 2011, there has been ardent opposition to the mine by locals regarding concerns for contamination.

As we reported in November, a 2013 protest and the subsequent actions are the basis of the civil case against Tahoe Resources.

Adolfo Garcia, a farmer in the small municipality near the mine, along with other activists approached the entrance of the mine in April 2013. According to Garcia and the other activists, mining security shot at the protesters with rubber bullets, injuring seven and driving them away.

A photo capture of a Google image search for Escobal mine.

Surveillance Video

Mine surveillance video shows security forces wearing riot great and firing upon the protesters. The video then shows the security forces gathering the casings from the ground.

Alberto Rotondo, then-head of the Escobal mine security, was wiretapped and recorded giving orders for the shooting. He fled for Peru after being placed under house arrest for ordering the shooting.

As we reported, Garcia and the six other injured activists filed a lawsuit against Tahoe Resources in Vancouver, Canada. The initial judge determined the jurisdiction for the case was in Guatemala. The current decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeals has now reversed the lower court’s decision, and deemed Canada to be the proper jurisdiction.

Garcia, the seven protesters and their legal counsel presented evidence of judicial corruption and impunity in Guatemala. They were uncertain whether the extradition of Rotondo from Peru would even occur.

Screengrab of our previous report on this case.

Questions over Justice in Guatemala

Tahoe’s argument during the appeal process stated the Guatemalan legal proceedings, including the extradition request to Peru, should be left to run their course.

However, the judge’s opinion said there is a “measurable risk that the appellants will encounter difficulty in receiving a fair trial against a powerful international company whose mining interests in Guatemala align with the political interests of the Guatemalan state.”

“Today’s landmark ruling shows that Canadian courts are open to victims of abuses linked to Canadian companies operating abroad,” Matt Eisenbrandt, the legal director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice who is representing the Guatemalan activists, said in a press release.

“Despite lack of regulation by the Canadian government, we hope these recent developments in the courts signal an end to corporate impunity for human rights violations,” Eisenbrandt said.

Screengrab of a Google image search for Escobal mine activists.

No Comment

A Tahoe Resources press release is unclear whether they will attempt to appeal the recent decision or not. They did not respond to multiple requests for comments.

The Tahoe Resources case is not the only time when Canadian mining companies have received criticism concerning their alleged violence in Latin America. A recent report by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project based out of York University documented 15 years-worth of violent activities related to Canadian mines in Latin America.

Investigative Report by Jose Olivares for the Reynolds MediaLab Investigative Unit

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