Tuesday, February 3, 2015

(Ottawa/Guatemala) North American shareholders in Tahoe Resources should follow the Norway’s Council on Ethics’s lead and divest say Canadian and U.S. organizations. They urge Canadian and U.S. investors to make use of a report published last week that recommends the exclusion of Tahoe Resources from the from the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) portfolio due to “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to serious human rights violations through its operation” at the Escobal silver mine 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 Norwegian 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.

“With this report in hand, it should be a no brainer for U.S. and Canadian investors to drop their shares in this company whose operations represent a tremendous risk to the lives and wellbeing of thousands of residents in communities in San Rafael Las Flores and area,” remarks Jen Moore Latin America Program Coordinator at MiningWatch Canada.

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 breaking up organized resistance and a temporary stoppage of local consultation processes.

“Even before the military state of siege was imposed on municipalities, military presence and repressive tactics were ramped up, in part due to a so-called ‘development’ office in San Rafael Las Flores with backing from Tahoe and oversight from a military colonel. It is encouraging that the Norwegian Council on Ethics recognizes that what has been growing in the area is fear, not support for this project,” comments Ellen Moore from the Network for Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).

Before the state of siege, communities in the area held fourteen referenda, in which tens of thousands of people in the six municipalities closest to the project voted against the Escobal mine given their concerns over current and potential environmental and social impacts. A pilot project in San Rafael Las Flores overseen by the National Security Commission and referred to as the “Inter-institutional Group on Mining Affairs” was initiated in March 2013. As well, since the siege, a permanent military presence has been established in the area.

The Council also found that Tahoe failed to take adequate steps to prevent further abuses after private security guards shot at peaceful protesters outside the mine gate on April 27, 2013. Two separate lawsuits against Tahoe’s then head of security and the company in connection with this incident are ongoing in Guatemala and Canada respectively. Overall, the Council finds that Tahoe’s policies and training standards are not enough to guarantee that the company will not continue contributing to human rights violations.

The Canadian Pension Plan most recently reported that as of March 31, 2014 it holds $49 million CAD worth of shares in Tahoe Resources. As of 2013, U.S. based TIAA-CREF, considered to be a socially responsible financial services company specializing in the needs of the non-profit and education sector, held some $5 million USD worth of shares.

Online letters can be sent calling on the CPPIB to divest here and to the TIAA-CREF here. A new map illustrates the relationship between company holdings and affected communities.

Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at)miningwatch.ca, (613) 569-3439
Ellen Moore, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), ellen(at)nisgua.org, (510) 763-1403

See a backgrounder on Tahoe Resources for more information.