Today, shareholders of Tahoe Resources and Pan American Silver will meet and vote on a new business opportunity – Pan American Silver’s acquisition of Tahoe Resources to become, in their eyes, one of the largest publicly traded silver companies in the world. The vast silver reserves at Tahoe’s flagship Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemalan may seem impressive, but do shareholders with Pan American Silver really know what they are buying?
With this acquisition today, Pan American Silver inherits a legacy of conflict, violence and well-documented human rights abuses associated with Tahoe’s operations at Escobal.
In 2013, several unarmed protesters on a public road outside the mine were shot at by Tahoe’s private security. One of the people injured, who was 17 at the time, was shot multiple times in the face. This serious assault is currently the grounds of a civil lawsuit against Tahoe Resources in British Columbia courts – one of the first times in history that a Canadian company is facing civil litigation in Canada for violence at its overseas operations.
In 2014, 16-year-old Topacio Reynoso Pacheco, an environmental activist and youth leader in the movement against mining, was shot and killed. Her father and fellow environmental defender, Alex Reynoso, was shot and seriously injured. He survived another armed attack in 2015. Just last year, Estuardo Quevedo, another environmental activist in the movement against the Escobal mine was shot and killed.
These are only a handful of examples of the violence communities have faced for their opposition to this project. They have also suffered militarization, constant surveillance and the suspension of civil liberties. Dozens of arrest warrants issued on baseless charges have been lodged against community leaders who oppose the project.
Impacted communities have never stopped resisting using creative and resilient strategies, like dozens of marches and protests, countless legal actions, and over 15 community and municipal-organized referenda where the vast majority of participants have said “NO” to mining. In June 2017, they took direct action and successfully shut down operations at the mine when they erected a permanent resistance encampment up the road from Escobal. A month later, a Guatemalan court suspended the Escobal license – a decision that has since been upheld by the Constitutional Court, which ruled in September 2018 that the rights of the Xinka People had been violated when they were not consulted prior to the start of the Escobal project.
By buying Tahoe, Pan American has also acquired this legacy of disregarding legitimate community concerns and pushing through an unwanted project which resulted in repression, social conflict and suffering.
Questions Pan American Silver shareholders should be asking in advance of the acquisition:
- Why has Pan American Silver ignored the demands of impacted communities to shut down the Escobal mine and instead, invested in Tahoe Resources?
- Why would Pan American Silver want to adopt Tahoe’s legacy of serious and well-documented human rights abuses?
- And why is Pan American Silver so confident it can get the Escobal project back up and running, despite the fact that strong opposition has succeeded in suspending the mine for a year and a half and shows no sign of letting up, regardless of management?