Key documents

> Additional evidence: wiretap transcripts, security footage from the shooting

> Affidavit by Donald Paul Gray, Country Manager for Tahoe Resources’ subsidiary

> Statement on the resolution by plaintiff lawyers

> Statement on the resolution by solidarity organizations

> Statement on the resolution by Pan American Silver

> Report: Under Siege, details on the militarized security strategy used by the company

Taking a Canadian mining company to court

On July 30th, 2019, lawyers representing four Guatemalan members of the peaceful resistance to the Escobal mine announced the conclusion of a precedent-setting lawsuit against Tahoe Resources, acquired in 2019 by Pan American Silver. 

On April 27, 2013, Tahoe Resources’ private security opened fire on peaceful protestors who were standing outside the company’s flagship Escobal silver mine, in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores in southeastern Guatemala. At least six men and a teenager were seriously injured when they were shot at close range on a public access road while attempting to flee the violence. The lawsuit, filed in the Canadian province of British Columbia where Tahoe was headquartered, alleged that the company was negligent in the use of excessive force and should be held liable for significant harm caused to the plaintiffs. 

The 2019 settlement came shortly after Pan American Silver acquired Tahoe Resources and included a public apology in which the company took responsibility for the shooting and the violation of the peaceful protestors’ human rights. Of note, this case marked the first time plaintiffs proved that Canadian courts are the right place to hear human rights claims against Canadian mining projects for abuses at an overseas project.

The settlement of the lawsuit in B.C. courts did not resolve, however,  the outstanding criminal trial in Guatemala against the former head of mine security, Alberto Rotondo, who was caught on wiretap ordering the 2013 shooting of protestors and the destruction of evidence. Rotondo, a former military officer from Peru, was arrested days after the shooting as he attempted to flee the country. He was awarded house arrest despite the obvious flight risk, and fled to Peru in 2015 where he was re-arrested. Guatemala has initiated the extradition process in order to continue criminal prosecution, but little progress has been made to date. 

Nor did the settlement resolve the issues underlying the ongoing and widespread community opposition to the Escobal mine, which was imposed on affected communities despite their broad opposition to the project. Tahoe Resources, with support from the Guatemalan government, used a militarized security strategy to suppress this opposition and put the mine into operation in early 2014. This gave rise to serious violence and repression against community members, including the criminalization of movement leaders. The 2013 shooting was only one example of this violence. For more information, see the “Larger Context.” 

This case also forms part of a broader movement to defend land, the environment, and Indigenous rights in Guatemala, and is emblematic in the fight for corporate accountability given widespread human rights abuses tied to Canadian mining companies. To learn more, the verdict from the “Permanent People’s Tribunal: Canadian mining abuses in Latin America” provides an important overview. Five Canadian mining companies, including Tahoe Resources, were among the accused at this ethical tribunal, along with the Canadian government given its extensive promotion and protection of the Canadian mining industry abroad despite widespread abuse.

Shortly after Pan American Silver’s acquisition of Tahoe Resources, affected communities demanded the company respond: Why would Pan American Silver, which has branded itself as a socially responsible company, buy a mine that clearly violated Xinka Indigenous rights in Guatemala from the start, and continues to violate their rights today?

Pan American Silver has yet to respond.

  • April 23, 2013 — Private security personnel for the Escobal mine shoot peaceful protestors on a public road outside the Escobal mine, as they attempt to flee. Head of security Alberto Rotondo is caught on a wiretap ordering security to shoot peaceful protestors and clean up the evidence.
  • April 27, 2013 — Alberto Rotondo is arrested at the Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, attempting to flee the country. Despite the obvious flight risk, he is granted house arrest.
  • July 18, 2014 — “García v. Tahoe Resources” civil lawsuit filed at the Supreme Court of British Columbia by seven plaintiffs represented by the Canadian Centre for International Justice. The lawsuit alleges that Tahoe controls all significant aspects of the operations of the Escobal mine including security policies and practices and community relations. It further alleges that Tahoe expressly or implicitly authorized the use of excessive force by security personnel or was negligent in failing to prevent the use of excessive force. The lawsuit is filed in British Columbia courts given that Tahoe Resources is headquartered there and that the important corporate decisions that led to the 2013 shooting were made there.
  • November 2015 — The B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow rules that the case against Tahoe Resources should be heard in Guatemala, saying it would be ‘inconvenient’ to hear the case in Canada. Guatemalan plaintiffs appeal the decision.
  • January 2017 — The B.C. Court of Appeal decides that the case should be heard in Canada, finding “there is some 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. This factor points away from Guatemala as the more appropriate forum.”
  • March 2017 — Tahoe Resources applies for leave to appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada. In June 2017, the Supreme Court decides to not hear the appeal, meaning the case will proceed in B.C. courts.
  • February 2019 — Pan American Silver acquires Tahoe Resources and all of its legal liability.
  • July 30th, 2019 —  Pan American Silver settles with the four remaining plaintiffs, concluding the lawsuit. The resolution includes a public apology by Pan American Silver in which the company takes responsibility for the shooting and the violation of the peaceful protestors’ human rights.

Related posts

Security Footage – April 27, 2013

November 19th, 2015|

On April 27, 2013, Tahoe Resources’ private security opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the Escobal silver mine, in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores in southeastern Guatemala. The seven victims, shot at close range and while attempting to flee, filed a lawsuit in Canadian courts against the company for its role in the violence. Alberto Rotondo, former military officer from Peru and head of security for Tahoe at the time of the incident, is currently under arrest in Guatemala awaiting trial for allegedly ordering security guards to fire at protesters and then covering up the evidence. Security footage taken from cameras at the Escobal mine was used as evidence in the civil case in Canada and the criminal case in Guatemala; this video shows a peaceful demonstration taking place outside the mine on April 27, 2013, and the subsequent shooting of protestors by private security.