Guatemala: Tahoe opens troubled silver mine

In mid-January Canadian-US mining company Tahoe Resources Inc. announced that its El Escobal silver mine, located in San Rafael las Flores municipality in the southeastern Guatemalan department of Santa Rosa, is now in commercial production. "Our Guatemalan team has done a terrific job in delivering this world-scale silver mine within four years of the company's initial public offering," a Tahoe vice president, Ira Gostin, told Mining Weekly Online. Tahoe Resources is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Reno, Nevada; Goldcorp Inc., also based in Vancouver, owns 40% of the mine. Tahoe, whose stock has risen 12% in the past year, is considering several other exploration prospects in Guatemala and Latin America, according to Gostin. (Mining Weekly Online, Jan. 20)

The controversial El Escobal mine has faced strong opposition from the local Xinka indigenous community over the past four years. Two security guards and two community members have been killed in the dispute, and in July 2013 a court order delayed completion of the mine for several months. On Jan. 22, shortly after Tahoe announced the mine was in production, Alberto Rotondo, the mine's former security chief, was declared in contempt of court for failing to attend a hearing in connection with violence at the mine in April 2013. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but on Jan. 23 he called in sick and was allowed to remain in the hospital. The Canadian nonprofit MiningWatch noted the difference in the government's treatment of Rotondo and its treatment of five community members arrested around the same April incidents. While Rotondo has been under house arrest, the community members were imprisoned; two were released on bail after two months, and three spent six months in jail. Eventually they were all released due to a lack of evidence.

MiningWatch is urging North Americans to sign on to a letter started by the Network in Solidarity With the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) calling on Tahoe to abandon the El Escobal mine. (, Jan. 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, February 2.