Tahoe Resources lawsuit (re Guatemala)

Escobal_Mine_photo_credit_CPR_Urbana

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On 18 June 2014, seven Guatemalan men filed a lawsuit in Canada against Tahoe Resources seeking damages for injuries allegedly suffered during a shooting outside the company’s Escobal silver mine in April 2013.  Tahoe Resources is a Canadian mining company.

The residents of the Guatemalan town where the mine is located, San Rafael Las Flores,  allege that they were injured when Tahoe’s security personnel opened fire on them during a peaceful protest against the mine over concerns about its potential impact on their water supply and the lack of meaningful consultation with the community about the project.  They claim the shooting was “intentional” and a premeditated attempt by mine security personnel to "suppress" local opposition.  The plaintiffs allege that Tahoe Resources implicitly or explicity authorized the conduct of its security personnel.  The plaintiffs also allege that Tahoe’s Guatemala Security Manager, Alberto Rotondo, personally ordered the shooting and instructed the security personnel to "falsify accounts of the shooting and destroy or cover up evidence".  Guatemalan authorities have criminally charged Mr. Rotondo with assault and obstruction of justice.  Juan Pablo Oliva Trejo, a former Tahoe employee and security advisor to Rotondo, was arrested in Guatemala and charged with concealment of evidence related to the April incident.

In a statement, the company said that its security personnel had only resorted to non-lethal measures when trying to drive back about 20 people armed with machetes when the protest “turned hostile”.

In December 2014, a Guatemalan court ordered that Alberto Rotondo be put on trial on charges of causing serious and minor bodily harm during the attack, and obstruction of justice. A hearing was scheduled to take place in February 2015.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia held hearings in this case in April 2015.  Tahoe Resources asked the court to dismiss the case claiming that Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction over the case because all of the plaintiffs' claims relate to events which occurred in Guatemala. In November 2015, a British Columbia Supreme Court Judge decline jurisdiction in the case.  She ruled that the plaintiffs could seek justice in Guatemala.  On 1 November 2016, the plaintiffs appealed the decision, arguing that there are barriers to access justice in Guatemala and that the judge was incorrect to require the evidence to show that justice could never be done there.  Rather, they argued, they only need to provide evidence that there is a real risk of an unfair trial process in Guatemala.

-"Lawsuit against B.C. company by miners injured in shooting must be heard in Guatemala: Judge", canadian Press, 10 Nov 2015
- "B.C. mining company latest to be challenged in Canada for alleged actions abroad", Jennifer Brown, Canadian Lawyer InHouse, 3 Jun 2015
- “Injured men sue Vancouver company after Guatemalan mine shooting”, Tamsyn Burgmann, Canadian Press, 19 Jun 2014
- “Lawsuit Against Tahoe Resources a Wake Up Call for Investors and Canadians [Guatemala]”, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) - Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network - MiningWatch Canada, 18 Jun 2014

Tahoe Resources:
- “Tahoe Resources clarifies reports regarding incidents near Escobal Project”, 1 May 2013.

Canadian Centre for International Justice:
- [PDF] Canadian Centre for International Justice Q&A session on the case, 18 Jun 2014.
- “CCIJ's Public Cases and Interventions: Tahoe Resources Inc.”, 18 Jun 2014
- [ES] “Casos e Intervenciones del Centro Canadiense de Justicia Internascional: Tahoe Resources Inc.”, 18 Jun 2014
- [FR] « Des Guatémaltèques intentent une poursuite judiciaire contre une compagnie minière canadienne pour une fusillade en 2013 », 18 juin 2014
- Tahoe Resources (Canada/Guatemala)

- [PDF] Notice of civil claim, Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman [plaintiffs’ lawyers], 18 Jun 2014

Supreme Court of British Columbia:
- Garcia v. Tahoe Resources [judgment dimissing jurisdiction], 9 Nov 2015

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Article
1 November 2016

Seven men allegedly shot during protest at a Canadian-owned mine in Guatemala appeal stay ruling

Author: Keith Fraser, Vancouver Sun, on Montreal Gazette (Canada)

Lawyers for seven men allegedly shot during a protest against a Canadian-owned mine in Guatemala were in court Tuesday attempting to overturn a decision staying their lawsuit in B.C.  In November 2015, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow agreed with lawyers for Tahoe Resources Ltd. — a Vancouver-register mining company — that the case would be better heard in the Central American country.  The plaintiffs, all Guatemalan citizens, had sued the company for damages, claiming they were shot by mine security personnel...They argued that the case should be heard in a Canadian court because they lacked faith in the Guatemalan legal system to hold the company accountable.  But the judge found that Guatemala was clearly the more appropriate forum for the determination of the issues in dispute and stayed the legal action.  The plaintiffs launched an appeal of Gerow’s decision...“The plaintiffs seek justice in the courts in British Columbia against Tahoe, the owners of the mine, because they face barriers to justice in Guatemala,”...The plaintiff’s lawyer told the panel that Gerow had incorrectly put the plaintiffs to the test of showing that justice could never be done in Guatemala...

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Article
30 October 2016

Guatemala: Victims of shooting at Tahoe Resources’ El Escobal mine in 2013 to appeal case in Canadian court

Author: MiningWatch Canada

“Guatemalans To Appeal Case Against Tahoe Resources In BC Court; Reminder That Canada Must Be Open For Justice”

 On November 1st, the BC Court of Appeals will revisit a procedural motion in the case of seven Guatemalans who have brought a civil suit  for battery and negligence against Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources…The suit concerns the company’s role in a violent attack in April 2013 when Tahoe’s private security opened fire on peaceful protesters outside the controversial Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala.  Video footage shows that the group of men were shot at close range while attempting to flee the site…In June 2014, seven men wounded during the violent incident filed the lawsuit in Canada against the company. In November 2015, a BC Supreme Court judge refused jurisdiction and said the case should be heard in Guatemala…“The November 2015 decision ignored the fact that Guatemala has one of the highest rates of impunity in the world,” stated Jackie McVicar of United for Mining Justice. “The possibility to bring Tahoe’s then chief of security, much less the company itself, to justice in Guatemala for its role in the armed attack is slim, especially considering how State officials have worked to ensure impunity in this case.”..The lead suspect in the criminal case in Guatemala, former head of security for Tahoe, escaped police custody and fled the country just weeks after the BC Supreme Court decision was released in November 2015. Five police officers have been accused of enabling his escape.

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Article
21 April 2016

Canadian courts review series of claims filed against Canadian mining companies for human rights abuses abroad

Author: Nelson Bennett, Business Vancouver (Canada)

"Wave of foreign lawsuits against local miners hits Canadian courts", 19 Apr 2016

In the coming months, the [British Columbia] BC Supreme Court is expected to decide whether a civil claim against a B.C. company with a mine in Eritrea can be heard in Canada. Three former Eritrean mine workers claim Nevsun Resources Ltd...was complicit in the Eritrean government’s use of conscripted labour and other human rights abuses at the company’s Bisha mine...The Nevsun claim is one of three that have been launched against Canadian mining companies since 2014...The...claims are part of a recent trend of Canadian mining companies operating abroad being taken to court in Canada by litigants who claim they cannot get justice in their own countries...According to...[Canadian Centre for International Justice] CCIJ, Canadian mining companies have operated for too many years with impunity in countries with lax environmental and human rights standards...The recent claims...have prompted renewed calls from Liberal MP John McKay for a Canadian ombudsperson that would investigate complaints about Canadian extraction companies operating abroad.....

 

 

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Author: McMillan (Canada)

« La Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique suspend la poursuite intentée contre Tahoe Resources Inc.», 12 novembre 2015

Le 9 novembre 2015, la Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique a rendu sa décision et ses motifs de jugement en faveur de Tahoe Resources…Tahoe avait alors demandé à la Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique de refuser d'exercer sa compétence quant aux réclamations des demandeurs et d'ordonner une suspension de l'action. Dans cette poursuite intentée en juin 2014, sept ressortissants guatémaltèques réclamaient des dommages-intérêts pour des lésions corporelles qu'ils alléguaient avoir subies aux mains du personnel de sécurité alors qu'ils participaient à une manifestation à la mine Escobal de Tahoe, au Guatemala, en avril 2013. Les demandeurs alléguaient notamment que Tahoe avait fait preuve de négligence en omettant d'instaurer une procédure et une surveillance pour s'assurer que le personnel de sécurité se conforme aux lignes directrices et aux principes internationaux…Tahoe soutenait que le Guatemala était clairement un ressort plus approprié pour instruire les réclamations des demandeurs. Le juge a donné droit à la requête de Tahoe…

 

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Article
17 November 2015

B.C. Supreme Court Stays Lawsuit against Tahoe Resources, Denies Justice in Canada for Guatemalan Victims

Author: MiningWatch Canada

Canadian and US organizations are calling a British Columbia judge's refusal to hear a lawsuit against Tahoe Resources over violence at its Guatemala mine site wilfully blind to the gravity of the case and the obstacles faced by the victims in bringing a transnational corporation to justice. On Monday, November 9th, the BC Supreme Court declined jurisdiction over a civil lawsuit that seven Guatemalan men filed in June 2014 against BC-registered mining company Tahoe Resources for negligence and battery... British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow ruled the case should be heard in Guatemala... In her ruling, Justice Gerow chose to ignore the power imbalances between a transnational mining company and Guatemalan farmers that are almost certain to hinder justice in the Central American country. Notably, she shrugged off the fact that senior Tahoe Resources executives ignored subpoenas earlier this year and in 2014 to appear in a Guatemala court where their mine manager had brought trumped up charges against a community leader. Those charges were eventually dismissed..."...Justice has never been served in Guatemala in terms of holding a foreign company to account and it is unclear why Justice Gerow thinks this case would be special," comments Ellen Moore of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala...

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Article
10 November 2015

Lawsuit against B.C. company by miners injured in shooting must be heard in Guatemala: Judge

Author: Canadian Press

A judge has ruled that seven protesters hurt outside a Guatemalan mine owned by a company registered in British Columbia must file their lawsuit in the Central American country…The seven Guatemalan citizens had argued the case should be heard in B.C. because they had no faith their country’s legal system would hold the company accountable. But Tahoe asked the court to decline jurisdiction in the case, and B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow agreed with the company. She says trying the action in B.C. would be costly and inconvenient…Gerow has stayed the lawsuit, ruling the plaintiffs can file it in Guatemala, where she says the legal system is imperfect but functional…

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Item
9 November 2015

Garcia v. Tahoe Resources

Author: Honourable Madam Justice Gerow, Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada

[Full text of the judgment]

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Author: Nelton Rivera, Prensa Comunitaria (Guatemala)

 “Mataquescuintla: un nuevo atentado armado contra los defensores de la vida”, 17 de Octubre de 2015

Este sábado 17 de octubre 2015…[a]ctivista ambiental…confirmó que Alexander Reynoso en compañía de uno de sus sobrinos…sufrieron un atentado armado en Mataquescuintla, ambos fueron trasladados a un centro hospitalario…con heridas de arma de fuego. Este atentado armado se registró en un contexto en el que fueron finalmente publicados los resultados de la Consulta Municipal de Vecinos de Mataquescuintla realizada…[en] 2012…10 mil 22 vecinos votaron contra la minería…E[n] 2014 Alexander Reynoso sufrió un primer atentado en el cual resultó gravemente herido y su hija…perdió la vida…En Jalapa las comunidades se organizaron para rechazar de forma pacífica la instalación del proyecto minero “El Escobal” de la empresa minera San Rafael…y Tahoe Resources…

Escobal_Mine_photo_credit_CPR_Urbana

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Article
16 July 2015

Guatemala: NGO requests intl. commission to investigate govt. process granting license to Tahoe Resources for Escobal project despite community complaints‏

Author: Nisgua (Guatemala)

 “In wake of Guatemala corruption scandals, Tahoe Resources’ Escobal license faces legal challenge”, 13 Jul 2015

…[T]he Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS) filed criminal charges against former Minister of the Ministry of Energy and Mines…and former mines director…[for] violating the Constitution and for breach of duty for having granted Tahoe Resources an exploitation license for the Escobal project without adequate consideration of more than 250 community complaints against the project. CALAS called on the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala…to fully investigate the Escobal licensing process, citing… possible involvement in influence trafficking and illicit enrichment…

Escobal_Mine_photo_credit_CPR_Urbana

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Article
3 June 2015

Tahoe Resources challenges jurisdiction of Canadian Courts to hear claims over alleged injuries to protesters in Guatemala

Author: Jennifer Brown, Canadian Lawyer InHouse

"B.C. mining company latest to be challenged in Canada for alleged actions abroad", 1 Jun 2015

During a three-day hearing last month, Tahoe Resources Inc. asked the Supreme Court of British Columbia to dismiss a civil lawsuit launched by plaintiffs in Guatemala on the basis Canadian courts don’t have jurisdiction. The company says the claims should be heard by Guatemalan courts, not in B.C...The case is similar to one involving Hudbay Minerals...“In our case, Tahoe wanted to challenge jurisdiction. They knew Hudbay had abandoned it but in their case felt they needed to pursue it,” says Karen Carteri, the lawyer for Tahoe Resources and partner with McMillan LLP in Vancouver. In the Tahoe case, seven Guatemalan nationals are seeking damages for injuries allegedly suffered in an incident in Guatemala...The lawsuit originates as a result of alleged actions by security guards who were trying to disperse protesters...This is the first case where jurisdiction of the Canadian court is being challenged and the court has heard the application...Carteri insists Tahoe has “very limited connecting factors” to B.C... [Also refers to Loblaw’s Joe Fresh, Minera San Rafael, Nevsun]

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