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10/31/16

Tahoe Resources (TAHO) (THO.to): Ellen Moore exposes the company BS on Escobal

I'm a little late to this due to travel commitments, but thanks to eagle-eyed reader 'S' we bring you this, from the Reno Gazette-Journal last week.

First up, remember back to early September when Edie Hofmeister of Tahoe Resources wrote an op-ed in the same Reno newspaper calling criticism of TAHO at its Escobal mine in Guatemala "unfounded"? The same Edie who has decided to leave Reno because she can't stand the sight or sound of Ron Clayton decided to put pen to paper in the cause of her best pal's husband, Ferrari Kev (the real reason she got the cushy job) and told the world that TAHO had overwhelming support in the local community around the mine, that they were hearts and flowers with everyone, all that shtick.

Well now we get a far more accurate appraisal of the situation in San Rafael Las Flores from a right-of-reply piece written by Ellen Moore, a person who lived and worked in the zone for many years. Here it is below and though it's not the usual habit of IKN to lift a whole story from somewhere else, this one needs as many eyeballs as possible. Read on:

In Edie Hofmeister’s piece (“One View: Criticism of Tahoe Resources' Escobal mine biased, unfounded”, Sept. 14), she invites critics to visit its mine in San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala to understand what is really going on. Not only did I visit, I worked in the region for several years and served as an international observer at the Sábana Redonda referenda or “consulta” that Ms. Hofmeister references in the piece. I joined national and international observers who were present for this vote as they have been at all of the more than 70 referenda on mining that have taken place across Guatemala since 2005.
In the article, Hofmeister upholds Sábana Redonda as the “only reliable vote in the area” – convenient, given that every other vote in the region has overwhelmingly rejected Tahoe’s mine.
Tahoe’s ongoing attempts to delegitimize local decision-making processes is disrespectful of Guatemalans’ democratic practices. Tahoe has filed and supported lawsuits challenging the municipal votes against its project in an attempt to prevent the population from exercising their legitimate right to decide their future. In response, Guatemala’s highest court ruled that municipal authorities not only have the right, but the responsibility to convene such votes and to make decisions according to their results.

In San Rafael las Flores, the pro-mining mayor prevented a municipal-wide vote on the Escobal mine. Local leaders who had collected signatures demanding a referenda were slapped with unsubstantiated legal charges by Tahoe employees or people associated with the company. Undeterred, citizens organized village votes instead, carrying out eight before a state of siege, likened to martial law, was declared by the government in May 2013.

Sábana Redonda was the ninth village vote and the only one that took place after the siege. The community is located next to the mine and many people who live there benefit from mining-related employment. Having provided third-party observation for many referenda, I can confidently say that the vote in Sábana Redonda was carried out in the same manner as other local votes — on all subjects, not just mining. Schoolteachers served as election officials, and votes were cast using a paper ballot inside a booth just like in the U.S.

However, the fact that the vote was 55 to 45 percent is not, as Ms. Hofmeister implies, a demonstration of support, but rather a testament to the polarization of one of the communities that has received the most direct economic benefit from Tahoe’s operations.
Tahoe’s crumbling social license is well-documented. September 2015 elections reaffirmed or brought to power six pro-consultation mayors, most of whom campaigned on platforms anchored by opposition to mining and refusal to accept royalties. Bolstered by the court’s decision upholding the legitimacy of the votes, citizens near Tahoe's operations continue to demand referenda, and mayors point to the results as grounds to refuse royalties.
It’s true that the communities surrounding the Escobal mine are not financially wealthy. What Tahoe does not understand is that people’s dignity, clean water and livelihoods are not for sale.