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7/24/13

(UPDATED) BREAKING: Guatemala Court of Appeals suspends operating licence for Tahoe Resources (THO.to) (TAHO) Escobal Mine

This news is being tweeted by Guatemala's Prensa Libre newspaper here, reporting on a press conference just given by the ant-mine group CALAS.

The group says that the Appeals Court decision is definitive and cancels Tahoe Resources (THO.to) permit to mine at Escobal in a adefintive manner. During the presser, CALAS asked the country's President to officially recognize the news and comment on it as soon as possible.

UPDATE: THO call the licence suspension reports "a complete lie" and are apparently preparing a NR to the effect.

UPDATE 2: Here's the section from the NR, just released:

Exploitation Permit Unaffected by Lower Court Ruling 

Late yesterday, a court of appeal in Guatemala stated that the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) should have conducted a hearing of a written opposition to the Escobal exploitation license during the permitting period. The court did not rule on the substance or validity of the opposition, merely stating that MEM was obligated to hold an administrative hearing. The court did not invalidate or comment on the Escobal exploitation license in its decision. 

According to Tahoe President and CEO, Kevin McArthur, "The legality of the license is not in question and it remains fully effective. It is unfortunate that anti-mining forces in Guatemala are misrepresenting the court's limited ruling. Based on our conversations with MEM and legal review, we believe the opposition is without legal or factual merit." 

"Operations at the mine are in full force and not affected in any way." said Mr. McArthur. MEM and the Company are appealing the lower court's ruling to the Constitutional Court, which is expected to issue a decision in the next several months.

UPDATE 3: Post-bell and I've waited a while to make any comment for that reason. After checking out the facts behind the ruling it looks like THO does indeed have a problem here and the position the company took in the NR is a bit too blasé for its own good (can't say I'm surprised though, as in this type of thing it's a case of finding the sophistry rather than doubting it's there). THO is certainly right to say its operations at the mine are in full force" etc because what's happening now is construction, not production. However, it's clear that its production licence has been suspended (or cancelled if you prefer) by the court of appeal. The reaosn behind the suspension is that the ministry official who granted the licence ignored around 250 written objections to the mine project (made by locals) and just went ahead and signed off on the thing, which is against the rules. What has to happen now, according to the ruling, is that the Mining Ministry must emit a resolution in the next 72 hours to formally acknowledge the objections to the project re-start the production licence permitting process over again. What happens then is up for debate, but if the government tries to press the granting through without due deliberation on the objections so far ignored, we're likely to hit a Groundhog Day situation where the courts suspend the production licence again. Also interesting is that the anti-mine lobby are now calling for the new licencing procedure to come under the two year moratorium proposed by President Otto Pérez Molina only last week.

The bottom line: Right now today, THO can continue building its mine but is glossing over the plain fact that the ruling today stops the mine from entering into production.