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18 Jun 2014

Tahoe Resources lawsuit (re Guatemala)

Status: CLOSED

Date lawsuit was filed
18 Jun 2014
Human Rights Defender
Location of Filing: Guatemala
Location of Incident: Canada




In 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 silver mine. Allegedly, the attackers were Tahoe's security personnel. In 2019, the company reached a settlement with the Guatemalan plaintiffs and publicly apologised to the victims and community. 

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

Factual background

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.

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”.

Legal argument

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.

Legal proceedings

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.  In January 2017, the British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision and said it has jurisdiction over the claims as it would be difficult for the plaintiffs to have a fair trial in Guatemala.  The company appealed and in June 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear Tahoe Resources' appeal, clearing the way for the case to be tried in Canada.

On 22 February 2019, Pan American Silver acquired Tahoe Resources. On 30 July 2019, Pan American Silver reached a settlement with the Guatemalan plaintiffs and publicly apologised to the victims and the community. Pan American Silver also stated that "The resolution of the lawsuit does not impede in any way the ability of the victims to exercise their rights of protest related to the mine in the future".

- High court won't hear challenge over venue in Guatemalan mine protest case, Canadian Press, 8 Jun 2017
- Court rules that lawsuit against Tahoe Resources can proceed in B.C., Hayley Woodin, Business in Vancouver, 26 Jan 2017
- 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 Responds To Jurisdictional Ruling, News Wire, 26 Jan 2017
- “Tahoe Resources clarifies reports regarding incidents near Escobal Project, 1 May 2013.

Canadian Centre for International Justice:
- Supreme Court of Canada declines to hear appeal by Vancouver mining company in Guatemalans' lawsuit, 8 Jun 2017
- In milestone, BC Court clears Guatemalans’ lawsuit against Vancouver mining company to go to trial, 26 Jan 2017
- [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

Court of Appeal of British Columbia:
Garcia v. Tahoe Resources [judgment allowing case to proceed], 26 Jan 2016