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.  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

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Article
6 September 2019

Commentary: Indigenous peoples are defending their rights in court—and winning

Author: Emily Greenspan, Oxfam America

What a groundbreaking court decision in Guatemala means for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Raging fires in the Amazon are once again putting the spotlight on parts of Latin America where indigenous communities face violence and extreme pressure for their land and resources.

While these tactics might be resurgent, they are nothing new. From heavy-metal poisoning to murder, indigenous communities across the region have faced decades of neglect and repression. Despite the odds, many are defying these injustices and taking their fight to the courts.

Even more remarkable? They are winning.

Searching for accountability

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in Guatemala—a Central American country under intense pressure from the Trump administration to curb migration of its people to the US.

In 2013, security services opened fire on peaceful indigenous protesters at the entrance to the Escobal silver mine—one of many extractive projects. The incident could have just been another violent response to indigenous activism; instead, the protestors took legal action in Canada—seeking to hold the private company operating the mine—Tahoe Resources—accountable...

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Author: Marie-Dominik Langlois, Université d'Ottawa, dans The Conversation

« Minières canadiennes à l'étranger : à quand une véritable politique pour le respect des droits humains?», 5 septembre 2019

Le 30 juillet dernier, un règlement a été conclu au Canada dans le litige opposant Pan American Silver, une société minière canadienne, à un groupe de victimes d'une fusillade survenue à la mine Escobal, au Guatemala.

Le cabinet Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM) a souligné dans un communiqué l'importance de ce cas : il s'agit d'une première au Canada qu'une cause amenée par des plaignants étrangers, et dont les méfaits ont eu lieu à l’extérieur du pays, connaisse un aboutissement...

Si la conclusion du cas Garcia vs. Tahoe satisfait les deux parties, il est loin d'être garanti que de tels dénouements surviennent en juridiction canadienne pour des cas similaires...

Les atermoiements du gouvernement dénotent un manque de volonté à mettre en place des politiques effectives assurant le respect des droits humains et des Peuples autochtones par les sociétés extractives canadiennes. Quelles sont les possibilités d'obtenir justice pour les victimes?

Devant l'absence de politiques publiques, est-ce que la voie légale est l’unique avenue pour les victimes? Si le litige entre Pan American Silver et les victimes de la fusillade s'est conclu positivement, il s'agit dans les fait de l'aboutissement de plus de six ans de dispute légale, de mobilisation communautaire et transnationale et d'importantes ressources économiques, humaines et en temps.

Article
14 August 2019

Foreign plaintiffs can access Canadian courts for claims against parent companies over subsidiaries liability for abuses abroad

Author: Aidan Macnab, Canadian Lawyer

"Canadian companies can face legal action in Canada for subsidiary’s crimes in foreign jurisdictions", 6 Aug 2019

A recently concluded lawsuit against a mining company shows that Canadian companies can face legal action in Canada for the actions of their subsidiaries in other jurisdictions.

On July 30, Vancouver-based Pan American Silver Corp. announced they had settled out-of-court with and apologized to four Guatemalan men who were shot by security guards during a protest near a silver mine, in 2013. The Escobal Mine in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa in Guatemala was then run by Tahoe Resources Inc. The men, who were among others protesting what they said was a lack of community consultation by the company, brought a civil suit against Tahoe in the B.C. Supreme Court in 2014. This February, Pan American acquired Tahoe...

At the trial level, Tahoe asked the court to reject its own jurisdiction on the grounds of forum non conveniens, arguing that Guatemala was a more appropriate venue for the plaintiffs to try their claim. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow granted the order.

“The question is not whether Canada’s legal system is fairer and more efficient than Guatemala’s legal system. It is whether the foreign legal system is capable of providing justice,” wrote Gerow in her decision. Gerow stated that Canadian courts must be cautious in denying a foreign court the right to deliver justice to its own citizens, in case Canada is given the same treatment in return...

“So, what the B.C. Court of Appeal decision does is it affirms that the starting point is a presumption that Canadian courts have primary jurisdiction over Canadian companies,” Fiorante says. “So that's the default position. And it’s only if it’s plain and obvious or absolutely clear that the foreign court is better placed to do justice that the case should be dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds.”...

 

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Author: AFP

« Guatemala: une société minière canadienne a violé les droits de manifestants », 30 juillet 2019

Une société minière canadienne a conclu un accord avec des manifestants qui avaient été blessés par balle en 2013 devant une mine de l'entreprise au Guatemala, reconnaissant que leurs droits humains avaient été bafoués...

C'est la première fois que des plaignants étrangers obtiennent réparation pour une violation des droits humains par une société minière canadienne...

Cet «accord historique», dont les termes sont confidentiels, a été conclu avec la société Pan American Silver Corp, qui a acquis en février le groupe Tahoe Resources. Ce dernier était engagé depuis 2014 dans une bataille judiciaire au Canada pour des faits survenus l'année précédente à la mine Escobal dans le sud-est du Guatemala.

Dans un communiqué séparé, Pan Silver Corp reconnaît que des gardiens de sécurité de la mine d'or et d'argent, emmenés par leur chef Alberto Rotondo, avaient ouvert le feu sur les manifestants réunis sur une route à l'extérieur de la mine, en avril 2013...

«Pan American condamne fermement toute violence et n'y recourra pas...Au nom de Tahoe, Pan American s'excuse auprès des victimes et de la communauté»...

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Article
31 July 2019

Guatemalan protestors receive public apology from Pan American Silver after reaching landmark conclusion in Canadian court

Author: Mining Weekly (So. Africa)

"Court case sets precedent for claims arising from overseas activities of Canadian miners", 30 Jul 2019

The six-year legal battle between a group of Guatemalan protestors and Tahoe Resources of Vancouver, Canada, has come to a conclusion, with new owner Pan American Silver issuing a public apology on behalf of the company that it bought for $1.07-billion in February this year.

Pan American Silver conceded on Tuesday that “the shooting on April 27, 2013, infringed the human rights of the protestors”, and the mining company, on behalf of Tahoe, apologized to the victims and to the community...


In April 2013, the protestors gathered at the entrance to Tahoe's Escobal mine in south-east Guatemala to protest the lack of community consultation on the project. The head of security for the mine, Alberto Rotondo, ordered security personnel to break up the demonstration by shooting at the protestors. Several were injured, one very seriously.

The victims retained Vancouver-based Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM Lawyers) to represent them in a civil suit against Tahoe in Canada...

"This is an important victory for us and our community," said claimant Luis Fernando García. "It vindicates our right to protest and to continue our resistance against mining operations in our community."

The conclusion of the case does not impede the ability of the protestors to exercise their legal rights of protest related to the mine in the future...

 

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Article
31 July 2019

Pan American Silver forced to offer settlement to Guatemala victims of mining repression and violence

Author: Grahame Russell, Rights Action

On July 30, 2019, lawyers for the Guatemalan victims of Tahoe Resources’ mining-linked repression in 2013, announced they reached a reparations settlement with Pan American Silver (new owner of Tahoe Resources)...

Establishing a precedent in Canadian law, this settlement shows again how long and hard is the road to properly and fully hold Canadian companies accountable in Canadian courts for crimes, harms and/or violations they cause or are responsible for in other countries.
 
After five years of legal battle in British Columbia (Canada) courts, the decision of Pan American Silver to offer a fair settlement to the Guatemalan victims of Tahoe Resources’ mining violence in 2013, is a hugely important, small step forward in on-going work and struggle to hold Canadian companies accountable crimes, harms and violations they cause or are responsible for in other countries.
 
In 2013, a Canadian court ruled for the first time in Canadian legal history (the Hudbay Minerals lawsuits, filed in 2010) that Canadian companies can be held accountable in Canadian courts if found responsible for crimes, harms and/or violations in other countries.  After that precedent, the Tahoe Resources lawsuit was filed in 2014...

Now, the Tahoe Resources lawsuit is the first case of its kind to legally force a Canadian company to offer a reparations settlement found acceptable to the victim-plaintiffs...

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Article
30 July 2019

Pan American Silver Announces Resolution of Garcia v. Tahoe Case

Author: Pan American Silver

Pan American Silver Corp. (NASDAQ: PAAS) (TSX: PAAS) ("Pan American" or the "Company") is pleased to announce that we have achieved final resolution with Guatemalan community members who commenced a Supreme Court of British Columbia action in 2014 against Tahoe Resources Inc. ("Tahoe").

In April 2013, members of the local community in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa, in Guatemala, were engaged in protests at the Escobal Mine, owned by Minera San Rafael, regarding the issue of prior community consultation.

On April 27, 2013, the mine's security guards, headed by the chief of security, Alberto Rotondo, shot at protesters who had gathered on the public road outside the gates of the mine. A number of individuals were injured during the shooting including Adolfo Agustin GarciaLuis Fernando Garcia MonroyWilmer Francisco Perez Martinez, and Misael Eberto Martinez Sasvin, who filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada, against Tahoe Resources Inc., owner of Minera San Rafael, seeking justice for the violation of their rights.

On February 22, 2019, Pan American Silver acquired Tahoe.

Pan American strongly condemns and will not resort to the use of any violence. While these events occurred well before the acquisition, Pan American, on behalf of Tahoe, acknowledges that the shooting on April 27, 2013, infringed the human rights of the protesters. Pan American, on behalf of Tahoe, apologizes to the victims and to the community.

Nearly six years after the shooting, Adolfo Agustin GarciaLuis Fernando Garcia MonroyWilmer Francisco Perez Martinez, and Misael Eberto Martinez Sasvin, have achieved a resolution of their lawsuit in Canadaagainst Tahoe with Pan American. The case has now been concluded...

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Article
15 April 2019

Canadian courts wrestle with questions of cross-border accountability for human rights abuses

Author: Whitney Eulich & Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor

"When mining companies work abroad, should justice follow them home?" 9 April 2019

Canadian mining firms account for 40 percent of large mining operations in Latin America, and there have long been accusations of abuse at their operations on the ground... A decade ago, Canadian courts were reluctant to try these cases domestically, says Ian Binnie, a former Canadian Supreme Court justice... “I think that the judges are becoming more sensitive to the fact that if they refuse jurisdiction in Canada, assuming the head office is here, that these people won’t have any redress and will be left without a remedy..."

... Proceedings against three Canadian companies have been breaking new legal ground... Hudbay Minerals faces three distinct cases... Another case alleges that security personnel at Tahoe Resources, in... Guatemala, opened fire on demonstrations in 2013. The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled that the case could proceed in Canada, and it is now before the trial court there... A third case involves Nevsun Resources Ltd., which has been sued for alleged complicity in a government subcontractor’s use of forced labor at a mine in Eritrea, worked by conscripts in the repressive country’s national service system. The Supreme Court of Canada is weighing whether Canadian courts should recognize civil claims based on breaches of customary international law, and whether the case can proceed...The Canadian government has responded to pressure for better business conduct abroad by creating a new ombudsman position last January... Many are concerned that the office does not have a sufficient mandate to investigate abuses. “They want what they call joint investigation, so the company has to agree to the investigations,” says Professor Imai, from York University, of mining companies. 

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Article
8 June 2017

High court won't hear challenge over venue in Guatemalan mine protest case

Author: Canadian Press

Another roadblock has been lifted for seven protesters hurt outside a Guatemalan mine who want to pursue a lawsuit in British Columbia against a company registered in the province.

The Supreme Court of Canada refused today to hear a challenge from Tahoe Resources Inc. about the venue for the civil claim.

The men launched their claim in B.C. Supreme Court against Tahoe Resources after security guards sprayed protesters with rubber bullets outside the Escobal mine in 2013.

The Guatemalan citizens had argued the case should be heard in B.C. because they had no faith that their country's legal system would hold the company accountable.

Tahoe asked the court to decline jurisdiction, and a judge ruled that Guatemala was clearly the more appropriate forum for the suit.

The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned that decision earlier this year and, as usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons today for refusing to hear the case.

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Author: Centre Canadien pour la Justice Internationale (Canada)

La Cour suprême du Canada a...refusé d’entendre l’appel de Tahoe Resources Inc. dans un procès civil intenté par plusieurs Guatémaltèques cherchant à obtenir réparation pour des blessures subies lors de la violente répression d’une manifestation pacifique devant la mine de Tahoe au Guatemala.

Plus tôt dans l’année, la Cour d’appel de Colombie-Britannique a rejeté une requête de Tahoe visant à faire annuler ces poursuites ; le refus de la Cour suprême d’entendre l’appel de Tahoe maintient cette décision intacte, ouvrant la voie à un procès sur le fond...

La Cour d’appel a décidé en janvier que les poursuites devaient être entendues au Canada car...les preuves de corruption systémique dans les institutions judiciaires guatémaltèques...

...[L]es plaignants revendiquent la responsabilité de Tahoe pour voies de fait et négligence suite aux actes de son directeur de la sécurité, Alberto Rotondo, et d’autres membres du personnel de sécurité... Rafael Maldonado, directeur juridique de CALAS [a expliqué],... «La responsabilité de la police guatémaltèque dans la fuite du chef de la sécurité de la mine montre les obstacles considérables au bon fonctionnement de la justice au Guatemala »...

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