TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Canada’s Tahoe Resources on Wednesday said it expected construction and development of its flagship Escobal silver mine, in south-east Guatemala, to return to normal on Thursday, following increasingly violent anti-mining protests after the mine had received its operating permit early in April.
Tahoe CEO Kevin McArthur on Wednesday said Tahoe had seen a number of anti-mining protests around the project that was under construction near the community of San Rafael Las Flores.
“While many of these activities have been peaceful and respectful, violence from outside influences has escalated in the past weeks since we received our operating permit,” he said.
Tahoe said during the evening shift change of Saturday, April 27, a protest involving about 20 people armed with machetes turned hostile, necessitating the Escobal security force to use teargas and rubber bullets to repel the protestors at the mine gate. These individuals left the area following this incident and some were treated at hospitals and released.
The company added with the exception of the Saturday incident, all other reported events occurred away from the project site. However, Tahoe reported an increase of outsiders being bussed into the area to protest and cause public disturbances.
On Monday, four busloads brought protestors to the area, and in an ambush of local police, one officer was shot and killed.
There were also reports that about 25 police officers were captured and disarmed in Jalapa department (province) by an angry mob. This incident was unrelated to the Escobal project and occurred in a department other than Santa Rosa, where Escobal is located.
Authorities detained Tahoe’s Guatemala security manager on Tuesday, owing to the highly charged atmosphere and inaccurate press reports about Saturday’s events. He had not been charged with any crimes, and the company expected him to be released when the government investigation was complete.
“We send our condolences to the family of the slain police officer and strive to engage with and to peacefully coexist with all stakeholders in this area of Guatemala,” McArthur said.
Tahoe said it currently employed about 665 workers at Escobal, 96% of whom were Guatemalan, with 1 300 more contractors helping to construct the mine.
In September, a Guatemala judge and a work crew were pelted with stones and held against their will by protesters at the site where a power line was being constructed to connect the Escobal silver project to the power grid.
Early on Wednesday afternoon, Tahoe’s TSX-listed stock traded at C$17.20, having at one point during the morning traded at C$16.73 apiece.