Following the Molina administration’s lifting of the moratorium on mining concessions in 2012, Tahoe Resources ramped up construction of its Escobal silver mine east of San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala. Since 2011, communities living in the area of the Escobal mine have peacefully resisted the project through marches and community referenda.
More than half of the communities in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores, where the Escobal project is located, have declared opposition to the mine. In five neighbouring municipalities, in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, tens of thousands of people have participated in formal municipal referenda and voted against the project.
The Strategy of Tahoe Resources and their Allies
- The mining company has challenged the legality of municipal referenda in two lawsuits brought to the Constitutional Court. They have done this twice, and both times the Constitutional Court dismissed the cases, finding that citizens have a right to express their views regarding whether or not they are in favour of mining.
- They have actively prevented referenda from taking place at all, as was the case where the Escobal mine has been installed. In San Rafael Las Flores, no official municipal referendum took place because the mayor refused to allow it despite a community request.
- They frequently use and have used force to quell social protest against the mine.
2011 – 2012
The Committee in Defense of Life and Peace of San Rafael Las Flores was created by community members to to provide organized opposition to mining in the region.
With the inauguration of the Molina administration, the moratorium on mining concessions was lifted.
Community members peacefully protested Tahoe Resources proposed Escobal silver mine on September 17, 2012.
Local organizers decided to hold referenda at the village level in San Rafael Las Flores. The results of eight out of nine held to date have been overwhelmingly against mining.
Tahoe Resources initiated operations at the Escobal silver mine.