Guatemala Tourism Santa Rosa San Rafael Las Flores Tahoe Resources and Goldcorp Mining
Goldcorp’s Legacy: Criminalization and Mining Resistance in San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala
by James Rodriguez
Clodoveo Rodriguez, better known as Don Clodo in his native San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa, has lived his 78 years in the arid community. Since late 2011, his home has literally been fenced-in by the neighboring Escobal silver mine, a joint venture by Tahoe Resources and Goldcorp. Despite pressure from the Canadian mining companies to sell, Don Clodo refuses to leave his land. Kevin McArthur, former president of Goldcorp, founded Tahoe Resources in 2010.
Primarily a silver mine, Escobal’s majority shares are owned by Tahoe Resources. The exploration license was given to Goldcorp in 2007 at a time when Kevin McArthur still ran Goldcorp as President and CEO. McArthur retired from Goldcorp towards the end of 2008, but founded Tahoe Resources in 2010. That same year, Tahoe paid Goldcorp US $505 million dollars for 60 percent of the shares to the Escobal project, leaving Goldcorp as the minority owner with 40 percent of the shares.
Escobal, Tahoe’s only project, is managed in Guatemala via its local subsidiary, San Rafael S.A. Currently, Escobal is under construction but expected to be in production by late 2013 and to achieve commercial production by 2014.
In September 2010, during a presentation at the Denver Gold Conference, McArthur stated: “The Escobal project is in a region that is receptive to the mining industry… We are not in the Guatemalan Mayan highlands; we are down in the southeast portion of the country. We will not have the indigenous issues that [Goldcorp’s] Marlin [mine has had in San Miguel Ixtahuacan and Sipacapa] and some of the other mines in the country have had.”
Nevertheless, reality on the ground is much different than what McArthur claims. Three adjacent municipalities to San Rafael Las Flores have carried out community consultations in the past few months, overwhelmingly rejecting mining activities in their communities.
Amadeo de Jesus Rodriguez Aguilar, leading member of the Local Committee in Defense of Life, has been accused by Tahoe Resources of kidnapping members of the company’s security personnel. Rodriguez Aguilar, who discredits the charge as “absurd”, claims the accusation stems from an October 2011 incident where he peacefully interrupted a meeting involving visiting shareholders from North America. “Since I speak English well, I just wanted to meet with these shareholders and inform them of the issues that are important to us here in the community. And just because of that, I have been charged with kidnapping!
“The only thing I have left is this plot of land I inherited from my family… and my cows,” states Don Clodo. Here, in the Los Planes Hamlet, Don Clodo is the last one left as he refuses to sell his land to Tahoe Resources. The Canadian company has literally fenced him in by setting up a chain-link fence around his home. The only way in and out is through a narrow walkway between fences and constant machinery at work.
This past January, over 400 community members blocked the entrance to the mining project in protest to the industrial activities. Nevertheless, Kevin McArthur insists there are no conflicts in San Rafael Las Flores and continues to brag that Escobal will prove to be “a cash flow machine.”