McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Escobal, Guatemala

Key Data

Company:Tahoe Resources Inc Operational status:operational Materials extracted:silver, gold, lead, zinc Type of mine:underground longhole stoping Main issues:human rights, community relations, water


The Escobal project is a silver mine located 70km southeast of Guatemala city. Approximately 3km from San Rafael las Flores, the mine lies within a mountainous landscape interspersed with rolling hills and valleys. The mine began production in 2014 and produced 20.3 million ounces. The deposit is an intermediate – sulfidation silver-gold-lead-zinc vein meaning that though the main extraction is silver, there are also significant amounts of gold, lead, and zinc. [1]

Acquired from Goldcorp in June 2010, the mine is currently operated by Tahoe Resources through the wholly owned subsidiary Minera San Rafael SA (MSR). The mine has permits for exploration and mineral production from an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by M3 which was approved by the Guatemalan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in October 2011. They were also approved by the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) in April 2013. [2]

The area is important for agricultural production both for local consumption and commercial production [1]. The coffee produced in the area is sold in the internationally, making it an important source of revenue. The importance of agricultural production and commercialization to the region means that water quality and water availability are crucial resources, so local communities perceive the mining project as a threat to these resources.[3]

Tahoe continues to deny these claims and maintains that El Escobal will bring jobs and money into the local governments and communities. Since production began in 2014, Tahoe pays the mandatory 1% net smelter return royalty along with an additional 4% voluntary net smelter return royalty on solid concentrates. 2% of these royalties fo to San Rafael, 1% to outlying municipalities, 2% to the Guatemalan government (along with an additional 0.5% to an association of former land owners). [1]

In 2011 El Escobal began underground development in order to lay the groundwork for stoping extraction.[1]

In July 2011 community referendums were organized to allow residents from surrounding municipalities to express their opinions on the mining project, 7,602 residents participated, and 98.87% voted against the mine [4]. A week later, the neighbouring municipality of Santa Rosa de Lima also organized a community referendum which resulted in 98.34% of the community voting against the mine [4].

The approval of the project triggered a great deal of resentment amongst the local communities who claim they were neither informed nor properly consulted about the mining project. As a result, frustrated inhabitants from the municipalities of San Rafael Las Flores, Casillas, Nueva Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Lima, and Jumaytepeque came together in order to fight against the future development of the mine[4]. Peaceful marches, demonstrations and gatherings were frequently organized over the years 2010 and 2011.

In March 2013, immediately before MEM granted the permit to Tahoe, there were many complaints against the company, but these were dismissed and the permit was granted. On April 27th 2013, Tahoe’s security manager Alberto Rotondo ordered personnel to shoot at people gathered outside of the mining site. Eight people were severely injured and one was left dead.[5] The Transnational Organization Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) then submitted a complaint to Canada’s Ontario Securities Commission. Following this, the Guatemalan government then declared a state of emergency in four municipalities after anti-mining demonstrations escalated.[5]

In a separate case, the Civil and Mercantile Division of Guatemala’s First Court of Appeals upheld an appeal concerning the licensing of the mine.[6] The court ruled that there should have been more consultation but the license was not revoked due to an appeal by MSR and MEM.[7]

Protests continued throughout 2013, and votes taken in November show that over 23, 000 people opposed the mine.[8] Despite this the mine began operations in 2014.[1]

The administrative manager and legal representative of MSR, Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón was detained on charges of industrial contamination in April of 2015. [9]This is the result of an investigation originally launched in 2012 by Guatemala’s Public Prosecutors’ Office for Crimes Against the Environment regarding the company’s contamination of water sources near the mine. The investigation was due to complaints form the Centre for Social Legal Action in Guatemala (CALAS) about contamination of the Escobal Creek and the El Dorado River. These alleged contaminations occurred during the exploration phase.[9]

Alex Reynoso, a human rights and environmental activist, and opponent to the mine has been a target of violence on multiple occasions. In 2014 he was shot at by unknown assailants, resulting in the death of his 16 year old daughter[10]. Most recently, he was shot at again, sending him and two other to the hospital with gunshot wounds. In response to the most recent attack, 48 international organizations signed onto a letter addressed to the Attorney General of Guatemala, Thelma Aldana, calling for an investigation into the attacks. The letter can be viewed here.


[1] “Escobal Mine.” Escobal Mine. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://www.tahoeresources.com/operations/escobal-mine/>.

[2] “NISGUA: Two Municipalities of Santa Rosa Say NO to Tahoe Resources and Metal Mining.” NISGUA. N.p., 2 Aug. 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://nisgua.blogspot.ca/2011/08/two-municipalities-of-santa-rosa-say-no.html>.

[3] NI 43-101 Feasibility Study Escobal Mine Guatemala. Rep. no. M3-PN140087. M3, 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

[4] “NISGUA: Two Municipalities of Santa Rosa Say NO to Tahoe Resources and Metal Mining.” NISGUA. N.p., 2 Aug. 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://nisgua.blogspot.ca/2011/08/two-municipalities-of-santa-rosa-say-no.html>.

[5] J, Cecilia. “Ontario Securities Commission Asked to Probe Tahoe Resources for Alleged Violence in Guatemala | MINING.com.” MININGcom. N.p., 03 June 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://www.mining.com/ontario-securities-commission-asked-to-probe-tahoe-resources-for-alleged-violence-in-guatemala-79241/>.

[6] “Guatemalan Complainants Celebrate Effective Suspension of Tahoe Resources’ Licence.”MiningWatch Canada. N.p., 25 July 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/guatemalan-complainants-celebrate-effective-suspension-tahoe-resources-licence>.

[7] “Dispelling Myths About Tahoe’s Escobal Project.” Nosotros. N.p., 6 Sept. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://www.tahoecsr.com/dispelling-myths-about-tahoes-escobal-project/>.

[8] “Tens of Thousands Oppose Tahoe Resource’s Escobal Project in Guatemala.” MiningWatch Canada. N.p., 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/tens-thousands-oppose-tahoe-resource-s-escobal-project-guatemala>.

[9] “NISGUA: Tahoe Resources’ Administrative Manager Detained on Charges of Industrial Contamination.” NISGUA: Tahoe Resources’ Administrative Manager Detained on Charges of Industrial Contamination. N.p., 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. <http://nisgua.blogspot.ca/2015/04/tahoe-resources-administrative-manager.html>.

[10] “Impunity Reigns, History Repeats: Anti-Mining Activist Survives Second Armed Attack.” MiningWatch Canada. N.p., 22 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. <http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/impunity-reigns-history-repeats-anti-mining-activist-survives-second-armed-attack>.

Timeline of Key Events