Guatemalan mine manager jailed for alleged river fouling


Associated Press -

Date of publication: 
14 April 2015

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The general manager of a Guatemalan mine has been jailed following a 2012 complaint about contamination of a river with mining residue.

General manager Carlos Roberto Morales was jailed on a judge’s order Monday, pending further investigation. The San Rafael mine said in a statement that it does not negatively impact the environment and would appeal the judge’s decision.

According to the complaint, the Mina de Plata San Rafael, owned by the Canadian Tahoe Resources Inc., contaminated a tributary of the Los Esclavos river about 70 kilometers (43 miles) southeast of the capital.

Rafael Maldonado, lawyer for Centro de Accion Ambiental-Legal y Social de Guatemala Calas, which filed the complaint, said it was the first time a mine general manager had been jailed for river contamination in Guatemala.


Tahoe Resources’ Administrative Manager detained on charges of industrial contamination

Joint press release – Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network – MiningWatch Canada – Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)

15 April 2015

(Guatemala City/Ottawa) Monday, a Guatemalan judge denied bail to the Administrative Manager and Legal Representative, Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón, of Tahoe Resources’ subsidiary, Minera San Rafael S.A., and ordered him to pre-trial detention on charges of industrial contamination. The Guatemala’s Public Prosecutors’ Office for Crimes Against the Environment launched an investigation in 2012 into the company’s contamination of water sources near its Escobal silver mine. The trial date is set for June 12.

Tuesday, Tahoe Resources issued a press release downplaying the decision and Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón’s role in the company, referring to him as an “employee”, not the “mine manager”. Nonetheless, a February 2013 Constitutional Court decision refers to Mr. Morales Monzón as the Administrative Manager and Legal Representative for Minera San Rafael. The company also said it will appeal Monday’s decision.

“This is remarkable. Tahoe Resources now has two managers from the Escobal mine in pre-trial detention, beginning two years ago with the company’s former security manager who was detained on charges of assault and obstruction of justice. It will be even more remarkable if these cases continue to proceed,” stated Ellen Moore for the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.

The criminal case, which carries a sentence of up to eight years in prison if convicted, is the result of a complaint that the Center for Social Legal Action in Guatemala (CALAS) filed for contamination of the Escobal Creek and the El Dorado River, located near the community of Los Planes, just steps from Tahoe’s project. The alleged contamination occurred while the project was still in the exploration phase.

The Guatemalan Ministry of Health confirmed that a discharge of water from the mine installations was contaminated with suspended solids. Around the same time, local residents were reporting that contamination was affecting water used for crop irrigation. Since then, community members have been denouncing increasing scarcity of water in the area immediately surrounding the project, similarly believed to be a result of Tahoe’s mine. This latter concern is not part of the legal process.

“With several legal processes underway against the company and its affiliates, along with ongoing community resistance to the mine and its expansion plans, it should be ever more clear to investors that this company is a dangerous investment,” commented Jen Moore for MiningWatch Canada.

The extent of local concern over negative environmental and social impacts, present and future, of the mine on water supplies and community wellbeing has generated widespread community opposition to the project. As of March 2013, tens of thousands voted against the project in local plebiscites and residents filed more than 250 specific complaints against the granting of Tahoe’s final permitting license. The Ministry of Mines and Energy dismissed the complaints without consideration immediately before granting the company a license in April 2013. A lawsuit is pending in Guatemala’s Constitutional Court for lack of due process in this regard, which has raised questions about the legality of Tahoe’s exploitation license.

Protests that emerged in the wake of the Ministry’s hasty decision to grant Tahoe’s final permit faced police repression and an armed attack by company security guards on April 27, 2013 that left seven men injured. This latter event is the subject of a criminal case in Guatemalan courts against Alberto Rotondo, former security manager for Tahoe Resources, accused of having ordered and then attempted to cover up the attack. The seven men have also brought a civil suit against Tahoe Resources in British Columbia for negligence and battery in connection with the shooting.

In January 2015, the Norwegian Ethical Fund recommended against investing in Tahoe Resources, citing “unacceptable risk of the company contributing to serious human rights violations through its operation” at the Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala.


  • Ellen Moore, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), ellen(at), (510) 763-1403
  • Jackie McVicar, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, jackiebtsguatemala(at), (502) 4824-0637
  • Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at), (613) 569-3439

For more information about this situation, follow


Tahoe Resources to appeal employee detention

16th April 2015

By: Henry Lazenby – –

Vancouver-based Tahoe resources this week said Guatemala subsidiary Minera San Rafael (MSR) would appeal the court-ordered confinement of an employee pending the investigation of a 2012 environmental claim.

The TSX- and NYSE-listed miner said the employee was in charge of regulatory issues, worked with environmental regulators and was designated as the legal representative in an environmental claim regarding its flagship Escobal silver/lead/zinc mine, in south-eastern Guatemala, three years ago.

A lower court in the town of Cuilapa on Monday ordered the public prosecutor’s office to investigate the alleged discharge of water into the Escobal creek in April 2012, during the construction phase of the Escobal mine.

Tahoe noted that a local antimining nongovernmental organisation, CALAS, had initiated the claim against MSR in early 2012.

The company charged that independent laboratory tests since 2010 had consistently demonstrated that discharges from the Escobal mine met regulatory standards, with no adverse impact to the local environment.

MSR launched its appeal of the employee’s confinement on Wednesday, saying the court, in an unexpected move, granted CALAS’s demand that the company’s legal representative be sent to jail pending the investigation.

“We are concerned for our valued employee and believe that the court overreached its authority in confining him while this environmental claim is being investigated. We expect the court of appeal to right this wrong and overturn the lower court’s order and release our employee expeditiously,” said Tahoe CEO Alex Black.

Tahoe was also active in the British Columbia Supreme Court last week, when it argued to dismiss a civil suit launched last year by seven Guatemalan protesters who were shot during a peaceful protest outside the Escobal mine.

The seven men were suing the company for negligence and battery after allegedly being shot at close range by Tahoe security guards. They sought punitive damages against the company. 

Edited by: Tracy Hancock