Pre-consultation for Pan American Silver’s Escobal begins this month

Escobal Mine, Guatemala Image courtesy of  Tahoe Resources

The first pre-consultation meeting with stakeholders of Pan American Silver’s (TSX: PAAS) Escobal mine in Guatemala will take place on April 20, BNamericas reported Tuesday.

Among the participants will be the energy and mines ministry (MEM), representatives of the indigenous Xinca tribe, mining groups, human rights advocates, academics and the presidential dialogue commission.

Escobal, the world’s third-largest silver mine, has been shut since July 2017 after the country’s Supreme Court provisionally ordered so following an appeal from environment and human rights organization CALAS.

Escobal’s license was suspended by the constitutional court over allegations that community consultations had not been carried out by former owner Tahoe Resources. 

The Constitutional Court’s ruling ordered the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) to carry out an immediate consultation of the local indigenous population, the Xinka communities, and it also upheld the license suspension for Tahoe’s smaller Juan Bosco mine.

Pan American Silver acquired Tahoe Resources, and subsequently the mine, in February 2019. Escobal has a production potential of 20 million ounces per year of silver.

In June 2019, Pan American issued a public apology on announcing the resolution of the Garcia v. Tahoe case, a lawsuit which was launched in response to a shooting incident in April 2013 at Escobal.

Protestors had gathered at the entrance to the mine to protest the lack of community consultation on the project.  

“The first step before developing the pre-consultation, will be to carry out the study of the cultural and spiritual impact of the El Escobal mining project on the Xinca people,” Xinca representative Aleisar Arana Morales told BNamericas.

Photo credit: Guatemala government

The Xinca have already selected their 59 representatives and said preparatory meetings from October to December 2020 provided a roadmap for the pre-consultation phase, reported BNamericas.

“Once this study has been carried out, it will be possible to advance with the other phases of the pre-consultation,” Arana Morales said.

“Unfortunately during all of the previous government nothing happened, nothing moved forward, and that obviously hurts investments,” former energy and mines minister Juan Pablo Ligorría told BNamericas.

“If the resolution comes against the investment of an extracting industry, then the local extractive companies will not feel motivated to bring in investment to Guatemala.”

At the pre-consultation phase, “participants … plan and design the mechanism that will be used in the presentation of the information necessary to carry out the consultation,” according to the ministry.

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