Vancouver firm taken to court for alleged foreign mine shooting

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

Vancouver-based mining firm Tahoe Resources faces a civil lawsuit filed in the B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday by seven protesters who say they were injured outside its Guatemalan silver mine last year.

The case could set a precedent as it is the first filed in British Columbia by alleged victims abroad against a B.C. mining company.

The seven men are seeking damages against Tahoe for “negligence and battery,” alleging the firm’s security chief ordered shootings of protestors the mine said were armed.

The case was filed by law firm Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman and the Canadian Centre for International Justice.

“There aren’t a lot of options for victims of violence related to Canadian mining in other countries,” CCIJ legal director Matt Eisenbrandt told 24 hours.

The lawsuit stems from an incident when Escobal mine guards faced off with locals opposing the project.

The plaintiffs claim guards fired shotguns, buckshot, pepper spray and rubber bullets into the crowd, Eisenbrandt said.

The head of security has since been jailed in Guatemala, but Eisenbrandt alleged the company is responsible for its contractors and “expressly or implicitly authorized” his actions.

Tahoe did not respond to interview requests but has disputed live bullets being fired.

“Contract security employed non-lethal rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse opponents carrying sticks and machetes who were blocking the mine gate,” its website stated. “At no time has the company ever used lethal force or intimidation.”

The lawsuit comes a week after Tahoe Resources unveiled a human rights policy online.

“We strive to create a transparent culture of our Company’s values as we conduct business honestly and ethically,” wrote CEO Kevin McArthur in a June 12 post. “Our Human Rights Policy is more than just a policy; it is an ethical code that we follow and holds us accountable.”

MiningWatch Canada spokeswoman Jen Moore said Canada is home to most of the world’s mining companies but needs more regulation governing their activities abroad.

None of the allegations have been proven in Canadian court, and Tahoe Resources has yet to file its response.


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