Four short stories and one succinct opinion. No pictures. You decide.
Story 1 – Gambling
A father took his young daughter with him to gamble. The men sat gambling until late in the night and into the early morning. The daughter busied herself as only teenagers can when their parents are at play. The father’s luck was fierce. He won a great deal and the losers were sore. Finally the father left with his daughter, but the losers were not happy. They wanted their money back. They waylaid the father and daughter and an altercation broke out. Guns were pulled. The daughter was shot and killed. The father, bereft, is in hospital fighting for his life.
Story 2 – History
Many centuries ago a peaceful tribe lived in a beautiful, fertile valley. But the foreigners came and pushed them from the valley. The tribe was forced to a rocky area at the foot of inhospitable hills and vast boulder bed. They eked out a living. They became fierce and for hire when thugs needed services. They aligned themselves with the politically disposed and desperate. Those who took the valley, settled in small villages, cultivated the fields, grew vegetables, coffee, and hemp. The latter supported a relatively comfortable lifestyle under the ruling family that took up residence in a large house atop the rise.
Story 3 – Silver
A lone geologist came to the valley and found a rich vein of silver in the hills. A foreign mining company came and developed a mine. They employed the locals in the valley. But the original inhabitants now living seven kilometer uproad, upwind, and upwater from the valley and mine would not come to the mine. Those who thought to do so were ostracised. The opposition politicians courted those living beside the boulder beds and encouraged (some say paid) them to oppose the mine and make trouble. They did. One night they came and shot a young guard before being driven away. They cut trees to block the access roads. They blocked construction of power lines. And they refused to sign on to the receive a share of the five percent royalties the mine pays to the government and local councils.
Story 4 – Journalists
In a far northern city is a group of young journalist who spend their time writing e-missives attacking mining. They are funded by who knows whom. It is said the money comes from actors, philanthropists, activists, and other deluded souls who get a thrill from being in opposition. The young journalists, like all us writers, like to be read and admired. The more lurid their stories, the more thye are read and admired. It is job security to write stories, regardless or not of whether they are founded in fact. It is the writing that is thrilling, not the fact checking. Here is what they wrote and distributed recently:
A sixteen year old Guatemalan girl, Topacio Reynoso, was murdered on April 13, 2014 near her home town of Mataquescuintla, Guatemala where she was head of a youth movement against mining. Her father, a leader in organizing a municipal vote on the mine, was shot in the same incident and is in hospital in critical condition. The violent incident raises concerns over ongoing conflict in the area of Tahoe’s Escobal mine.
Today, MiningWatch is sending a letter to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board calling on the fund to divest from Tahoe Resources. MiningWatch argues that the investment is a dangerous and unacceptable gamble.
The letter says that Tahoe has failed to disclose that tens of thousands of people in five municipalities closest to Tahoe’s Escobal silver project have voted overwhelmingly against mining in their communities. For example, in the municipality of Mataquescuintla, home of Topacio Reynoso, over half of the eligible voters participated in a vote in which 96% – or some 10,000 people – voted against mining.
As violence and repression against mine opponents grew from 2012 to 2013, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board tripled its holdings in Tahoe.
“Given the threat this project poses to Guatemalan communities, and at a time when Canadians are concerned about the ability of the Canada Pension Plan to meet future needs, this investment is simply irresponsible,” remarks Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.
Opinion – Mine
I have been to the mine many times. I have seen the desperate poverty of Mataquescuintia. I have seen the growth of prosperity in San Rafael Las Flores where most miners live. I am engaged as a consultant by Tahoe and respect their people. Although I have not sought their permission to post this. I am too independent for that.
These are sad stories. But it simply is not true that the mine is evil, or that their people are wicked. They are trying to do what we all try to do, namely mine to make money and make life better for those who participate and those who merely benefit from a free and vibrant economy.
I must call on MiningWatch to get the facts. Write what most Guatemalans know—their journalists have done a fair job of getting to the bottom of the politics and violence. If they can do it, we should be able to demand no less of Canadian journalists. No more lurid, factless writing please. Tell the truth and stop hassling investors with your own fantasies and fallacies.