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February 21, 2018

The real owners of the San Rafael mine and their military mercenaries


This investigation reveals that the real owners of the mining group Tahoe Resources (San Rafael Mine etc.), is a group of wealthy and elite Guatemalans, who have purposely built a smokescreen of mining companies in Canada (complete with Canadian managers) to hide the fact that the real owners are themselves Guatemalans.

By means of this Machiavellian plan, the true owners of Tahoe Resources (San Rafael Mine etc) have been able to dupe everyone into believing that the actual rapacious exploiters of the country’s natural resources are a group of alleged Canadian mining companies and shape public opinion into believing that the Canadian mining companies are the true pariahs.

INVESTIGATION © Luis Solano (Under Siege) – J. Russell – Guatemala Chronicle – July 25, 2017
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Tahoe Resources (San Rafael Mine etc) has approximately 350 investors in total and some 210 of these investors are corporate investors such as funds and institutions. However 40% of the shares are owned by approximately 140 individual shareholders, who hide behind a number of small corporations and trusts, that hide the direct relationship with the ancient families and actual owners of the lands, where the mine is located.

We have to protect investors” , declared Óscar Berger, President of Guatemala, during a press conference on January 11, 2005, but he failed to mention that the “investors” he wanted to protect were not foreign investors, but his actual friends that own the mine.

In other words, while everyone in Guatemala is focused on the current events surrounding Tahoe Resources (San Rafael Mine etc) in the Guatemalan and Canadian courts, the “business of fierce extraction of silver and gold etc.” , will continue without interruption, because at the end of the day, no matter what the “the mining company is called”, what matters most is “who the real owners of land are”, that contains one of the world’s most valuable “gold and silver deposits etc”.

Brief history;

The area covered by the municipalities of Matasquescuintla, Jalapa and San Rafael Las Flores in the department of Santa Rosa, has been a mining meca since 1694, when the first silver discoveries were made. The mining licenses issued to Tahoe Resources, have a long history, designed to obfuscate the real owners, as outlined below;

In 1850, the Jesuits began to exploit silver in the Mercedes & Santiago silver mine in the village of Morales, Matasquescuintla, near San Rafael Las Flores. However, they ceased operations at the end of 1871, because in 1872, the Liberal Reform Government of Justo Rufino Barrios expropriated all the properties (including the mines), belonging to the Catholic Church.

Between 1917 and 1918, the US West End Consolidated Mining Co. and Matasquescuintla Mining Co., exploited silver and copper from the El Rosario, Los Ocotes, Magdalena and San Francisco mines, located in what later became known as the Matasquescuintla mine, in the village of Morales. Both trans-nationals partnered with the US Silver Lead Mining Co., which also had mining operations in the area of Sansare, in the department of El Progreso.

The Santiago and Mercedes Matasquescuintla mine, located on the El Rosario plantation (finca) land, owned by the Chilean engineer Edward Wright Crowe Ebner, continued with the exploitation of silver and gold. This land was obtained in 1925 when Crowe Ebner came to Guatemala to work for the American companies IRCA (International Railways of Central America) and the UFCO (United Fruit Company) in Tiquisate, Escuintla.

Tahoe Resources’ close connections with the Crowe Ebner family were vital for it’s mining project. The Crowe family has had historic links to mining activities in the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores since the 1920s and officially remained as owners of the land and mining areas in this area until 2013, and probably still are.

In the mid 1940s, José Roberto Fanjul Garcia became the nominal owner of the “Crowe lands” and the Guatemalan National Minerals Company S.A. was formed to exploit the Santiago and Mercedes Matasquescuintla mine on the same property, supposedly owned by José Roberto Fanjul Garcia. The new “legal representatives” were coffee growers Arturo Bianchi Argüello and Garcia Fanjul.

Fanjul Garcia, was the Minister of Economy during the government of Jacobo Árbenz and his son, Julio Roberto Fanjul Bianchi, is the current general manager and legal representative of Monolit (Multi Group Investments) which had sulfur mining mining licenses and interests in the Peñas Blancas mine, adjacent to San Rafael Las Flores, during the 1980s.

Bianchi was the last “legal representative” of the Guatemalan National Minerals Company S.A., up to the 1950s and his relatives were senior government officials during the government of President Jorge Serrano Elías (1991-1993). “Legal Representatives” in Guatemala, are a legal mechanism designed to hide the identities of the real owners of lands, plantations or companies etc., and do not denote any form of “ownership”.  

In 1996, what is now known as the Escobal Project, which is surrounded by the mining licenses Oasis I, II and III and the mining project Cerro Blanco in Jutiapa, a mining license was awarded to the mining company Mar-West Aruba, a subsidiary of Mar-West Resources of Canada, which established a Guatemalan subsidiary in September 26, 1996 called Entre Mares SA, to operate in Guatemala, presided by the Canadian Simon Ridgway.

In 1997, the MEM (Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines) issued mining concessions to Entre Mares SA for Ayarza I, Pocito and Joya Grande also known as Ayarza and Tapalapa, which are located in the municipalities of Casillas and San Rafael Las Flores, where Tahoe Resources currently has it’s principal mining licenses and operations.

In 1998, Glamis Gold acquired Mar-West Resources of Canada and all it’s mining projects including El Escobal and Cerro Blanco in Guatemala. Simon Ridgway then became President of Radius Exploration which is now called Radius Gold Inc., which has multiple gold mining and exploration licenses in Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. In addition he is Chairman of Fortuna Silver Mines Inc. and CEO of Focus Ventures Ltd.

In 2002, Glamis Gold acquired Montana Explorer which had been founded originally by Montana Gold.

In 2007, Goldcorp acquired Glamis Gold and all its mining assets.

In 2010, Goldcorp’s Escobal mining assets were taken over by Tahoe Resources.

In 2013, The MEM (Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mines) approved the mining operating license for el Escobal (Tahoe Resources).

Since 2007, Carlos Crowe Santis, grandson of the vast landowner Crowe Ebner, has been the Community Relations Manager for Tahoe Resources, and has held similar positions with the mining company Montana Exploradora, a subsidiary of Goldcorp, which operates the controversial Marlin Mine (Mina Marlin) in the north-western highlands of Guatemala.

One of the key players in this elaborate obfuscation, is Guatemalan lawyer Jorge Asencio Aguirre, who registered Tahoe Resources’ Guatemalan subsidiary MSR (Minera San Rafael, S.A.) in 2010 and is also one of its “legal representatives”.

Asencio Aguirre also represents subsidiaries of Goldcorp and Kappes, Cassidy & Associates in Guatemala, whose mining projects are often involved conflicts with the local population. He once bragged on the television program “Libre Encuentro”, that he helped develop Guatemala’s 1997 “Mining Law”.

Fernando Castellanos Barquín, who at the time was the Guatemalan government’s National Director of Mining, is another key player as he awarded Tahoe’s mineral extraction license in April 2013, while at the same time dismissing without consideration, more than 200 complaints on file from local residents, over potential water and health impacts of the mine.

Before taking up his government post in 2012, Castellanos Barquín worked for Kluane Guatemala, S.A., the drilling company contracted by MSR (Minera San Rafael, S.A.), between 2007-2010. To date, four of the eight Tahoe Resources board members, are with Goldcorp or its predecessor Glamis Gold, while Tahoe Resources CEO Kevin McArthur was previously the president of Glamis Gold and of Goldcorp, and is currently the main adviser to the current incarnation of Goldcorp’s CEO.

It’s clear that the actual owners of Tahoe Resources Group (San Rafael mining etc.) are Guatemalan nationals who have set up this “round robin and slight of hand shuffle of Canadian mining companies”, in an attempt to fool everyone into thinking that the “rapacious exploiters” of Guatemala’s minerals, are actually foreign owned Canadian mining companies.

Meanwhile, the “rapacious business of extracting silver and gold etc.” continues without interruption, because at the end of the day, “the name of the mining company is irrelevant”, and what matters most is “who the real owners of land are”, that contains one of the most valuable “silver and gold deposits etc”, in the world.

On July 13, 2017, shareholder rights law firm Robbins Arroyo LLP filed a class action on behalf of all purchasers of Tahoe securities between April 3, 2013 and July 5, 2017, against Tahoe Resources, Inc. (NYSE: TAHO) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, for alleged violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by Tahoe’s officers and directors.

Should Tahoe Resources have it’s mining license cancelled permanently and all it’s shareholdres loose their money, as is currently happening, the Crowe Ebner dynasty and it’s partners in this elaborate crime, will continue extracting silver and gold etc., from their own lands, as they have done for almost one hundred years.

The San Rafael mine is not an assett that can be moved to another place or relocated to more peaceful surroundings. The nightly armoured convoys of trucks carrying silver and gold ore will continue as will the hourly flights of fleets of helicopters carrying silver and gold ore to the waiting ships at the new TCQ private wharf at Puerto Quetzal, as currently happens at the Mina Marlin. 

Nobody knows how much is taken or extracted, as nobody checks or audits any of the operation. All we have is the “word” of Tahoe Resources, the surrogates of the true owners, and as we all know, both parties are blatant liars, corporate financial swindlers and thieves. In other words, a band of criminals.

Tahoe Resources’ Military Mercenary Security Strategy
Filings in the case against Tahoe Resources in British Columbia include important revelations about the company’s militarized security strategy, beginning in 2011 with the hiring of a major US security contractor and Alberto Rotondo.

The sworn testimony of Donald Paul Gray, Vice President of Tahoe Resources, demonstrates links between a conglomerate of companies and individuals tied to military and intelligence services, contracts with private security companies with large military projects, and companies with mining and construction operations in Guatemala.

According to Gray, in 2011, MSR “engaged International Security and Defense Management, LLC (“ISDM”), a company founded by veterans of the US armed forces and based in California, “to assess it’s security needs and requirements during the construction phase of the Escobal project.” ISDM is listed amongst the most important private military companies in the world, and boasts experience providing security operations for corporations working in warzones including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Through ISDM, “MSR came to contract with [the Golan Group], formally called Alfa Uno, and retained it to develop and implement MSR’s security plan.” Golan Group is an Israeli private security company founded in 1983 by members of the Israeli Special Armed Forces. Notably, between 2005 and 2009, the Golan Group provided security services to Glamis Gold and Hudbay Minerals at their Marlin and Fénix mining projects, respectively. The Golan Group has also worked for Kappes, Cassidy & Associates at its conflict-ridden El Tambor project near Guatemala City. It provided security services for MSR before, during, and after the incidents of April 27, 2013.

Also through ISDM, Alberto Rotondo was contracted as head of security and came to manage the contract with the Golan Group. Rotondo claims on his LinkedIn page that he has military training in counterinsurgency. He graduated in 1974 from the Peruvian Naval Academy and, between 1980 and 1981, received training at the United States Naval Special War Command (US NSWC), headquartered in Coronado, California.

Between 1985 and 1986, he received training in psychological operations, civil affairs and low-intensity terrorism at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is where the US Army Center and School for Psychological Operations is located. According to community members interviewed, from 2011 until the state of siege, Rotondo designed and oversaw plans for criminalization. Rotondo worked for Tahoe Resources until shortly after the shooting on April 27, 2013.

Also revealing is wiretap evidence, authorized by the Lower Court Penal Judge for Narcotrafficking Activities and Crimes against the Environment of Guatemala against Rotondo and that was translated and submitted to the BC Supreme Court as part of the legal proceedings against Tahoe Resources. In the wiretaps, Rotondo orders guards to open fire against protesters during the events of April 27, 2013, using criminal and racist language.

These recordings include conversations between Rotondo and Juan Pablo Oliva Trejo. Oliva Trejo was taken into police custody on May 4, 2013. He is legal representative of Counter Risk, S.A., a company contracted by Tahoe Resources to carry out risk consultancy and to track media coverage. Oliva Trejo’s father is retired cornel Juan Guillermo Oliva Carrera, president and director of the Association of Military Politics Studies (AEPM). Oliva Carrera was prosecuted for being one of the supposed intellectual authors of the high profile assassination of anthropologist Myrna Mack in 1990.

AEPM houses Counter Risk, S.A. and Supervivencia Urbana, S.A., a shooting range. Oliva Carrera is director of political risk analysis for Supervivencia Urbana, S.A. and Oliva Trejo a shooting instructor. General Alfredo Augusto Rabbé Tejada also works for Supervivencia Urbana, S.A., and is an associate of Mayaquímicos, S.A. (MAQUISA). MAQUISA is in charge of the explosives MSR uses for its mining operations, some of which were stolen in November 2012, which was believed to be a set-up used to criminalize community leaders opposed to the Escobal mine and used to justify the state of siege in May 2013.

Tahoe Resources has now changed security firms. It hired a relatively new company, Centurion Security, S.A., which received its licence to operate as a private security company in early 2014. Centurion’s roots began with another security firm originally founded by British soldiers in 2006 and with past experience providing security in Guatemala’s oil sector where its services included “comprehensive advice on every aspect of security – from corporate operations, commercial risk and foreign investment to counter-terrorism and espionage and support to regional governments.”

As long as Tahoe Resources and the Guatemalan government continue to treat communities affected by the Escobal project – or any other mine project in the country – as insurgents instead of people peacefully standing up for their land, water, and in defence of their existing ways of life, the kind of conflict and violence observed to date can be expected to continue.

If these conditions persist, the anti-mining resistance will continue to be rated on a scale ranging from “a controllable threat” to a “terrorist threat.” These categorizations have already led to a counterinsurgencystyle response with the aim of dismantling the resistance movement. The ongoing militarization of communities and militarized security detail in Santa Rosa and Jalapa, thanks to the installation of the interInstitutional Commission in San Rafael Las Flores and two military outposts in the region is troubling evidence of this.

The effect in recent years has been the creation of a state of terror through military and police persecution, criminalization and persecution of leaders, as well as the capture of leaders based on false accusations and massive raids on the homes of key people within the opposition movement.

The processes to criminalize and persecute dozens of community members were never based on any real evidence. Not a single accusation for which people involved in the peaceful resistance to mining in Santa Rosa and Japala were detained was ever proven. These arbitrary detentions were more punitive in nature with the purpose of demobilizing anti-mining protests.

Furthermore, since 2013, two leaders in the local resistance, including 16-year old Topacio Reynoso and Telésforo Pivaral have been murdered, while others have been shot and wounded, including Topacio’s father Edwin Alexander Reynoso who has been shot twice and survived. Those responsible for these murders and attacks have still not been brought to justice.

Despite its lower profile under these conditions, the struggle of local communities continues. Municipal plebiscites on mining continue and there was strong electoral support for several mayors in San Rafael Las Flores and surrounding areas who campaigned on an anti-mining platform.




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