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NV Mining Company Sued Over Violence at Guatemalan Silver Mine

A Canadian supporter speaks to plaintiff Adolfo Garcia, right, about his lawsuit against a Nevada-based mining company. (Murray Bush/Flux Design)
A Canadian supporter speaks to plaintiff Adolfo Garcia, right, about his lawsuit against a Nevada-based mining company. (Murray Bush/Flux Design)
November 2, 2016

RENO, Nev. - A mining company headquartered in Reno is in court this week, accused of negligence and battery in a lawsuit tied to violence at a silver mine it owns in Guatemala.

Tahoe Resources is being sued by seven protesters who claim they were shot by mine security personnel at the Escobal mine in Guatemala in 2013. The company also is registered in Canada, and on Tuesday the protesters went to an appeals court in British Columbia asking for the legal right to sue for damages.

Kelsey Alford-Jones, senior campaigner for the Center for International Environmental Law, said video footage shows the protesters were shot in the backs as they were running away.

"The plaintiffs believe that Tahoe as a company had authorized this type of conduct from their security manager," she said, " or if that is not the case, was then negligent in its management of security personnel."

Tahoe Resources' head of security in Guatemala fled the country, but was later caught in Peru and is awaiting extradition back to Guatemala to face criminal charges. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it is fighting the allegations, arguing that Canada does not have jurisdiction in the case.

Alford-Jones said the case is about the bigger issue of whether transnational companies will be held accountable for human-rights abuses.

"We typically think of governments being the primary bodies responsible for ensuring human rights," she said, "but companies also have an obligation not to contribute to human-rights violations."

She said the plaintiffs are hoping the appeals court will allow the trial to proceed. Last year, a Canadian lower-court judge agreed with the company and said the case should be tried in Guatemala.

The notice of claim is online at tahoeontrial.files.wordpress.com. All court filings are at ccjj.ca.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV