Inthe coming weeks, the Guatemala Ministry of Mines is to hold a court-orderedhearing to consider arguments from an opponent of 's silver mine, Tahoemanagement said in an interview on July 22.
Tahoesees the hearing as redundant, addressing issues that were brought up inwriting and rejected previously by regulators. Tahoe's Executive Chairman KevinMcArthur and President and COO Ron Clayton said they expect the Ministry touphold its permit.
"Thisis an opposition they've already ruled on," McArthur said. "But nowthey're providing that opportunity for the oral argument. And we've got threeyears of operating history that completely disproves the original opposition."
InDecember 2015, Guatemala's constitutional court ruled that the Ministry ofMines, or MEM, had a duty to hear an oral argument from an opponent of themine, who claims that it will have a detrimental impact on the environment,particularly water quality, McArthur and Clayton said.
Tahoemanagement contends that water quality has already been addressed by past — andsuccessful — environmental assessment of the project, which did not receivepublic comments, and by the MEM process to approve the mine. It was during theMEM process that opponents submitted letters raising potential environmentalissues.
"Theysaid we were going to create a lot of environmental degradation," Claytonnoted. "And of course all of this was studied in the environmental impactassessment and was reviewed by [the Guatemalan Ministry of Environment andNatural Resources] ... and so MEM denied this [opposition]."
Butin late 2015, Guatemala's Constitutional Court ruled that in a single case ofcomments from a mine opponent MEM did not give due consideration, according toMcArthur.
"Andso the court ruled there should be a review of that opposition and that thathas to happen," McArthur said.
Buthe stressed that the court did not rule on the merits of the opposition."They did not deny our project or withdraw our permits," he said.
McArthurnoted that a leading anti-mine organization in Guatemala, Centro de AccionLegal Ambiental y Social de Guatemala, or CALAS, petitioned the court afterthat decision, arguing it should rescind Tahoe permits.
"Andthe court did not do that," he said. "All the court said is that thereview must happen."
Theissue has recently garnered attention. The anonymous mining-focused blog IncaKola News pointed to media reports in Guatemala saying that CALAS threatened tosue the Guatemala Ministry of Mines if it did not cancel Tahoe permits.
McArthurviews the timing of the threat as opportunistic. "Because MEM is startingto hear these things, it makes for a good time for CALAS to put pressure onthem," he said.
McArthursaid he expects that CALAS will sue MEM if, as he predicts, it denies theenvironmental arguments on the same grounds as it did before.
Thedirector general of the Guatemala Ministry of Mines, Ida Elizabeth KellerTaylor, said over the phone Friday morning that no process had been started toreconsider Tahoe's Escobal permits in light of threats from CALAS to sue it.She said it would act only if directed to do so by Guatemala's ConstitutionalCourt.
Escobalis considered the third-largest silver mine in the world and holds over 300million ounces of silver in proven and probable reserves.