A helicopter carrying supplies to Tahoe Resources’ (TSX: THO; NYSE: TAHO) silver mine in Guatemala was attacked by small-arms fire from the ground, and the pilot had to make an emergency landing after a bullet pierced the tail near the rear rotor blade.
The incident was reported in a local newspaper and the company confirmed the attack in an email response to questions from The Northern Miner.
The helicopter was being used to supply material for the company to keep its environmental mitigation commitments when the pilot was forced to land on Tahoe’s concessions, the company said.
“Any violence against our employees, contractors and communities is unacceptable, and we condemn this act in the strongest possible terms,” Edie Hofmeister, the company’s executive vice-president of corporate affairs and general counsel, wrote in an email. “This situation must be resolved peacefully and in accordance with the law to ensure the safety of our employees and all members of the community.”
The attack is the latest in a string of challenges the mining company is facing in Guatemala.
Tahoe has been unable to restart operations at Escobal due to a blockade of a municipal road that leads to the mine.
In addition, the company’s annual export permit to ship metal concentrate has expired.
Until mining operations resume, the company has said, it cannot access US$75 million of its US$300-million revolving-credit facility, and may continue to be subject to events of default.
In July, the Supreme Court suspended Escobal’s mining licence until it could hear an action brought by a non-governmental organization with the abbreviation CALAS against Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM).
CALAS had filed a claim in May alleging that MEM violated the Xinca Indigenous Peoples’ right of consultation before a licence was granted to Tahoe’s flagship mine.
In September, the Supreme Court reinstated the mining licence for Tahoe’s subsidiary, Minera San Rafael. But the court also ordered MEM to conduct consultations with the Xinca indigenous communities within a certain geographic area and report results of these meetings back to the court within a year.
Tahoe is seeking clarification from the court on the specific geographical departments that need to be included within the scope of MEM’s consultations. Although the mining company says the MEM complied with ILO Convention 169 (which guarantees the rights of Indigenous Peoples) before it issued the Escobal licence, it says it will support MEM “in any of its future indigenous engagement and will encourage MEM to involve independent ILO 169 experts to assist in this process.”
At press time shares of Tahoe were trading at $6.53 apiece. The company’s shares have traded within a 52-week range of $5.31 (August 2017) to $16.91 (November 2016).