Tahoe Resources says workers at Guatemalan unit abducted, held for several hours

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Twelve unarmed security contract workers at Tahoe Resources Inc’s Guatemalan unit were abducted late on Friday and held for hours before being released, the gold- and silver-mining company said.

“After several hours of being abducted, injured and held at gunpoint, the contractors were eventually released and escorted by the Guatemalan Civil National Police (PNC) back to Jalapa where they were treated for their injuries and trauma,” the Nevada-based company said in a statement on Saturday.

It did not elaborate on the nature of the injuries.

Tahoe added that the abductors of the contract workers at its Minera San Rafael Guatemalan unit identified themselves as the “Peaceful Resistance Group of Mataquescuintla.”

It said the group earlier last week set up an illegal blockade on a public road at the entrance to the municipality of Mataquescuintla in the department of Jalapa, about 3 miles (5 km) from the Escobal mine.

“We are treating these developments with the utmost seriousness and are taking appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of all of our employees and contractors, their families, and local community members,” Tahoe Chief Executive Jim Voorhees said. (bit.ly/2odLQxC)

Tahoe’s flagship Escobal silver mine in Guatemala has been inactive since last year after Guatemala’s top court suspended Tahoe’s operating license after an anti-mining organization alleged that the Xinca indigenous people were not properly consulted by the country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Voorhees said this month that his top priority was ending the dispute that has stopped all of the mining company’s silver production.

Last week, the company terminated employment for about 200 additional Minera San Rafael workers, bringing the number of total dismissals to about 70 percent of the unit’s workforce. It has said it will seek to restore the workforce when operations resume.

Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney

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