Pan American Silver Acquires More Toxic Assets with Yamana Merger

MiningWatch Canada — Earthworks — Institute for Policy Studies

OTTAWA, WASHINGTON D.C – Pan American Silver leadership and shareholders meet today in Vancouver and top of mind will be the company’s recent acquisition of Yamana Gold’s Latin American assets. The acquisition, completed on March 31st, has been characterized by CEO Michael Steinmann as "transformative” for Pan American’s growth. But local communities near Yamana’s former assets in Argentina, the MARA and Suyai projects, warn Pan American Silver shareholders about the repression and legal attacks they have faced and that the company lacks a social license to operate. Agnico Eagle has acquired Yamana’s Canadian assets. 

For over two decades, the communities of Andalgalá, Catamarca have firmly expressed their opposition to the Agua Rica/MARA project, currently in the advanced exploration phase. Local communities say that the companies have no social license to operate. Throughout that time, nearly 90 local leaders have faced unfounded legal attacks aimed at undermining their peaceful efforts to defend their land and rivers from mining, such as the Andalgalá river which supplies water to the entire region of Andalgalá. “The population of Andalgalá is currently facing a water emergency, and the development of MARA's mining activities will further affect the region’s water sources,” says Viviana Herrera, the Latin America Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

“For the people of Andalgalá, the sale of the Agua Rica deposit and the MARA project to Pan American Silver doesn’t change their underlying demands for the human right to a healthy environment,” says Mariana Katz, a lawyer representing the Asamblea El Algarrobo and a member of Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ). “The situation of violence and state complicity [in that violence] remains unchanged, forcing the people to continue to denounce all of the human rights violations caused by this project. There has been no fundamental change to the company’s approach.”  

Pan American Silver’s stated commitment to human rights runs contrary to its pattern of acquiring assets with a history of Indigenous rights violations, violence and strong local opposition. In 2019, Pan American Silver bought Tahoe Resources and the controversial Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala, which has been suspended since mid 2017 due to broad local opposition and failure to consult with the Xinka Indigenous People. 

Similarly, in 2010 it acquired the Navidad project in the province of Chubut, Argentina, despite legislation that prohibits cyanide use in open-pit mining and a strong and vocal local resistance to mining projects in the region for over 20 years, including from Mapuche Tehuelche communities. “With the acquisition of Yamana Gold, Pan American is once again using its capital to acquire a company and environmentally, socially, culturally and economically devastating projects. In Esquel, the company is continuing to move forward the Suyai project (known to us as Calfu Mahuiza) by disregarding over 81% of the local population who already said no to the mining project in a popular referendum [in 2003],” says Cristina Agüero, a member of No a la Mina Esquel (No to Mining in Esquel), a member organization of the Union of Community Assemblies of Chubut, Argentina (UACCh). She adds, "We hold Pan American Silver and its shareholders responsible for the human rights violations resulting from the imposition of their projects to increase their profits, which are stained by the blood of our peoples."

The company’s other operating mines in the region have also been strongly opposed, including for environmental devastation and ongoing contamination at the Quiruvilca mine in Peru and forced relocation at its La Colorada mine in Mexico.

“Shareholders should question the decision to acquire yet another project opposed by communities and demand to know how Pan American plans to respect Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in Argentina and Guatemala,” says Ellen Moore,  International Mining Campaign Manager with Earthworks. 

Additional statements by communities impacted by Pan American Silver:

Chubut: “We denounce the prosecution of 16 neighbors of Rawson, Trelew and Puerto Madryn for demonstrating against the shameful treatment of a bill presented by the UACCh through the Second Popular Initiative in the Legislature in May 2021. The bill, which if turned into law, would have banned mega-mining in the province, had been signed by more than 20,000 residents of Chubut. In response, communities are taking back the streets and remain alert to confront the brutal repression of the working class and the attempts to deepen the plundering of our common goods, demanding the immediate dismissal of all those prosecuted. Enough with the criminalization of protest. Resisting is not a crime!” — Flavia Nuñez, a member of the Asamblea en defensa del territorio de Puerto Madryn (Assembly in Defense of the Territory of Puerto Madryn), a member organization of the UACCh.

Guatemala: “Pan American Silver undermined its credibility on human rights when it bought the Escobal mine, which was imposed on us through repression, violation of our rights as Indigenous People, including the negation of our existence and our identity,” said Xinka leader, Luis Fernando García Monroy. “The Guatemalan Constitutional Court recognized these abuses, such that now we are midway through a government-led consultation process. We urge Pan American Silver and its shareholders to respect our rights as Indigenous People and to guarantee that the process is carried out in good faith, and in a free and fair manner.”

For more information or to set up interviews with local organizations, contact:

  • Ellen Moore, International Mining Campaign Manager, Earthworks, [email protected], +1 (202) 887-1872x128
  • Jennifer Moore, Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies - Global Economy Project, [email protected]  
  • Viviana Herrera, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, Whatsapp: +1 (438) 993-1264, [email protected]