San Xavier and Blackfire said to have forced repeal of laws they had violated
Canadian mining companies are not only the prinicipal producers of gold in Mexico but are also those most often involved in social and legal conflicts. Currently, of the 279 foreign corporations involved in mining, 210 are Canadian, with concessions in 26 states.
The Canadian firm Goldcorp is the number one producer of gold and in 2010 it extracted 680,000 ounces in four mines. At the same time, Minera San Xavier, owned by New Gold, which operates in Cerro San Pedro, San Luis Potosí, without environmental permits, in that same year attained production valued at 145.6 million dollars, according to information from the Cámara Minera of Mexico.
Mining concerns from that country operate with “almost total impunity throughout the world” and legal and public policy initiatives are accordingly being promoted to hold them accountable, according to a report issued in 2010 by a delegation investigating the murder of Mariano Abarca and activities of Blackfire Exploration, to which Fronteras Comunes, the Sierra Club and Mining Watch also contributed.
“The devastation and violence perpetrated by the Canadian mining firms have been broadly documented and linked to violations of human rights” in Guatemala, Peru, Romania, the Philippines, Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia, India and Sudan, among other countries, states Mandeep Dhillon in “Canadian Mining in Mexico: Violence Made in Canada.”
According to experts, the cases of Minera San Xavier and Blackfire stand out. The Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat twice revoked the environmental permit for the former, but they continued operations after an appeal.
This year the mining company sought to “regularize its situation by eliminating the laws it had violated,” arranging with some politicians a project to repeal them, investigator Juan Carlos Ruiz Guadalajara stated in an interview. The legal framework blocking their operations disappeared and the area where they work, classified in1993 as an area for wildlife restoration and preservation, is now devoted to mining operations in accordance with a state decree that last March modified the use of the land. The business “cleans up its image through an agreement with the authorities and the complicity of judges,” he states.
In Chicomuselo, Chiapas, Mariano Abarca, a leading opponent of Blackfire, which had operated a barium mine that is now closed, was shot in 2009. Canadian NGOs have since issued a report in which they emphasize that Abarca’s family believes that “Blackfire is responsible for the violence that began with the installation of the mine and that culminated in the assassination of Mariano.”
The report states that nine NGOs filed a motion on March 10, 2010, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police requesting that charges be drawn up against Blackfire for violating the law concerning attempts to corrupt foreign public officials. The denunciation emphasizes that “there is convincing evidence of payments Blackfire made to Julio César Velásquez Calderón, municipal president of Chicomuselo for extra-official services favoring the company.”
The Canadian embassy in Mexico distributed instructions to mining companies to move without conflict “into communities that could be impacted by the presence of a mine.” If the company “behaves irresponsibly” and the affected community contacts the embassy with a complaint, as happened twice with Blackfire, they state that the affair will not place obligations on the embassy.