Ottawa continues to pander to Canadian mining, despite endemic violence in local communities

Originally published by on 13/10/15.

The Canadian Ambassador to Mexico is apparently not worried about violence, kidnapping and extortion at Canadian mine sites.

This despite a Canadian mining executive having admitted this year to the Business News Network to having a good working relationship with organized crime groups in Sinaloa, workers being kidnapped and killed at a Canadian mine site in Guerrero, and half a community fleeing from their homes because of threats and violence around yet another Canadian mine in Guerrero.

Speaking to the press in Guerrero, Mexico on Friday during an annual mining fair that took place in Acapulco, Ambassador Pierre Alarie is quoted as saying, “It is important, but it is not a critical problem for Canadian investment.”

pierre-alarie“We don’t see insecurity as a big problem, it is a problem that should be addressed, but it is not an important problem,” he continued when pressed.

Is that because Canadian mining companies have been able to continue their business pretty much as usual, despite the suffering that local populations and workers have been living through? Is that because Canadian mining company executives can afford private security to protect them when they visit their mine sites, but not for workers or communities? Or is it because the Mexican government has reinforced federal police protection of their interests, leaving local people to fend for themselves?

When Mexican reporters pressed the Ambassador about cases in which mining workers have been kidnapped and extorted, such as was reported this year in connection with Torex Gold‘s Media Luna project in Guerrero, the Ambassador reportedly said that these are generalized problems of insecurity and that a direct connection cannot be made with Canadian mining companies.

Earlier this year, however, three workers from Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine were killed, and La Jornada reported that over half of the community of Carrizalillo, where the Los Filos mine is located, had fled their homes because of out-of-control violence. The press in Guerrero has also reported that workers and community members around Los Filos are being extorted.

When millions of dollars of gold concentrate were robbed from McEwen Mining’s El Gallo 1 mine in Sinaloa in April of this year, Rob McEwen stated to the press that the company gets along fine with organized crime groups that operate in their area, sparking a scandal in the Mexican press. He later backed away from the comments, calling his remarks “careless.”

Did the Ambassador miss this news?

The Mexican press has observed how industrial mines have become a target for extortion, often operating in collusion with state authorities. If companies are directly being extorted, making pacts with organized crime in order to operate, or their activities are otherwise directly or indirectly benefiting organized crime in these areas, this is a problem, no matter whether the companies or the Canadian Ambassador would like to admit it.

The Mexican press has reported:  “In private meetings, mining company representatives have complained to state and federal authorities about murders, kidnappings and extorsion committed by organized criminal groups that control entire territories and who act in collusion with state authorities at all three levels.”

For the Canadian Ambassador to continue promoting Canadian mining interests — including announcing last week that two more Canadian mining companies plan to make major investments in Guerrero this year, when it is more than likely that their mines will be a target for extortion, bring more violence, and leave communities without any say over what’s best for them and their land — it is not acceptable for anyone to shrug off the violent disposession taking place.

The Ambassador’s weak assurance that “there are problems with insecurity in a few states in the country and those states and the federal government have taken measures to improve this” is no assurance at all.

The Mexican government did step up protection for mining companies in late 2014. But it has not addressed the chronic and horrendous war on people occuring right now in Mexico, where over the last nine years nearly 30,000 people have been disappeared and 150,000 murdered, according to official figures.

In fact, the Mexican government has just been taken to task by an independent investigation team from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights for not having addressed the highly publicized forced disappearance of 43 young men from the rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, and the murder of six, on September 26, 2014 in Guerrero, a short distance from the Guerrero Gold Belt where Goldcorp, Torex Gold, and other Canadian and foreign mining companies hope to make more millions.

Finally, it is difficult to believe that the Ambassador is really convinced that the relationship between Canadian mining companies and affected communities in Mexico “is excellent” or “very, very good,” as he also said last week.

Precisely as a result of the longterm environmental and social impacts of industrial mining, including the likelihood of terrifying security problems, numerous projects and mining concessions with Canadian interests have been stalled by local communities in no less than ten states: Chiapas, Colima, Puebla, Morelos, Guerrero, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Baja California Sur, and Chihuahua.

In a communiqué directed to companies and Mexican authorities last week, the Council of Agrarian Authorities from the La Montaña/Costa Chica region of Guerrero invited representatives of mining companies to visit the so-called Guerrero Gold Belt for a reality check — without bodyguards, military or a federal police escort — in order to see the violent reality that communities are really living and that makes the idea that their mining operations lead to “development and social responsibility” a terrible joke.

It seems, however, like we have yet another Ambassador who is implementing the federal government’s wrong-headed “economic diplomacy” policy to give 100 per cent support to Canadian economic interests to the detriment of the lives and livelihoods of workers and affected communities.

Through its omission of any form of prevention or accountability as much as its active promotion of mining, the Canadian government implicates itself in the violence taking place. By brushing over reality both in terms of significant violence and significant community resistance to Canadian mining operations in Mexico and elsewhere, the Canadian government is effectively giving its blessing to the impunity that blankets most of these crimes and to the disrespect that so many “reputable” companies demonstrate for community decisions over their own lives and lands.

It is time for such brazen pandering to the industry to stop and for the lives and wellbeing of communities and workers to take first place.

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