No Silver Medal: Mexican Farmers Battle Canadian Mine for Control of Their Land
Civil disobedience has halted production at Mexico’s “top grade producer of silver.” Farmers of the La Sierrita village, a close knit community of about 50 families, located 40 minutes north of the city of Gomez Palacio, Durango, have shut down the La Platosa mine owned by Canadian firm Excellon Resources for over a month.
This comes in response to the company’s refusal to negotiate with the community over its requests for the preferential hiring of local people on whose land the company operates, as well as pay the rental rates for its use. Labor conditions within the underground mine where many local residents work is also an issue. Dozens of community members have maintained a nonviolent blockade of the one road into the mine, allowing only essential maintenance workers to pass, resulting in extraction grinding to a halt.
In recent years mining operations have drawn local protests from Peru to Tanzania and Papua New Guinea. Mexico is the site of several high profile struggles, nearly all involving Canadian companies. Communities are opposing the loss of their land and its contamination with toxins, including arsenic and cyanide, which are used in abundance in the extraction of gold.
Unlike many of these conflicts, the residents of La Sierrita have succeeded in inflicting a substantial economic cost to the company. As in the case of an effective strike, it is hoped that the continued shut down of its sole mining operation will eventually force Excellon to yield. Along with the community’s unified resolve to maintain the blockade, what distinguishes this struggle is that so far, it has succeeded in effectively disrupting the mine without triggering violent repression from the Mexican government or the company.
Many human rights activists are accustomed to campaigning against U.S.-based transnational corporations, which continue to dominate many sectors, but in the particularly violent, exploitative and dirty world of resource extraction, Canadian corporations are among the worst culprits. Since the mid-1990s, the Canadian-based mining sector has emerged to become the biggest in the world. The Toronto Stock Exchange is now the principal source of finance capital for mining operations. In 2010, Canadian mining companies held assets worth $129 billion internationally, with 90 percent owned by the 70 largest firms. Mexico is the second biggest country for Canadian overseas mining operations. With five mines, Goldcorp has the largest Canadian corporate presence in Mexico. Goldcorp also owns the infamous Marlin mine in Guatemala, where the company has been implicated in the deaths of human rights activists protesting its incursion into traditional indigenous territories.
Community and labor resistance
Excellon Resources began operations at the La Platosa mine in 2004, following the usual manner for mining companies in Mexico: with federal permits and state authorization, but without any prior negotiation or consultation with the local community, whose collectively held lands Excellon expropriated. Since then, the local ejido — a type of rural community in Mexico whose land is owned collectively — has organized to challenge Excellon. In 2008 it succeeded in pressuring the company to sign an agreement determining a rental rate for the land, the construction of a treatment facility which would enable salinized water pumped from the mine to be used for farming in the drought-ridden region, preferential local hiring and the granting of cafeteria and transportation concessions to the ejido. Excellon has not complied to date, resulting in the La Sierrita ejido voting to erect the blockade on July 8. Like many communities in rural Mexico, La Sierrita grapples with high unemployment. Residents of the struggling ejido also lack access to basic education and medical services as well as running water. Daniel Pacheco, a local farmer remarks:
It is unfortunate that a company that earned $30 million in gross profit in one year , largely from the La Platosa mine, can’t make the minimal commitment to support development of our community.
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Les compagnies minières qui se trouvent en Haïti sont canadiennes.
Les compagnies canadiennes qui opèrent au Mexique, comme dit dans cet extrait que je vous traduis, ont un dossier de mauvaise gestion mettant en péril à la fois l'environnement, la santé des gens et l'absence de retombées économiques pour les populations vivant à proximité des mines exploitées.
Il existe un livre - dont il me semble que a publication avait été interdite- qui dénonce ces pratiques sauvages des compagnies canadiennes. Désolée mais je ne me rappelle pas du titre.
"In recent years mining operations have drawn local protests from Peru to Tanzania and Papua New Guinea. Mexico is the site of several high profile struggles, nearly all involving Canadian companies. Communities are opposing the loss of their land and its contamination with toxins, including arsenic and cyanide, which are used in abundance in the extraction of gold."
"Ces dernières années, les opérations minières ont provoqué des protestations du Pérou à la Tanzanie ainsi qu'en Guinée Papouasie. Au Mexique se déroule plusieurs combats très importants, presque tous concernent des compagnies canadiennes. Les communautés s'opposent à la perte de leurs terres et à leur contamination par des produits toxiques, dont l'arsenic, le cyanure, largement utilisés dans l'extraction de l'or."