Chiapas: Canadian delegation investigates mining abuses

Mark Rowlinson, Dawn Paley and Rick Arnold visited Chiapas from March 20 – 25 to visit the Blackfire mine site and meet with residents about the effects of the mine. They will prepare a report of their findings to present to a coalition of NGOs in Canada who are concerned about the practices of Canadian mining companies in other countries.

A delegation representing a coalition of Canadian NGOs visited Chiapas last week to see for themselves the damage caused by Blackfire Exploration Ltd.’s barite mine.

The mine, located near Chicomuselo in the Sierra Madre mountains of southern Chiapas, has been closed since early December 2009. On November 27, 2009, anti-mining leader Mariano Abarca Roblero was shot and killed in front of his home in Chicomuselo. Three men have been arrested for the murder. All of them had ties to Blackfire as current or former employees.

The delegation of Canadians, made up of Rick Arnold, Mark Rowlinson and Dawn Paley, toured the mine site and met with about 100 residents from Grecia, Nuevo Morelia and other surrounding villages to hear concerns about the effects of the mine.

Residents spoke of waterways clogged with mud during the rainy season, which prevents them from using an important water source. Last year saw an increase in the number of dead livestock and some residents reported skin rashes after coming in contact with the muddy water.

Residents also told the visiting Canadians they want Blackfire out of their community for good. They say that in addition being responsible for the killing of Abarca Roblero, the company broke promises to residents.

The delegation explained that they have filed a complaint with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Canada asking for an investigation into payments made by Blackfire to the mayor of Chicomuselo to control opposition to the mine. There are also several other initiatives being undertaken in Canada to try to make Canadian mining companies more accountable when operating in other countries.

At a press conference last Tuesday, the delegation issues a strong warning about what they determine to be the high risk of mudslides at the mine site when the rainy season begins in a few weeks. There is nothing preventing large amounts of mud to slide down the hillside, and cracks in the earth show there are already areas of weakness, they said.

The risk of mudslides could pose danger for the towns below, such as Nuevo Morelia.

“I just do not understand how a Canadian mining company can do this and not take some preventative measures,” Rick Arnold said during his visit to the mine site.

“It’s one thing not keeping their promises to the community, but it’s another coming in here and just destroying this hillside and creating a great danger for the people below and polluting their water. It’s not acceptable. It’s just not acceptable.”

More information from SIPAZ:

Chiapas: demonstration during the visit of Canada’s Governor General (December 10, 2009)

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