(Ottawa and Toronto) A coalition of Canadian non-governmental groups today filed a memo with the RCMP asking it to investigate Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd. and its Mexican subsidiary under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Blackfire had submitted documentation of its payments to the mayor of Chicomuselo in the state of Chiapas, Mexico to the state Congress in June, 2009. These documents are now in the hands of the RCMP. Bribing a foreign public official is illegal under the rarely-used Act, one of the few Canadian laws that applies internationally. Under this Act any person found guilty could face up to five years in jail.
“There are really no other legal controls on the activities of Canadian companies operating internationally,” said MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Jamie Kneen. “We’re especially interested to see anything can be done in this particular case because it’s so appalling.” Rick Arnold, coordinator of Common Frontiers, added, “The company’s own documents show that it paid off the local Mayor and another municipal authority. We need to know – and the Mexicans deserve to know – that something can be done about this.”
According to a document signed by Mr. Artemio Avila Cervera, a director of Blackfire Canada and Blackfire Mexico’s General Manager of Social Responsibility, Blackfire Mexico has made payments totalling at least 204,022.69 Mexican pesos (equivalent to approximately CDN$20,000 at prevailing exchange rates) to Mr. Julio César Velázquez Calderón, the Mayor of the municipality of Chicomuselo in the state of Chiapas, Mexico for unofficial services for the benefit of Blackfire Mexico. The company has also provided the mayor with other benefits including airline tickets for himself, his family and his associates.
As Ken Neumann, Canadian director of the United Steelworkers pointed out, “Companies like Blackfire are the face of Canada abroad. Self-regulation through a ‘corporate social responsibility’ framework is clearly not working and so it is essential that the RCMP investigate these allegations and hold Blackfire to account for its actions.”
Blackfire has been in the news since November 27, 2009, when Mariano Abarca Roblero, a prominent Mexican anti-mining activist, was shot to death in front of his home in Chicomuselo. Mr. Abarca was a leader of the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA, from the Spanish) and one of the most important figures to publicly denounce the negative social and environmental impacts of Blackfire’s open-pit barite mine in Chiapas. Three current and former Blackfire employees have been arrested for his murder.
According to a recent report in the Mexican press, Blackfire is also threatening to sue the government of Chiapas for $800 million in compensation under Chapter 11 of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) for the closure of its barite mine by local environmental authorities in December, 2009.
A Canadian non-governmental delegation will visit Chiapas during the week of March 20-27 to review the situation with local organisations and government officials.
The memorandum and associated documentation are attached below.
For more information please contact:
- Common Frontiers – Rick Arnold (905) 352-2430 – comfront(at)web.ca
- Sierra Club Canada – Michael Bernard (613) 241-4611x230 (office) (613) 302-9933 (cell) – michaelb(at)sierraclub.ca
- MiningWatch Canada – Jamie Kneen (613) 569-3439 (office) (613) 761-2273 (cell) – jamie(at)miningwatch.ca
- United Steelworkers – Mark Rowlinson (416) 544-5983 – mrowlinson(at)usw.ca
- Council of Canadians – Dylan Penner (613) 795-8685 – dpenner(at)canadians.org