(Ottawa) Communal landowners from the Ejido “La Sierrita” and workers from La Platosa mine in Durango, Mexico have filed a complaint against Excellon Resources under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Corporations with government offices in Ottawa and Mexico City.
Landowners and workers allege severe labour rights violations and failure to comply with the land use contract with the Ejido “La Sierrita”, on whose land the company operates. The complaint is co-signed by the Canadian Labour Congress, MiningWatch Canada, the United Steelworkers, the National Mining Union of Mining, Metallurgic, and Similar Workers of the Mexican Republic, and the Project for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Mexico.
“In 2008, Excellon signed a contract making us business partners and shareholders in the company. Four years later, we are still waiting for Excellon to comply with many aspects of the contract,” said David Espinoza, President of the Ejido (group of communal landowners) known as ‘La Sierrita’. “The company has explored on lands not included in the contract, leaving significant environmental damage.”
The complaint also points to the company’s failure to build a water treatment plant to ensure Ejido members can use water being removed from the mine for agriculture, nor has it provided the Ejido with food services contracts at the mine or ensured preferential hiring of Ejido members.
“We own this land and entered into this agreement with an explicit understanding that we would be equal business partners in the venture. Instead, the company has ignored its obligations,” said Espinoza.
Juan Rodriguez, a representative of the union’s leadership committee added that the community and the workers are united in their frustration with Excellon.
“In late 2010, a majority of mine workers formed Local 309 of the National Mining Union as a result of concerns over health and safety and lack of benefits,” said Rodriguez. “As soon as it was formed, however, the company fired our leaders and intimidated workers.”
The complaint says Excellon signed agreements with an employer-led association to obstruct formation of the independent union at La Platosa.
This is the second time that workers have complained about labour rights violations at La Platosa. Their first complaint was submitted to the Canadian Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor in 2011. The CSR Counsellor recognized the credibility of the complainants and their desire to enter into good faith dialogue. However, shortly before mediation was to begin, Excellon walked away from the table. The Counsellor had no further option within her mandate, except to close the complaint.
Now the workers and landowners are back in Canada, hoping that Canada’s National Contact Point under the OECD Guidelines will take serious steps to urge the company to the table.
The company has not fully disclosed to shareholders the ongoing conflicts in Mexico. Shareholders include most Canadians since the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) owns about $2-million in Excellon shares. The company is holding its annual shareholders’ meeting in Toronto on Thursday.
Daniel Pacheco, a resident of La Sierrita and former President of the General Assembly of the Ejido says there is no opposition to the mine itself.
“What we want is that Excellon acknowledge its misconduct, negotiate with us as equals, and resolve these issues,” Pacheco said. “We are shareholders too and want the company to be successful. But so long as it continues to treat its workers and local stakeholders this way, it won’t be.”
- Christopher Benoit, Project for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Mexico, e-mail: chris(at)prodesc.org.mx, tel. 011-52-55-5212-2230
- Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, e-mail: jen(at)miningwatch.ca, tel. (613) 569-3439
- Laura Ramirez, United Steelworkers Humanity Fund, e-mail: lramirez(at)usw.ca, tel. (416) 544-5961