(La Platosa, Durango) Approximately 100 soldiers and officers of the Mexican Army and Federal and state police agencies used force to break through the peaceful protest taking place in front of the La Platosa mine, owned by a subsidiary of Excellon Resources. The protest consists of 100 men, women and children who are members of the community (Ejido) La Sierrita and workers of the Local 309 of the National Mining Union. Authorities took action in order to re-open the road to the mine and permit workers to enter the facilities.
Ejido members and workers have maintained a peaceful camp in front of the mine since July 8th of this year. The Ejido is demanding that the company comply with the land rental agreement signed between the two parties in 2008. This is essential to the community’s ability to defend its human right to autonomy regarding its own land. The workers present at the camp are also demanding that Excellon and the government guarantee their right to freedom of association.
Since the protest began almost two months ago, the Ejido has made several attempts to negotiate with the Company with the support of federal and state government representatives through mediation. The last meeting took place on August 13 in the offices of the Federal Secretary of Government in Mexico City. In that meeting, Excellon walked away from the table in the first five minutes claiming that it would not negotiate until the blockade was lifted. In this same roundtable, the federal representative, Jorge Triana, stated that he was “as outraged as the Ejido members by Excellon’s failure to negotiate.” In the same meeting, the Durango state representative, Jaime Fernández Saracho, recognized the Ejido’s open willingness to resolve the conflict.
The federal and state governments reversed their position today. Along with federal prosecutors, more than 100 soldiers and police forces pressured and intimidated the landowners and workers to let company representatives enter the mine. The authorities informed the protesters that the workers would be conducting an inspection by the federal department of labor but have failed to provide any documentation substantiating this claim. They were accompanied by a busload of presumed workers of the mine; though protesters believe that the bus included many people who are not Excellon employees.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Durango State Human Rights Commission are investigating the matter and have insisted that the Mexican government ensure the safety and freedom of the Ejido members and workers of the Local 309.
In 2008, after three months of conflict between Excellon and the Ejido, the two parties signed a new land rental contract which included important progress for both parties. The contract also established clauses in which the company was obligated to contribute to development projects for the Ejido that would better the quality of life of the community.
Nonetheless, in the last four years, the company has failed to comply, and has even violated, the clauses of this agreement. Ejido members have tried to sit with company representatives and review the violations of the land rental contract to resolve the conflict since November 2011 without success.
“Ejido members were forced to initiate this protest after almost eight months of attempts to dialogue with Excellon to resolve several non-compliance and violations of the land rental agreement that it signed with us in 2008,” said Daniel Pacheco, Ejido member. “It is unfortunate that a company that earned 30 million dollars in gross profit in one year, largely from the La Platosa mine, can't make the minimal commitment to support development of our community,” he added.
The Ejido General Assembly, after exhausting its efforts at dialogue and due to the unwillingness of the company to work together, decided to exercise its legitimate right to peacefully protest the company's La Platosa operations. The Ejido hopes that the company will comply with the clauses of the land rental agreement including its obligation to build a water treatment plant for water expelled from the mine, the granting of concessions for transportation of minerals and food services in the mine, and just rental payments, among others.
- Alejandra Ancheita, ProDESC (Project for Human, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Mexico), (Tel.) +55-5212-2230, +55-5212-2229, +55-3334-6045, alejandra(at)prodesc.org.mx