Mexico’s new ambassador to Canada has warned Canadian mining companies operating in Mexico to expect greater scrutiny of their environmental practices and treatment of indigenous people.
“President López Obrador has been very public about this, that we really want a strong, profitable mining sector – and Canadian mining companies are large investors in Mexico – but we expect them to operate in this country with exactly the same standards as they do in Canada,” Juan José Gómez Camacho told reporters in Mexico City.
Speaking at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, Gómez said that enforcement of existing laws will strengthen under the current federal government, which has just passed its first 100 days in office.
“One area that is very important to us, in the case of the mining industry, is that we see a stronger, more robust impact on the socio-economic development of the communities where the mines are,” he said.
Gómez, ratified as ambassador on Thursday, said that strengthening the rule of law will help to ensure that local communities benefit from mining operations, explaining that the government will play a more prominent role “in making sure that the standards of operation in Mexico from foreign companies in this or any other sector are sustainable.”
However, he added that companies have a responsibility to conduct themselves ethically regardless of whether the state is holding them accountable for their actions or not.
“It’s . . . self-discipline, it’s a question of companies’ values on how they operate,” Gómez said.
About 70% of foreign mining companies operating in Mexico are based in Canada, according to Canadian government statistics, and in 2015 they held assets here totaling almost US $20 billion.
But Canadian companies’ presence in the Mexican mining market hasn’t been without problems.
Indigenous residents in the Puebla municipality of Ixtacamaxtitlán are currently pursuing legal action against the mining operations of a Mexican subsidiary of Canada’s Almaden Minerals.
They argue that local water sources have been contaminated by exploration activity on gold and silver deposits.
Canadian mining companies have also faced opposition to their projects in other parts of the country, such as Durango, as well as security problems in some states.
Beyond mining, Gómez will seek to play an important role in the process to ratify the new North American trade pact: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“We are having constant conversations between the three [countries] . . . to make sure that we consult each other and we try to be on the same page in this process,” he said.
“One of my most important tasks as soon as I get there is precisely to persuade . . . the Canadian authorities to move forward in the ratification process. But in the end, the U.S. process and timing will define Canada’s and ours, so this is why it’s so important for us to really stay always in communication with our Canadian friends.”
Although acknowledging differences between the two countries on Venezuela – Canada has recognized Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president whereas Mexico continues to recognize Nicolás Maduro – Gómez said that there are a lot of similarities in the political perspectives of López Obrador and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“There are very important similarities of vision and views between the prime minister and the president on social issues, environment, gender equality, migration, indigenous issues, efficient energies,” he said.
That, he contended, makes it a good time to be going to Canada.
The former ambassador to the United Nations added that he hopes to do more to “even out” trilateral relations in North America and concluded that Mexico and Canada “don’t know each other well enough.”
Source: The Globe and Mail (en)