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The Los Filos mine in Carrizalillo, Guerrero. The Los Filos mine in Carrizalillo, Guerrero.

Community breaks off talks with operator of Guerrero gold mine

Landowners claim Canadian-owned mine has not fulfilled contractual obligations

Members of the Carrizalillo ejido in Eduardo Neri, Guerrero, have broken off talks with the Canadian miner Equinox Gold, accusing the company of racist practices and incompliance with a contract signed in 2019. 

A work stoppage began on September 3 at the Los Filos mine, one of the largest open-pit gold mines in the world.

The ejido (communal landowners’ collective) alleges that 70% of the terms of its six-year contract with Equinox were not being fulfilled and has refused to allow any of the 1,500 workers, the majority of whom are not local residents, to enter the mine. Members of the collective have set up camp at the mine’s two entrances in protest.

Disputed areas of the contract include matters of health, working conditions, infrastructure and scholarships.

On Monday, an ejido member who requested anonymity said that a meeting was held with Equinox vice president Peter Burger in which the ejido asked for and obtained the resignation of deputy director of mining operations Juan Carlos Flores Cano, but both sides hit an impasse.

Burger reportedly refused to negotiate the terms of a new contract until the blockade was lifted.

Members of the cooperative vowed that they would no longer sign multiple-year contracts such as the six-year contract being disputed with Equinox, and that from now on the terms would be for just one year.

Carrizalillo has been renting its lands to open-pit mining for 13 years but with detrimental environmental effects, according to a study. Part of the contract with Equinox Gold was the establishment of a safe supply of drinking water, but the arsenic content in their current water supply has caused serious skin disease, residents claim.

A 2014 study showed that 57% of the population suffered from respiratory diseases caused by heavy metals used in the extraction of minerals. To date, the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (Rema) reports that all families in the area have one or more members who are ill from mining operations.

The community says it does not want to see mining end, only that it is carried out responsibly and that there are agreements to mitigate what Rema calls the “serious, progressive and irreversible impact on its community.”

On Friday, Equinox Gold posted a short statement regarding the blockade on its website. “Equinox Gold is in active discussions with the Carrizalillo community leaders to resolve the issues,” it concluded followed by an extensive disclaimer, cautioning that the wording of its statements is based on “the company’s assumption that discussion and negotiation will result in a satisfactory resolution to the community issues at Los Filos. While the company considers these assumptions to be reasonable based on information currently available, they may prove to be incorrect.”

President López Obrador announced that he will personally intervene in the dispute. “In this case in particular we are offering to intervene … we are going to attend to the affected parties in order to seek a resolution,” López Obrador said Tuesday morning.

Source: La Jornada (sp)

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