Insecurity concerns have forced the closure of a Canadian-owned mine in Chihuahua, leaving its more than 1,800 employees without work.
The Pan American Silver Corporation has faced threats from organized crime at its Dolores silver and gold mine in the municipality of Madera since last year.
However, the final straw appeared to be the recent discovery by authorities of a decapitated man whose body was dumped within the vicinity of the open-pit mine. It is unclear how long the mine will remain closed.
Chihuahua Attorney General César Peniche Espejel said that Pan American Silver had notified the government of its decision Thursday, citing “certain intimidations” but it had not previously asked the government for additional security support.
The company’s decision came as no surprise to municipal authorities and local residents, many of whom depend on the mine for their livelihood.
Apart from making threats against Pan American Silver, members of criminal groups have also set up roadblocks to intimidate mine employees and have harassed mine suppliers.
The state government’s highest-ranking mining official, José Rafael Jabalera Batista, said the company had decided to shut the mine as a precautionary measure to protect its employees but he also said the decision was not directly related to threats or acts of violence against Pan American Silver.
“. . . There was an incident with the mine’s contractors and that’s why it decided to suspend operations and analyze the situation . . .” he said, without specifying the nature of the incident.
Jabalera also said the mine would not be shut down entirely.
César Peniche said that he would meet with the Chihuahua Innovation and Economic Development Secretary, Alejandra de la Vega Arizpe, as well as members of the company’s management team to discuss how security conditions in the area can be improved.
At that time, he said, company representatives will be invited to make a formal report about the threats and intimidation it has been subjected to.
Peniche added that “a [security] contingent has already been mobilized by the state Attorney General’s office, as well as by the Federal Police and the Secretariat of National Defense, with the objective of guaranteeing security in the area.”
The president of the state Congress, Diana Velázquez Ramírez, said a forceful security strategy involving all three levels of government is needed in order to combat the insecurity.
For his part, state Governor Javier Corral said yesterday that his government tried to persuade Pan American Silver that the mine’s continued closure was not needed.
“We’ve been in contact with the mining company’s management and we’ve insisted that it’s not necessary to suspend operations,” he said.
“. . . We’ll be very respectful of what they decide but we’ve offered to guarantee the operations of the mine through a special, permanent [security] operation,” Corral added.