Mexico: campesinos block gold mine

On the early morning of Jan. 25 some 100 state and municipal police agents removed workers and campesinos who for more than two weeks had been blocking access to the Los Filos gold mine near the community of Carrizalillo in Eduardo Neri municipality in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. Carrizalillo resident Samuel Pena Maturana said some protesters, including two women, were beaten in the process; about 70 protesters were taken to a local police station and held for about four hours before being released. Campesinos also charged that police agents had looted some of their houses and stolen money and food.

Later on Jan. 25 dozens of protesters from the Solidarity Committee in Defense of the Lands (CSDT) returned and resumed the blockade. Carrizalillo residents and other local campesinos set up encampments on Jan. 26 to support the protest. About 200 people have been involved in the blockades in the two weeks since they began.

The workers and campesinos are demanding that the Canadian-owned Desarrollo Minero San Luis, S.A. (Luismin) sign a new agreement to pay 92,000 pesos annually for each of the 700 hectares occupied by the mine—about $4.2 million a year for the whole site—as compensation for the damage to local flora and fauna and for diseases caused by pollution from the mine over the past two years. The campesinos say that the mine is consuming most of the water they need for washing and for their livestock. They also complain that dynamite blasts from mining operations are shaking their homes and cracking the adobe walls. The company has invested $388 million in the Los Filos mine, from which it expects to extract 333,000 ounces of gold in 2007.

CSDT president Crisoforo Guzman said on Jan. 26 that the protesters had filed a protest with the state human rights commission against Governor Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo and the police departments over the police operation on Jan. 25. The state is governed by the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), but state party director Sebastian de la Rosa Pelaez insisted that “this act of violence [the police operation] is not supported by the PRD.” The protesters said they are to meet with State Government Secretary Armando Chavarria Barrera on Jan. 29 and with Luismin representatives on Jan. 30 to discuss their demands. (La Jornada, Jan. 26, 27; Novedades Acapulco, Jan. 28)

Luismin is the Mexican mining division of the Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., which expects to expand its gold production by 50% over the next five years. Goldcorp has several Mexican projects, including Los Filos, which set to start production in the second quarter of 2007; El Sauzal; and Penasquito, expected to be the largest gold mine in Mexico when full production is reached in 2012. Goldcorp’s Latin American operations grew significantly in 2006 when it merged with Glamis Gold Ltd. (Vancouver Sun, Jan. 23)

(Glamis Gold’s San Martin mine in Honduras was the target of an occupation by workers in October 2005; see WW4 REPORT #115).

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 4

See our last posts on Mexico and its labor crisis. See our last post on the struggles in Guerrero.