Mexico: campesinos occupy Chihuahua gold mine

On May 24, campesinos from Ejido Huizopa, Madera municipality, in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, launched a protest occupation of the Minera Dolores company’s giant open-pit gold mine, which they say has been illegally established on their lands. The decision to launch the blockade was taken after two ejido leaders, Enrique Torres González and José Armando González, were arrested by Federal Preventative Police, later released without charge. The local company director Carlos García Droguett said the occupation places at risk a $200 million investment in the zone. (Excelsiór, May 29) Minera Dolores is owned by the Minefinders Corporation of Vancouver. (

A statement from Ejido Huizopa says Minera Dolores used “tricks” to gain title to the land from “corrupt leaders” of the ejido—but nonetheless received a permit from the Mexican environmental secretariat, SEMARNAT. The statement says another of their leaders, Salvador Gaitan, was the target of an assassination attempt earlier this year. Gaitian, a director of the ejido, is a veteran of the 1960s guerilla insurgency in Chihuahua led by Arturo Gámiz. (Received via e-mail, May 30)

See our last posts on Mexico, Chihuahua and the mineral cartel in Latin America.

  1. Minera Dolores blockade lifted
    From CNN Money, June 9. Note repeated and gratuitous use of the word “illegal” to refer to the blockade—contrasting lack of any mention of campesino claims that the mine itself is illegal.

    Minefinders Corporation Ltd. (the “Company”) (TSX: MFL)(AMEX: MFN) reports initial production estimates for its Dolores gold and silver mine in Chihuahua, Mexico, where the first gold and silver pour is now scheduled for mid July, 2008.

    Management expects gold production from Dolores will be approximately 40,000 ounces in 2008, 128,000 ounces in 2009 and 129,000 ounces in 2010. Silver production is expected to be 1.0 million ounces in 2008, 3.0 million ounces in 2009, and 4.0 million ounces in 2010… Mining at Dolores is approaching a sustained rate of approximately 100,000 tonnes per day with over 7 million tonnes of ore and waste material mined at Dolores to date…

    In late May an illegal blockade was established on an access road to the Dolores Mine site. The majority of the individuals involved are believed to be from outside of the region and include only a small fringe group from within the local 221-member Ejido community.

    While Minefinders was on target to achieve the first gold and silver pour from Dolores in late June 2008, for safety reasons the Company decided to suspend construction activities and operations until Mexican authorities safely removed the illegal blockade. On June 5, in response to meetings held with government officials, the blockaders re-opened the road and mining and processing operations have recommenced. The Company is continuing discussions with the state and federal governments and with the individuals responsible for the blockade to come to a definitive long-term resolution. As a result of the temporary suspension of operations due to the illegal blockade, the first gold and silver pour is now expected in mid-July.

    “Despite the delay of the first gold and silver pour due to the illegal blockade, the commissioning at Dolores is progressing well with construction and operating costs consistent with those reported in the Company’s February 14, 2008, economic forecast and reserve update,” said Mark Bailey, Minefinders’ President and CEO. “We remain fully funded to complete development and commissioning of the Dolores Mine and continue the Dolores mill preliminary feasibility study and 2008 exploration programs at Dolores and elsewhere.”

    CNN also seems not to know that “Ejido community” is redundant and does not tell the reader the name of the community, as “ejido” means agricultural community. The name of the ejido in question is Huizopa.

  2. Mexico Mining
    A huge problem with mining in Mexico is knowing 100% for sure who has rights to the land. There are a few organizations to check with to confirm ownership but sometimes there is conflicts in the documentation.

    Ejidos are especially hard because a lot of times they lack the resources to do proper study and documentation on the extents of their land and the onus is on them to do it.

    The Ejido is like a committee or co-operative. I’ve personally observed and taken a small part in Ejido meetings and those went smooth but it takes one rat in the bunch to make everything fall apart.

    Mining companies are always looked at “As the Gold Mine” to the people.