MAC: Mines and Communities

Mexican workers, landowners, get heavy stick from Canadian company

Published by MAC on 2012-07-17
Source: Statements, iPolitics (2012-07-11)

Excellon union election marred by irregularities

For the past eight years, Canadian silver miner Excellon Resources has been in conflict with landowners and workers in Mexico, who accuse the company of a raft of offences, including violating earlier agreements and blatant attempts at intimidation.

Last week, Excellon threatened criminal proceedings against a group of landowners who mounted a peaceful blockade of its La Patosa mine in Durango.

A few days earlier, the company was also accused of "fixing" an election to prevent an independent union taking charge of the mine's labour contracting process.

Additional comment by Jen Moore (MAC editor):

Workers at the La Platosa mine were the first to bring a complaint to Canada's CSR Counsellor, which terminated in the fall of 2011 when the company refused to come to the table and the CSR Counsellor had no other option within her narrow mandate but to close the complaint.

Workers and landowners now have a complaint before the Canadian National Contact Point under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

After sending a delegation to Canada to present the complaint and to attend the company's AGM in late May 2012, further dialogue attempts have faltered and now broken off with landowners who have blockaded the mine.

Meanwhile, workers are challenging the results of the union recognition vote last week at which international observers report irregularities and intimidation of workers.

Mexico: Union Election Results Marred by Irregularities

Solidarity Center

9 July 2012

Attorneys are challenging the results of a July 5 union election at a Canadian-owned silver mine in Durango, Mexico, that a team of international observers says was marred by "serious irregularities." The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos, Siderúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSSRM, known as Los Mineros) lost by a single vote amid a climate of intimidation and ballot discrepancies.

According to a preliminary report, 129 workers at the La Platosa mine, owned by Excellon Resources of Canada, were eligible to vote for one of three unions: "Presidente Adolfo López Mateos" Union of Workers and Employees in Commerce and General, the National Mining and Metallurgic Union "Don Napoleón Gómez Sada" (SNMMDNGS), and Los Mineros.

The official vote count was 45 for Los Mineros, 46 for SNMMDNGS, and 32 for the Adolfo López Mateos union, which currently controls the labor contract at the mine. The latter two unions are widely regarded as company-dominated "protection unions." There were six challenged ballots.

The team noted that although many election procedures appeared proper, a number of irregularities severely marred the results. Despite a request by Los Mineros to hold the election in a neutral location, it took place on company grounds. On the day of the vote, some 100 men, many armed with sticks, arrived in a convoy of buses, trucks, and cars. Identifying themselves as members of SNMMDNGS, they attempted to block entrance to the mine.

"These individuals were quite aggressive in their behavior," said the report, "surrounding and photographing observer team members when they attempted to talk to workers." In addition, a large contingent of municipal, state, and federal police with automatic rifles patrolled the mine entrance.

"There must be about two dozen heavily armed state police at the mine site right now," reported Ben Davis of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union (USW), a member of the observer team. USW has long supported Los Mineros.

Other members were Lorraine Clewer, Solidarity Center country program director in Mexico, and representatives of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), IndustriALL Global Union, Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER), Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), and Annunciation House, El Paso.

Workers told the observer team that they had been pressured to vote for one of the two protection unions over the independent Los Mineros. "These practices occurred over a long period of time, as the request to hold an election was filed on October 7, 2011, and the election did not occur until nine months later," said the report. The workers have been struggling for nearly two years to gain democratic union representation.

"Unfortunately, this flawed electoral process demonstrates once again how Mexican workers are locked into a system that excludes them from having a voice on the job," said the Solidarity Center's Clewer. "In a job as dangerous as mining, we see time and again the consequences of this exclusion on the lives and livelihoods of miners and their families."


Canadian mining firm takes heat over 
La Platosa union vote

By James Munson 

iPolitics

9 July 2012

Canadian mining firm Excellon is coming under fire again as workers at one of its Mexican mines contest the outcome of a vote over which of three unions should represent them.

A battle over union representation at the La Platosa silver mine in Durango, Mexico, owned by Toronto-based Excellon Resources, has been raging since November 2010 when workers joined one of the country's national mining unions.

Workers have accused Excellon of firing union organizers and trying to put a company-backed syndicate in place. Troubles have since erupted between the company and the local landowners on which the mine lies.

Excellon's CEO Jeremy Wyeth resigned on June 4, but the company says there is no connection between his departure and the company's disagreements with locals.

On Thursday, a three-way vote to determine which union will represent the workers ahead of collective bargaining negotiations took place amidst allegations by labour rights groups that men with sticks tried to intimidate workers.

According to ProDESC, a Mexican rights group that monitored the vote, the union preferred by workers, known as the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic - but also nicknamed "Los Mineros" and the black union - lost by one vote.

"This election is indicative of the actions of a company that has, for two years, taken every step possible to intimidate workers and instill fear in them to not vote for a union local," ProDESC director Alejandra Anchieta said in a news release. "Because of the hostility, workers voted out of fear."

ProDESC did not provide the vote's final tally and could not be reached for this story.

Excellon was also unable to provide the vote's results because the official numbers won't be released by the Durango Conciliation and Arbitration Board, which organized the vote, until the next few weeks.

However, one company official did confirm that Los Mineros had lost the vote.

"It didn't end the way the black union wanted it to," said Joanne Jobin, vice-president of investor relations at Excellon, without elaborating further.

The other two unions, known as the white and grey union, are "protection unions" meant to protect the company's interest rather than the workers, ProDESC and other civil society groups contend.

Before the vote, Excellon stated that it would support whichever union came out on top.

In June, several landowners from the mine site travelled to Canada with ProDESC to draw attention to the mine's conflict with the community.

Excellon was failing to live up to a land-use agreement with the local ejido landowners. An ejido is a system of communal landownership for farmers found across Mexico.

The ejido also attended Excellon's annual general meeting last month and raised allegations of "intimidation, coercion, fraud, job termination and violence" by the company.

Excellon denies the claims and says it's fulfilling the mandate of its land agreement.

Past attempts to resolve the disputes at La Platosa by the Canadian government and the OECD have so far failed to settle differences.

In April 2011, the workers sought the help of Canada's Office of the Extractive Sector Counsellor for Corporate Social Responsibility, a bureau set up to help resolve conflicts between Canadian mining companies overseas and their detractors.

But the office's mediation process requires the voluntary involvement of the company, and after initially agreeing to participate, Excellon pulled out of the process before it was finished.

As part of their Canadian visit last month, community representatives also filed a complaint with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The guidelines are rules for corporate behaviour and each member state puts a government department in charge of making sure they're followed, known as a National Contact Point.

Right now the Mexican government is handling the La Platosa file, but local ejido and the workers don't believe its impartiality can be assured and want the Canadian government to take over.

© 2012 iPolitics Inc.


URGENT ACTION (Mexico): Excellon Resources, Inc. Threatens Landowners of La Sierrita with Arrest and Judicial Action

MiningWatch Canada

11 July 2012

Landowners Demand Respect of Their Human Rights After Various Attempts to Dialogue with the Company

Facts

On July 11, 2012, Excellon Resources, Inc., a Canadian mining company, threatened landowners of the Ejido "La Sierrita" (Ejido) and their adviser, Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), with criminal proceedings and judicial action in response to the landowners' peaceful blockade of the company's La Platosa mine. On July 8, 2012, more than seventy landowners of the Ejido located in the municipality of Tlahualilo, Durango, decided to carry out a peaceful blockade of the La Platosa mine.

On July 11, 2012, Excellon Resources, Inc., a Canadian mining company, threatened landowners of the Ejido "La Sierrita" (Ejido) and their adviser, Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), with criminal proceedings and judicial action in response to the landowners' peaceful blockade of the company's La Platosa mine. On July 8, 2012, more than seventy landowners of the Ejido located in the municipality of Tlahualilo, Durango, decided to carry out a peaceful blockade of the La Platosa mine.

The landowners' actions are the result of the company's unwillingness to resolve a series of its own breaches and violations of the land rental contract signed between the company and the landowners in April 2008.

In its July 11, 2012 press release, the company announced that the state and federal governments will intervene in the conflict between the company and the landowners in the next 24 to 48 hours. The company calls the landowners' actions illegal, but fails to mention that these actions are the landowners' response to nearly eight months of repeated efforts by the Ejido to resolve the company's flagrant violations of the 2008 land rental contract.

Having exhausted various channels of dialogue with little response from Excellon, the Ejido Assembly decided to exercise its legitimate right to peacefully protest in front of the mine in order to force the company to resolve and end a series of violations and breaches of the land rental contract. The Ejido also calls on Excellon to comply with the clauses of the contract requiring the construction of a water treatment plant, the granting of concessions, and to pay fair rental prices for the land, among others.

The company's threats represent a serious risk to the physical integrity and security of the landowners who are trying to peacefully demand that the company respect their human rights.

Background

In 2004, the mining company Excellon de Mexico, a subsidiary of the multinational corporation Excellon Resources Inc., established itself in Tlahualilo, Durango, leasing communal land from the Ejido "La Sierrita" land via an abusive and unfair contract designed almost exclusively for the benefit of the company.

In 2007, with the assistance of ProDESC, the Ejido conducted a blockade of the mine in order to address the unfair contract. In 2008, after three months of protest, the Ejido and Excellon signed a new contract, establishing provisions that require the company to comply with clauses that contribute to the development of community projects and better the quality of life of the landowners.

Excellon, however, has violated these clauses of the land rental contract, forcing the landowners at "La Sierrita" to call for a revision of the contract. Since November of 2011, the Ejido has repeatedly tried to sit down with Excellon leadership to resolve the conflicts.

Representatives of the company delayed the dialogue process several times and showed little willingness to resolve the conflict despite acknowledging breaches and violations by the company.

The parties agreed to another meeting on July 6th of this year, but the company unilaterally cancelled the meeting two days beforehand. Therefore, the members of the Landowners Assembly decided on July 8 to peacefully blockade the mine.
Petitions

Therefore, the signatory organizations demand:

1. Immediate appropriate measures to ensure the safety and physical integrity of the landowners.

2. The guarantee [of] the right of the landowners of "La Sierrita" to legitimately demand compliance land rental contract and thereby avoid repressive action by local, state or federal officials with any use of force against the landowners.

Please immediately send these demands to the following apprpriate officials:

Lic. Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
President of the United States of Mexico
Residencial Oficial de Los Pinos, Casa Miguel Alemán, Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C. P. 11850, D. F.
Tel. 5550935300
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Lic. Jorge Herrera Caldera
Governor of the State of Durango
5 de Febrero 800 Poniente, Col. Centro, Durango, Durango
Email: transparencia@durango.gob.mx
Tel. 8270840, 8270847
(01) 618 827 0848

Dr. Alejandro Poiré Romero
Secretary of the Interior
Bucareli 99, 1er. piso, Col. Juárez, México D.F., C.P.06600, México
Fax: +52 55 5093 3414
Email: secretario@segob.gob.mx

Dr. Raúl Plascencia Villanueva
President of the National Human Rights Commission
Edificio "Héctor Fix Zamudio", Blvd. Adolfo
López Mateos 1922, 6° piso, Col. Tlacopac San Ángel, Del. Álvaro Obregón, C.P. 01040, México, D.F.
Tels. y fax (55) 56 81 81 25 y 54 90 74 00
correo@cndh.org.mx

Marisela Morales Ibáñez
Attorney General
Av. Paseo de la Reforma 211-213
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc
México D.F., C.P. 06500
México
Fax: +52 555 346 0908
Correo-e.: mmoralesi@pgr.gob.mx

Lic. Omeheira López Reyna
Department of the Interior, Unit for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights
Tel: 52 5551280000, Ext: 11875 o +52 5557287400 ;
romeheira@segob.gob.mx

Jaime Fernández Saracho
Secretary of State of Durango
Palacio de Gobierno, Planta Alta, 5 de Febrero esq. Bruno Martínez, Zona Centro, C. P. 34000, Durango, Durango
www.cedh-durango.org.mx
Email: presidencia@cedh-durango.org.mx
Tel. (01) 618 8118814 ext. 143

Lic. Felipe de Jesús Martínez Rodarte
President of the Human Rights Commission of the State of Durango
Cerro Gordo No 32, 2do Piso, Fracc. Lomas del Parque, Durango, Durango
Tel: 618-130-1969 y (01) 618 1301970
Email: presidencia@cedh-durango.org.mx

Peter Crossgrove
Executive Chairman & Interim CEO
20 Victoria Street, Suite 900
Toronto, Canadá
Tel. 4163641130
Fax 4163646745
Email: pcrossgrove@excellonresources.com
info@excellonresorces.com

Ing. Bernardo de Anda Magallanes
President of the Government of the City of Mapimi
Hidalgo No. 1 C. P. 35200, Mapimí, Durango
Tel. (01) 872 7622111 y (01) 872 0722776
Email: ernestogarciaochoa@hotmail.com

Ing. Horacio González Alvarado
President of the Government of Tlahualilo
C. Hombres Ilustres s/n y Emiliano Zapata, Col. Centro, C. P. 35290
Tel. (01) 872 7610130
Email: brenda_j.l@hotmail.com

Lynn Hartery
Political Affairs
Canadian Embassy in Mexico
Schiller No. 529 Col. Polanco, C. P. 11560, México D. F.
Tel. 52 5557247900
Fax. 52 55 5724 7983
Email. Lynn.hartery@international.gc.ca

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