Canadian Pension Plan Divests from Excellon ResourcesPublished by MAC on 2013-07-22
Source: United Steelworkers (USW), General Assembly of the Ejido La Sierrita de Galeana
Previous article on MAC: Mexican landowners win first step in legal battle to reclaim their lands
Canadian Pension Plan Divests from Excellon Resources
United Steelworkers Welcomes Decision
United Steelworkers (USW) press release
18 July 2013
TORONTO - The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes the decision by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) to divest its entire holdings in Excellon Resources Inc.
"Investors have obligations to shareholders to invest responsibly and avoid links to human rights violations, and this is especially the case with CPPIB which oversees the retirement funds for all Canadians," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director. The USW has criticized the CPPIB in the past for its poor policy on socially responsible investment.
The CPPIB held nearly three million shares in the Toronto-based mining company at the end of the 2012 fiscal year. The CPPIB is the most recent large shareholder to divest of Excellon Resources shares. Matrix Asset Management divested in 2012 and Dimensional Fund Advisors divested earlier this year.
Excellon is embroiled in a long-running and occasionally violent dispute with workers and landowners in Mexico, where the company has been the subject of human rights and labour rights violation allegations. In 2011, the company refused to participate in a dispute resolution process established by the Canadian government`s Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor for the Extractive Sector.
Last year, Excellon was named in a complaint under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises filed by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the USW, Los Mineros, communal landowners and Mining Watch Canada. The Mexican government rejected the complaint after it conducted a flawed and much-criticized investigation. Subsequently, community and worker representatives from La Platosa were invited to speak at the OECD Annual Meeting of National Contact Points in June.
Excellon continues to refuse to engage in good faith dialogue with Los Mineros, the only democratic union acting on behalf of Excellon's workers, and communal landowners at its La Platosa, Mexico mine site. In February of this year, CLC Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yussuff travelled to Mexico to meet with community members and Los Mineros officials. This was part of a fact-finding mission by the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and included a meeting at the Canadian embassy in Mexico City.
The USW filed a complaint last week with the federal information commissioner on the failure of the Harper government to respond to requests for information under the federal Access to Information Act. The USW is exploring the relationship between the Canadian government and Excellon. In August 2012, Excellon hired lobblyist Will Stewart of Ensight Canada to seek government support for Excellon operations in Mexico. Stewart is a former chief of staff for John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Excellon share prices remain depressed despite efforts to boost prices through insider purchases, share buybacks, reports on potential new ore finds and a controversial reverse stock split. Trading of Excellon shares on the Torontostock exchange has sunk to an all-time low.
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, jdrexler[at]usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, bgallagher[at]usw.ca
Letter from the Ejido La Sierrita in response to this news
To the investors and shareholders of Excellon Resources Inc.
To the Board of Directors of Excellon Resources Inc.
To Peter Cossgrove, Executive Director and Chairman of Excellon Resources Inc.
To Brendan Cahill, CEO of Excellon Resources Inc.
To the general public.
21 July 2013
In our assembly held on 21 July 2013, the Ejido La Sierrita decided to reiterate our position to Excellon Resources Inc. that our land is not for sale, nor for rent, and that we are determined to recover it.
After a series of attempts to resolve the conflict stemming from the violation of our human rights through dialogue and conciliation, you have repeatedly demonstrated your unwillingness to resolve the conflict, to the extent that you have used violence against us.
We would like to remind you that since the moment the rental contract for 1,100 hectares of our land was signed in 2008, you as a company have not shown any interest in fully complying with the clauses which make up the contract. Despite the fact that you engaged in exploration activities outside of the lands covered by the contract in March 2011, cause for the rescission of the contract, you refused to reach any sort of agreement in the dialogues that were held between January and June 2012 for the purpose of enforcing the contract and repairing the damage caused by the failure to comply with the contract.
Owing to this refusal, on 8 July 2012, we decided to exercise our right to protest on land that is not yours by carrying out a permanent peaceful protest. In spite of the fact that we had already tried to resolve the conflict through our participation in four roundtables, on 29 August the Federal Government and the Governments of the State of Durango and the Mapimí Municipality carried out an operation with over 100 elements of the Army and the Federal, State and Municipal Police intimidating us in an attempt to bring the protest to an end.
In the wake of this incident, we decided to continue our peaceful protest and to file for the rescission of the contract before the Agrarian Court and, in this way, recover our lands which you are currently occupying.
In an effort to end the peaceful protest and the conflict, on 24 October 2012, you orchestrated a violent eviction, using armed groups to threaten us, intimidate us, and to demolish and set fire to our campsite.
Within the legal process, in which you also claim to seek the rescission of the rental contract, we, like you, agreed to enter into a conciliatory process in spite of all of your previous actions. However, notwithstanding the commitments you made upon entering into this process, you have once again failed to engage in dialogue.
In the five hearings that have take place to date, not once have you presented us with a complete solution to the conflict. Furthermore, rather than presenting us with clear proposals, it appears that you are trying to buy time and, in this manner, oblige us to negotiate out of economic necessity, taking advantage of the extreme poverty which many of our families suffer from.
We, the Assembly of the Ejido, have taken the decision not to sell or rent our land as an act of dignity. Instead, we want our lands returned and we demand that the authorities and you, Excellon Resources Inc., respect our right to our land, territory and natural resources.
We hope that Excellon will be transparent in its dealings with its Board of Directors and shareholders, providing accurate information about the development of the legal process and the unsound and unclear nature of their proposals, and that the company stops lying in order to cover up the legal uncertainty arising out of these judicial proceedings.
Furthermore, we express our solidarity and partnership with the mine workers affiliated with Local 309 of the National Mining Union in their struggle for the defence of their labour rights which, like our rights, have been violated by Excellon.
Finally, we would like to endorse the Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC) as our advisors and legal representatives in our efforts to defend our human rights, and we will not negate this relationship.
General Assembly of the Ejido La Sierrita de Galeana
Online here: http://www.prodesc.org.mx/en/?p=641
See Spanish language version here: http://www.prodesc.org.mx/?p=1460
Harper Government Withholds Documents on Controversial Canadian Mining Company
Eight months and counting: Steelworkers ask Information Commissioner to investigate government's failure to release information on Excellon Resources
United Steelworkers (USW) press release
11 July 2013
TORONTO - The United Steelworkers (USW) union is asking federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault to investigate the Conservative government's failure, for more than eight months, to release information on a Canadian mining company's controversial operations in Mexico.
"This case reflects a disturbing pattern by Stephen Harper's Conservatives to obstruct public access to government information," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada.
"It also demonstrates how the Harper government condones the bad behaviour of Canadian mining companies operating abroad, where communities are protesting environmental, social and human rights abuses," Neumann said.
The USW filed requests under the Access to Information Act last November with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), asking for the release of government documents relating to Canadian mining company Excellon Resources Inc.
Excellon operates a silver mine in Durango, Mexico, where communal landowners and workers have accused the company of numerous transgressions of their environmental, economic and labour rights.
More than eight months after the USW filed the information requests, and despite repeated follow-up requests made by the union, the government has failed to release a single document.
Recently, a similar complaint concerning the operations of Canadian company Blackfire Exploration in Mexico languished for 19 months before DFAIT replied.
In February 2013, the federal Information Commissioner stated in a CBC report that Canada was "at a record low in terms of timeliness" in responding to information requests. "Canadians should be angry" about the Harper government's handling of "a fundamental democratic right," Legault said.
This spring, Legault's office launched an unprecedented investigation into complaints that the Harper government is restricting public access to taxpayer-funded science.
Under the Harper government, Canada's access to information record ranks a lowly 55th in the world, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy, which notes the Conservatives have not given the Information Commissioner any authority to order resolutions of access complaints.
The USW believes the Canadian government may have acted irresponsibly in supporting Excellon Resources in its ongoing disputes with Mexican landowners and supporters of Los Mineros, the only democratic union that is seeking to represent workers at the Excellon mine.
"Although we expect much of the information we requested will be redacted based on some phony pretence, we believe that our complaint with the Commissioner is fundamentally necessary to protect our democratic right to obtain information and to hold our government accountable" said Neumann.
"This is also part of our effort to expose the Harper government's secrecy and how it supports corporations as opposed to working people in Canada and abroad."
Los Mineros is contesting in the Mexican courts the loss of an election to represent workers that included pressure and threats from mine management; the sudden appearance of some 100 men - many carrying sticks - who at one point blocked the mine entrance to prevent workers from entering; and the presence of a large number of heavily armed municipal, state and federal police.
Communal landowners on whose land the mine is located have also been fighting Excellon in the Mexican courts to get back their land and to enforce agreements the company made with them. In October 2012, another group of thugs attacked and destroyed a peaceful encampment where workers and landowners were protesting the actions of Excellon.
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951
Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, 416-434-7907, jdrexler[at]usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher[at]usw.ca