MAC: Mines and Communities

Urgent Action: Support the Mexican community of Cerro de San Pedro in their struggle against a Cana

Published by MAC on 2006-04-28

Urgent Action: Support the Mexican community of Cerro de San Pedro in their struggle against a Canadian-run mine

Statement from KAIROS, Canada:

28th April 2006


The Mexican community of Cerro de San Pedro has been struggling for ten years to stop an open-pit cyanide-leach gold mine owned by Canadian company Metallica Resources Inc. Mexican courts have ruled in favour of this UNESCO World Heritage-nominated community, located in a fragile semi-desert. Yet the Mexican government refuses to enforce the court rulings and prohibit Metallica Inc. from going forward. Currently, the Canadian government has no power to apply binding environmental or human rights standards to Canadian corporations operating overseas. The mining operation continues, and so community members have been forced to peacefully block mining equipment. However, they were met with a violent response.

Please take a moment in solidarity with the community to ask our government to take action on this matter.


One year after the 1994 implementation of NAFTA, Canadian mining company Metallica Resources Inc. arrived in the community of Cerro de San Pedro, San Luis Potosi, Mexico with plans to establish an open pit gold and silver mine through its wholly owned subsidiary Minera San Xavier (MSX). Local residents soon learned that the proposed operation would irreparably harm their 400-year old town, which is one signature short of being recognized as a UNESCO heritage site, as well as flatten the nearby hill (Cerro), a state symbol that appears on their coat of arms. Moreover, the company's own environmental impact assessment revealed that the proposed operation would displace the population, cause irreparable damage to the environment and leach harmful cyanide into the water supply of the 1.5 million inhabitants in the surrounding area. In response to these alarming impacts, the community, local environmental and human rights groups, and the authentic communal landowners formed the Broad Opposition Front (FAO), a broad-based coalition determined to stop Metallica from destroying their homes, village and environment.

For over ten years, the community and the FAO have been engaged in a legal battle with Metallica Resource Inc. The courts have consistently handed down judgments in favour of the community and FAO. There is an extremely important state decree, dated September 23, 1993, that clearly recognizes Cerro de San Pedro and the surrounding area as a protected site because of the unique flora and fauna in the region. The decree outlaws any activity that would lead to changes in the subsoil, including preparatory blasting for mining. In February 2006 the courts annulled Metallica's temporary permit to use explosives because the permit clearly contravenes this state decree.

Shockingly, Metallica Resources Inc. has ignored these rulings and gone ahead with blasting and other preparatory measures, in complete violation of Mexican law. Furthermore, Mexican authorities at all levels of government have demonstrated a complete lack of political will to enforce the law.

KAIROS accompaniment

In March 2005, at the request of human rights partners and the Broad Opposition Front (FAO), a KAIROS church leaders delegation traveled to the community of Cerro de San Pedro. The church leaders were the first Canadian non-mining delegation to visit the community. Delegates heard testimonies of the considerable risks associated with the cyanide leaching process that is estimated to use 32 million litres of water, 16 tons of cyanide and 25 tons of explosives daily.

In April 2005 KAIROS invited Ana Maria Alvarado, a Cerro de San Pedro and FAO community leader, to Canada to speak to Canadians and the government about the impacts of Metallica Resources Inc. on her community. Since then KAIROS has closely accompanied the community's struggle responding whenever possible to local developments.

Once again, Ana Maria Alvarado joined KAIROS in a KAIROS forum on Resource Extraction and Impacts on Local Communities during April 2006. While in Canada, KAIROS accompanied her to Ottawa where she met with members of parliament and government departments around the need for affected communities to be active participants of any roundtable process that discusses Canadian mining in developing countries.

During this recent visit, we learned from Ana Maria how Metallica Resources Inc. continues to blast land in preparation for its operations, in clear contravention of Mexican law.

Recent developments

KAIROS learned that although the law is clearly on the community's side, the Mexican authorities continue to be unwilling to enforce the law. Given this reality, the FAO and community members feel they have no choice but to begin civil disobedience in order to physically stop the mining operation by peacefully placing themselves in the path of Metallica's machinery.

Disturbingly, this peaceful resistance has been met with violence.

FAO members attacked

On April 14, employees of Minera San Xavier (MSX) reportedly attacked two members of the FAO. Enrique Rivera Sierra, FAO's lawyer, was repeatedly struck on the head. Witnesses heard his assailants shout, "let's see if you continue speaking against Minera San Xavier, my boss will be very happy with my work and if you continue talking, you are going to die.".

Other FAO members have been charged with defamation, invasion and delinquency in an effort to criminalize their legitimate right to protest and resist.

KAIROS is extremely concerned about these recent incidents and the ongoing activities of Metallica Resources Inc. in contravention of Mexican law and international human rights and environmental standards and agreements.

Canadian Roundtable process on Mining

As we write this urgent action the Canadian government and various stakeholders are about to embark on a roundtable dialogue on mining. The Metallica case demonstrates the need for Canada to implement binding obligations for Canadian corporations working abroad. Binding, rather than voluntary, legislation ensures accountability to Canada's own standards regarding consent of the communities affected, as well as respect for and compliance with human rights and environmental standards.

KAIROS letter

In response to this situation, KAIROS and other Canadian groups who met with Ana Maria Alvarado during her recent visit have written a letter expressing concern about the escalating situation in Cerro de San Pedro as Canadian Metallica Resources operates in contravention of the law:

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