Farmers from the Huizopa ejido (cooperative) in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua held a press conference last week, over concerns that a new gold mine will destroy 1,200 hectares (2,962 acres) of their cattle grazing land. Owned by Canada’s Minefinders Corporation Ltd, the mine will be using chemicals like cyanide to process the ore.
The ejido signed an agreement with Minefinders in November 2006, which gave the company 16 years of access to the land, in exchange for 39 million pesos ($3.7 million). However, they say the contract was fraudulent.
“They arrived deceiving the peasants and with deceptions they got us to sign a contract,” said Luis Peña, one of the leaders opposing the mine. “They didn’t tell us the consequences.” Now the land is facing permanent damage.
The Huizopans are also worried the company will over-exploit local aquifers, making it impossible for them to maintain their traditional livelihood.
David de la Rosa, Peña’s colleague, said the ejido are not asking for the mine to be shut down. Rather, they want the company to implement a plan that prevents damage to the land, in addition to a more equitable share of the $3 billion the mine is expected to generate.
De la Rosa scorned the state for “putting the economic right of the company ahead of the legitimate right of the owners of the land,” pointing out the hypocrisy that while authorities say foreign investment creates jobs, most of the company’s employees are in fact foreigners.
Peña, De la Rosa, and ejido members were joined by the prominent writer Carlos Montemayor, “who called the situation in Huizopa an example of Canadian mining companies’ habit of ‘looting countries with corrupt governments like that of Mexico.'”
14 July 2008
In a meeting today, Monday, July 14, 2008, as part of a negotiation process in the capital city of Guerrero in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, Canadian-based Minefinders refused to present an adequate counterproposal to the three terms that the Huizopa Ejido community demanded in response to the company’s continuing presence and human rights violations in their community.
Facing Minefinder’s refusal to meet their demands, the Ejido members confirmed that they would not agree to meet with the company again until the company presented an adequate, integrated proposal to the lawyer acting as a mediator, Wilfrido Campbell Saavedra, Director of Government, State of Chihuahua, Mexico.
The company’s counterproposal proposed a single payment for the purchase of the Ejido member’s land, which the rural landowners in the region engaged in a historic struggle to obtain. This community has witnessed the invasion of their lands by this transnational mining company for more than fourteen years. The company’s counterproposal failed to meet the community’s three principal demands: (1) a community development plan; (2) the creation of an Environmental Protection Commission with representatives from the community, the company, and the local government; and (3) an economic development plan.
Minefinders’ refusal of these demands demonstrate their unwillingness to establish a just and equitable relationship with the rightful owners of the land they are operating on- the community members of Huizopa. The terms of the relationship proposed by the community would permit the sustainable development of the region, protect the environment, and guarantee development for the rural landowners without creating a dependant relationship with the mining company.
Since 1994, Minefinders has accumulated control over hundreds of hectares of land belonging to the Ejido by manipulating the community and signing an unjust contract that imposes obligations on the community members and extends rights to the land to the company. Furthermore, the amount of the payments the company is required to make to the community under this contract does not correspond whatsoever to the profits the company will obtain from the mine in Huizopa.
Under the terms Minefinders presented today in their counterproposal, they proposed to pay the community a single payment of $39 million MXP for mining exploitation over the next 16 years. Their proposed mining activities will result in an estimated profit of more than US $3 billion due to the current high price of precious metals on the international market.
It is important to emphasize that the Ejido members of Huizopa confirmed and maintain their willingness to negotiate with Minefinders. It is the company’s attitude and inadequate response to this willingness that is preventing a negotiation dialogue with the potential to reach an agreement with terms that are acceptable to both parties. The community reiterated their willingness to negotiate and entertain a just and equitable counterproposal from the company through the state government’s mediator.
Today’s meeting was attended by representatives from Minefinders (Sergio García Droguett, General Director and Lucero Saldaña from Minefinder’s Guerra office and partners of former Deputy Rosario Guerra, and Gilberto Valle, from the Valle office and partners), members of the Ejido Huizopa (Enrique Torres, President of the Board of the Ejido and Luis Peña, Representative of the Ejido’s General Assembly), the Project for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ProDESC (Mario Patrón, Advocate), as well as the Chihuahua state government (Víctor Quintana, State Representative).
PRODESC A.C. (Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, A.C. trabaja sobre la defensa, investigación y capacitación en derechos humanos a nivel local.
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