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NEWS: Canadian embassy in Mexico helped controversial mining company

Toronto Star investigative reporter Julian Sher reports, “Secret diplomatic emails and briefings suggest the Canadian embassy in Mexico provided ‘active and unquestioning support’ to a Canadian mining company before, during and after it became embroiled in controversy over the murder of a prominent local activist in Chiapas and corruption allegations, according to a report issued Monday by MiningWatch Canada. The study, made available by the advocacy group to the Star and La Presse, is based on 900 pages of documents obtained through Access to Information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade about its dealings with Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration.”

“MiningWatch says the sometimes heavily redacted emails and internal documents show that starting in 2007, the embassy’s support and lobbying with the Chiapas state was ‘essential to the company’s success in starting the mine’ even though Canadian officials were aware of what they called ‘difficulties’ Blackfire had with some sectors of the local population and workers. An unnamed company executive emailed embassy officials in September 2008, thanking them for everything ‘that the embassy has done to pressure the state government to get things going for us. We could not do it without your help.’ By 2009 the embassy was already tracking news reports of blockades and protest marches by several thousand people against the ‘Payback’ mine as it was called.”

In November 2009, anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca Roblero was killed in Chiapas in southern Mexico. He had blamed Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd. for contaminated local rivers, the loss of local crops, the death of livestock and had called for the company to leave his community. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated at that time, “A man deeply involved in the protest against the Canadian mining company Blackfire has been murdered outside his home. This tragic outcome can be traced directly to the Harper government’s refusal to end the impunity currently enjoyed by Canadian mining companies.”

In March 2010, the Toronto Star reported, “Canadian mining watchdog groups want the RCMP to investigate Blackfire Exploration Ltd., the Calgary mining company with operations in Mexico. …The United Steelworkers and three Canadian watchdog groups (Common Frontiers-Canada, the Council of Canadians and Mining Watch Canada) planned to file an official complaint with the RCMP under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act over allegations that Blackfire was paying the mayor of a small Mexican town in return for the mayor’s favour.”

In August 2011, the Globe and Mail reported, “The RCMP has raided the office of a Canadian mining company in Calgary alleging in an affidavit that the company funnelled bribes into the personal bank account of a small-town Mexican mayor to ensure protection from anti-mining protesters. On July 20, a team of Mounties executed a search warrant on the office of Blackfire Exploration Ltd… In a sworn statement in support of the search warrant application, Constable Terri Lynn Batycki alleges the company illegally paid a local mayor, Julio Cesar Velazquez Calderon, about $19,300 (CDN) ‘to keep the peace and prevent local members of the community from taking up arms against the mine.’”

In March 2013, iPolitics reported, “The RCMP are currently investigating several Canadian mining firms for corruption, including Blackfire Exploration and Griffiths Energy International Inc.”

For more, please read:
Canadian mining company got embassy help amid controversy in Mexico
Report reveals how Canadian diplomacy supported deadly Blackfire mining project
UPDATE: RCMP continues to investigate Blackfire mining company three years after complaint filed
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