NEWS: RCMP raids Blackfire office in Calgary

Brent Patterson
9 years ago
The Globe and Mail reports, "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., a privately owned junior whose operations in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas have been embattled since 2009, when a vocal opponent of its barite mine was murdered in a drive-by shooting. ...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 a statement, Blackfire said it never knowingly paid bribes to anyone. The company, which began mining in Mexico in 2008, explained that it was under the impression that the thousands of dollars it transferred were for the benefit of the citizens of the small town of Chicomuselo, destined for its fair and other public works. ...The company has not been charged with a crime and says it is co-operating fully with the RCMP investigation, which is part of a broader effort by the Mounties to enforce Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act – the law that forbids the payment of bribes abroad." "In 2009, when the mayor stopped supporting the mine, protesters took over the site. By November, tensions were high, and three men – a Blackfire employee, as well as a former employee, and one-time contractor – were arrested for the shooting death of anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca Roblero. Mr. Abarca’s murder is not being investigated by the Mounties and Blackfire has condemned his killing, but his slaying prompted several social justice organizations, such as MiningWatch Canada, to travel to Mexico and encourage the RCMP to probe allegations of corruption." Abarca Roblero had been raising concerns about the Blackfire mine contaminating local rivers and the resulting loss of local crops and the death of livestock. Background In March 2010, the Toronto Star reported that, “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 Wednesday 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 December 2009, the Canadian Press reported that, “(2,500) people toting signs that read ‘No to Mining’ and ‘Respect Mother Earth’ took to the streets Tuesday in just the latest - and largest - of a series of protests aimed at an embattled Canadian mining company. The march was held in Chicomuselo, a small community near the Guatemalan border where anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca Roblero was shot and killed last month outside his home. Abarca Roblero was a vocal opponent of a barite mine operated near his home by Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd., and had repeatedly accused the company of damaging the water supply and acting without consulting the local population.” In early-December 2009, the Canadian Press reported that, “About 250 flag-waving protesters lit candles and chanted slogans Thursday in a show of support for a slain anti-mining activist (Abarca) known for sharply criticizing the environmental practices of Canadian companies working in Mexico. Mariano Abarca Roblero was killed last Friday when a man on a motorcycle opened fire on him outside his home in the town of Chicomuselo, near Mexico’s border with Guatemala. Thursday’s protest, which took place outside the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City, served as both a memorial to the activist and an opportunity to take up his cause, said protester (and Mexico City-based Council of Canadians/ Blue Planet Project activist) Claudia Campero.”