Canadian mining company got embassy help amid controversy in Mexico: Advocacy group – by Julian Sher – (Toronto Star – May 6, 2013)

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Mining Watch issues report on what Canadian embassy in Mexico knew about the murder of Chiapas anti-mining activist, whose accused killers had ties to Calgary company Blackfire.

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.

In late 2009, three men with links to the company were arrested after the drive-by shooting of Mariano Abarca, who was leading the fight against Blackfire’s barite mine in the often turbulent state of Chiapas.

Shortly after that, Mexican authorities suspended Blackfire’s Chiapas operations for environmental violations, and the mine has not reopened.

In 2011, RCMP raided the Calgary office of the company, alleging in a search warrant that Blackfire paid a local Chiapas mayor to ensure protection from anti-mining protesters.

At the time of the police raid, Blackfire denied any wrongdoing, saying that “contributions intended for the public” had been misused by the mayor.

In a statement last week to the Star about the ongoing RCMP investigation, the company said: “We are co-operating fully.”
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.

But MiningWatch faults embassy officials for echoing uncritically what it describes as Blackfire’s “hostile view of community resistance” in their reports back to Ottawa and never pushing the company for answers to criticisms raised by its opponents.

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