The assassination of Mexican activist Mariano Abarca stands little chance of gaining the spotlight in Ottawa given all the tumult in the nation’s capital. But Monday’s judicial review before Federal Court Justice Keith Boswell deserves attention, reminding us of the tragic events of a decade ago and the present day oversight, or lack thereof, of Canadian mining companies operating abroad.
There’s no disputing the fundamental facts. Abarca had assumed a primary role in protesting Blackfire Exploration’s open-pit barite mine in the southern state of Chiapas.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s minerals yearbook for 2008 noted that the Canadian junior mining company planned to extend its operations underground, with the company trumpeting the La Revancha mine as the largest high-grade barite deposit in North America. In other words, Blackfire saw a long, bright mining future in Mexico ahead of it.
Opposition to the mine was led by two groups, one of which, the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining, was led by Abarca, speaking out against the environmental impacts of the mine and the failure to acknowledge the rights of Indigenous groups.
Protests against the mine included a months-long blockade of its operations. Abarca, along with two members of his family, was beaten at his home in the summer of 2008. The following summer he led a protest delegation to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City.