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Original article from Milenio Online (Translation)


Blackfire To Sue the Government of Chiapas
The Cynicism of Canadian Mining Companies

February 10, 2010,
Chiapas, Mexico

Under Chapter 11 of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration, linked to the death of opposition leader Mariano Abarca Roblero, intends to sue the government of Chiapas for almost $800 million, to repair the damage and injury caused by the closure last December 2009 of the barite mine in Grecia ejido in the municipality of Chicomuselo. The Canadian mining company has significant interests in the state and plans to create the infrastructure in the Port of Chiapas that would allow it to market the wealth they extract from the state to the Asian market, in this case supposedly the largest titanium mine in North America containing around almost 1,570,000 metric tons of high quality ore (TiO2) within the mineral ilmenite (Fe2O3TiO2) from which titanium dioxide is extracted.

The national press reported yesterday [http://impreso.milenio.com/node/8716870] that officials of the Canadian mining company “have already met several times with officials of the Chiapas government to reach a settlement and, if they maintain the decision to close the mine, to be able to agree on compensation.”

In an affidavit of 7 December 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Housing (Semavi) states that with the “verification visit, exploration, extraction and exploitation of mineral deposits or substances that are similar in nature to the components of land” and based on Articles 65, 66 and 68 in the Administrative Procedure Act, and in order to verify the environmental laws of Chiapas (Article 221 and 85 of the Administrative Procedure Act), it “proceeded to the temporary total closure of exploration, extraction, storage and processing of stone material -barite- and the movement of vehicles related to the company’s extractive activity along the road leading from the area for storage and processing of raw materials towards the areas for extraction of material, for this purpose tying the red closure ribbons in the places described below: to the excavator, in the access to the area, Tower 1, and on the cabin and on the digging arm of the excavator.”

It should be noted that Chapter 11 of NAFTA refers to expropriation and compensation under Article 1105 (1) under which the Canadian transnational seeks to recover $800 million. In response, REMA states and alleges that:

1) The closing of the Canadian mine, one of the 5 the company has in Chiapas, was done because of the environmental pollution it is causing, its irreversible environmental impacts, and its significant contribution to Climate Change. Foreign investment should not be above the global environment or the health of the people, or sovereign environmental policies. Therefore, we demand the annulment of Chapter 11 of NAFTA which protects investments with impunity and exceeds the global interest.

2) While the government of Chiapas has refused to pay compensation to the family of Mariano Abarca Roblero, despite the resolution of the State Congress, it is willing to negotiate millions of dollars with the Canadian company. The interest and profits of transnational mining companies can not be put ahead of the interests of the people of Chiapas.

3) That although the reasons put forward for the closure of the Canadian mine are environmental, the closure supports the vast domestic and international pressure to demand justice for the murder of the leader of REMA-Chiapas’ opposition against the mining company’s activities. To date the perpetrators of the crime have not been sentenced, nor have the responsibilities of other employees and officials of the Canadian company Blackfire been demarcated.

4) The Canadian company’s illegal and immoral demand for U.S. $800 million against the Mexican people while refusing to pay farmers an average of 230,000 dollars (3 million pesos) that the ejidatarios of New Morelia Ejido claimed against it for stealing barite located in their territory. The responsibility of the Canadian company for this theft and illegal dispossession has not been determined, nor for threats with firearms by company staff and officials.

5) The compensation of $800 million that Blackfire plans to demand would mean that each of the 4,293,459 people in Chiapas would pay USD $186.32 dollars or the equivalent of $2,422 Mexican pesos per person, equal to 46 ‘minimum wages’ per Chiapas resident. Therefore, the promises of development and jobs from these foreign investments, as well as bringing environmental impacts, threats, intimidation, murder, climate change, extortion, and corruption, also bring with them further impoverishment of the population. We demand that the government of Chiapas take a firm position on monitoring and meeting the Millennium Development Goals adopted in the Constitution of Chiapas.

6) We demand that the Mexican Federal Government, through the Ministry of Economy, cancel of all mining concessions of the Canadian mining company Blackfire and its expulsion from the country for violating the interests of peasants and indigenous peoples, for violating fundamental human rights, and for being implicated as being responsible for masterminding the murder of Mariano Abarca Roblero for which its workers are now detained.

7) While the Canadian mining company failed to comply with agreements and promises of support and infrastructure in the Ejido of Grecia, such as roads and water storage tanks, in exchange for deforestation and soil removal to extract barite in open pits, the cost of which has no comparison with what it now demands, aims to take $800 million from the Mexican people. The Chiapas state government should require that the company comply with these agreements to support the interests of the people of Chiapas.

8) Chapter 11 of NAFTA enables transnational corporations to sue governments if their investments are threatened by the demands of compliance and respect for human rights which society requires. This heightens the criminalization of social protest and repression to prevent governments having to pay. We demand an end to this situation and to increasing militarization. We demand that the responsibility of criminal foreign investments be identified, and an end to their impunity.

Blackfire Out of Chiapas! REMA Chiapas

Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) www.rema.codigosur.net

Otros Mundos, A.C.
Francisco I. Madero 49, Barrio Guadalupe 29, 200 San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico P.O. Box 43; Phone (967) 631-6643; www.otrosmundoschiapas.org

Translation is courtesy of MiningWatch.

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Link to original article from Milenio Online
Translation below, courtesy of MiningWatch

Canadian Company, unhappy over the closure of titanium mine
Suing the Chiapas government for $800M
Blackfire Exploration Mexico says that this action inhibits the business environment.

2010-02-09 - Business

The mining company Blackfire Exploration Mexico will sue the Chiapas government for nearly $800 million, considering that this is the amount of damages caused by the illegal closure of the barite mine in Grecia ejido in the municipality of Chicomuselo, undertaken last December 28.

According to company spokesmen, it will base its arguments on regulations under the North American Free Trade Agreement, seeking the advantages it is entitled to under the trade agreement.

The company believes that the $800 million covers a portion of the projects it plans to launch in the area, including a port that would allow it to connect with the Asian market, the development of a mine which contains nearly 570 million metric tons of high quality titanium in what could be the largest deposit in North America.

Blackfire Exploration is a Canadian company, based in Toronto, whose representatives have already met several times with officials of the Chiapas government to reach a settlement and, if they maintain the decision to close the mine, to be able to agree on compensation.

The spokesman said the company's position in talks with the government of Chiapas is that this action inhibits the bilateral business environment within the state and harms the trust relationships necessary to invest in long-term projects.

The company has an open-pit barite mine in Chiapas, with large reserves of mineral that is used in the oil fields of the country; as well, according to the information held by the Company, it expects that this area is one of the highest grade hard rock TiO2 deposits in the world.

This means that due to the characteristics of the area it has a large deposit of titanium (TiO2) within the ilmenite (Fe2O3TiO2), resulting in a high concentration of this metal, whose price has been rising for several months. Its use is diverse, ranging from cosmetics to paints and engineering and construction.

Spokesmen for the mining company Blackfire Exploration Mexico said they have let the state government know that there is willingness to continue the company's productive activity under friendlier operating parameters, including productive opportunities, green technologies, and development for the population.

Production: 1,570,000 metric tons

- Keys

Conflict

- The state government of Chiapas closed the mining consortium of Canadian origin on December 7, 2009.

- The Secretariat of Environment and Housing (Semavi) argued that the mining had resulted in the diversion of watercourses and natural runoff and also in changing land use over a large area.

- The authorities also named other reasons such as lack of environmental impact permits for the opening of new roads, in addition to emissions of suspended particles.

Mexico - Luis Carriles

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