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  • A barite rock from an open-cut mine in Chicomuselo, the Blackfire operation site. August 27, 2008.

    A barite rock from an open-cut mine in Chicomuselo, the Blackfire operation site. August 27, 2008. | Photo: EFE

Published 7 February 2018

The complaint states that the embassy continued to support Blackfire even after Mariano Abarca was killed in 2009.

Mexican and Canadian activist and civil organizations are demanding the Canadian government investigate its embassy in Mexico for supporting the mining company Blackfire Exploration despite corruption allegations.

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Organizations such as the Mariano Abarca Environmental Foundation, Otros Mundos Chiapas, Chiapas Autonomous University Law School Human Rights Center and the Affected by Mining Mexican Network, along with Mining Watch Canada made the petition to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) of Canada, an independent oversight office, hoping the embassy and its personnel will be investigated.

Now, the PSIC has 90 days to decide if they will investigate the case. This is the first time the PSIC, which can ask for sanctions or make other recommendations, has been invited to investigate an embassy.

The complaint states that the embassy continued to support Blackfire even after Mariano Abarca, an environmental activist opposing the company activities in Chiapas, southeastern Mexico, was killed in 2009. He was shot in front of his restaurant in Chicomuselo by armed people on a motorcycle.

A week before his murder, Abarca had notified authorities that he was receiving death, which he believed were linked with Blackfire. One employee and two former employees of Blackfire were detained as suspects following the murder. Only one of them was sentenced at the time, but all three of them are now free.

The organizations are now asking the PSIC to investigate the embassy and have also demanded that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights investigate what happened in 2009.

Blacklist's CEO Brent Willis has denied any involvement in the murder and stated Mexican authorities hadn't discussed the case with them.

The Mexican government halted Blackfire operations after Abarca's murder, but they were able to continue after a few days. The embassy supported their activities through 2009 and afterward as other controversies showed up.

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In 2011, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated Blackfire for their alleged USD$20 thousand bribery for Chicomuselo's major Julio Calderon, as local activists were threatening the company's operations.

Blackfire has declared the company hasn't consciously bribed anybody and claims they thought the money was intended for public works in the community. The Police then dropped the investigation with no charges.

The Blackfire matter is not the only corruption case involving Canadian miners in Mexico. In 2015, Mining Watch Canada and the Canadian union United Steelworkers claimed the embassy was supporting Excellon against peaceful protests opposing their activities. Their report affirms the diplomats were accomplices in contract violations, lousy working conditions, and repression.

This year the activist and miner Quintin Salgado was murdered. He was head of the mine workers movement carrying a strike in the Media Luna mine in Jalisco, belonging to Canadian mining company Torex Gold. Shortly after his murder, military and police forces entered the mine, ending the occupation by workers.

In 2012, environmental activists Ismael Solorio and Manuela Solis were killed in Chihuahua after receiving threats for their role in a local struggle for water against Canadian miner Mag Silver. They had alerted the government to harassment from the company and had already been beaten by men associated with it. Authorities didn't get involved until their organization, called El Barzon, occupied the government palace for a night, along with other social organizations and sympathizers.

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