Press Release: Mexican Delegation Urges Canadian Government to Prevent Human Rights and Environmental Abuses from Canadian Mine

Excerpt from the Press Release issued by PODER:



Monday, December 4

In Ottawa, Vancouver and Kamloops the delegation will advocate for closing the Almaden Minerals’ Ixtaca project to prevent irreversible harm to health, water and the environment.

OTTAWA, Ont. — A delegation of Mexican community members and human rights advocates will visit Canada this week (December 5-12) to urge the Government of Canada, and investors, to prevent potential human rights violations and environmental damages associated with Vancouver company Almaden Minerals’ Ixtaca mining project in the region of Ixtacamaxtitlán, Puebla, Mexico.

Accompanied by PODER —a Latin American not for profit— the delegation hopes to halt the mine, currently in the exploration phase of development, and to advocate for greater accountability for Canadian mining companies operating in foreign countries. The group will share findings from the first ever community-led Human Rights Impact Assessment outlining current risks and future threats to the region’s water supply, ecosystem and residents’ health should the mine continue to be developed.

Four residents of the Ixtaca region—Ignacia Serrano, Alejandro Marreros, Francisca Zamora and Ignacio Carmona—will be joined by Benjamin Cokelet, Founding Executive Director of PODER, and PODER’s Strategic Engagement Director, Eugenia López. At events in OttawaVancouver and Kamloops , they will meet with government officials, Indigenous communities and mining investors.

Their visit comes after months of calls for greater accountability for Canadian mining firms, including an open letter from 180 non-government organisations in 2016 , and a 2017 United Nations assessment that Canada can—and should—deepen its emphasis on human rights. The United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights told Ottawa in June that concerns about reported abuse by Canadian companies operating abroad have been raised by international human rights treaty bodies. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also stated that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has an obligation to regulate the activities of Canadian mining companies that operate elsewhere in the world.

Canadian mining companies are the subject of grievances in communities “across the globe,” Cokelet says, and as The Ottawa Citizen reported earlier this year, “ Canadian extractive companies have been implicated in the world’s most notorious examples of human rights abuses.” What is notable about this week’s delegation is that “ it is preventative,” Cokelet said. “No shovel has hit the ground, and so we’re still in time to prevent human rights and environmental abuses. We’re asking Canadians at all levels of community, business or government to promote responsible business conduct and protect both environmental and cultural diversity. Almaden Minerals’ Mexican mining project does none of those things.”

Key findings in the Human Rights Impact Assessment that will be shared are:

  • Almaden Minerals has violated the right to a healthy environment and potable water: Almaden Minerals has undertaken 236 more blasts than authorised by Mexican regulations and perforated the local aquifer, thus jeopardising the community’s access to potable water and threatening food security.
  • Investors in the mine have been misled: In quarterly reports from Almaden Minerals, investors were informed that the mining region is empty. In fact, more than 20,000 people live there. The company has also failed to communicate to investors that there are several juridicial procedures against the project, including a nullity trial seeking to cancel the exploration permit in the area held by the company for having violated Mexican environmental regulations and a popular complaint before the environmental regulator.
  • Almaden Minerals hired Knight Piésold Engineering to write the environmental impact statement—the same company that acted as the engineer of record for the Canadian Mount Polley tailings dam, the failure of which resulted in the release of 8 million cubic meters of mine tailings into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake in British Columbia.
  • Will build a tailings waste dam on land now used for farming by the Indigenous community.

PODER and the delegation members are strongly requesting that:

  • Almaden Minerals cancel or, at least, suspend the Ixtaca mining project.
  • Almaden Minerals inform its investors that the project entails economic risks, and that a wide range of groups have voiced their opposition to it.
  • The Government of Canada ensures Almaden Minerals—and other Canadian mining companies—respect human rights in all their operations.
  • The Government of Canada ensures that local legislation is upheld by Canadian companies in countries they have activities in.

About the Ixtaca Project

The proposed gold and silver open pit mine of Ixtaca is located in the Ixtacamaxtitlán municipality of the Sierra Norte region of the Mexican State of Puebla. It occupies the South-Eastern portion of Tuligtic Project and is currently in an advanced exploration stage. Both concessions are properties of Almaden Minerals Ltd. Directly or as a partner, Almaden was involved in other mining projects (such Caballo Blanco and White River) that have been cancelled due to their negative impacts on the environment and human rights.

About the Human Rights Impact Assessment

The Human Rights Impact Assessment on Canadian Mining in Puebla and its Human Rights Impact is the work of multiple organisations. It includes information provided by the Government of Mexico, including preventive technical reports, judicial records, and access to information requests; reports Almaden Minerals has provided to its investors through equity offering memoranda; and testimonies from the inhabitants of communities affected by the project, gathered through participatory workshops and surveys with more than 500 individuals.

The following organisations contributed to the Human Rights Impact Assessment: Unión de Ejidos y Comunidades en Defensa de la Tierra, el Agua y la Vida, Atcolhua (Ejidatarios and residents of communities affected by the Almaden Minerals project), Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Rural (Center of Studies for Rural Development – CESDER), and the Mexican Institute for Community Development (Instituto Mexicano para el Desarrollo Comunitario – IMDEC).

Selected Key Documents:
PODER Human Rights Impact Assessment Report Summary
United Nations: Statement at the end of visit to Canada by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights

The Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)® is a regional not-for-profit, non-governmental organization whose mission is to improve corporate transparency and accountability in Latin America and to strengthen civil society stakeholders of corporations as long-term accountability guarantors. They accomplish this by leveraging business intelligence, transparency technologies, and community organizing to ultimately build a citizen-led corporate accountability movement.

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