16 October 2020, 10.12 am EDT
After 42 days of camping out to stop operations at the Los Filos mine in Guerrero, México, the Ejido of Carrizalillo has issued a public statement (translated below) to Equinox Gold’s top management calling on the company to send a new negotiating team after talks broke down this week over a new social-cooperation agreement. The current mine stoppage has now surpassed the last blockade that took place in April 2014, when Goldcorp still operated the mine, which lasted 31 days.
Among the issues leading to the breakdown this week is frustration at lack of clarity from company negotiators regarding measures to provide clean water to the community. After twelve years of mining at Los Filos, community water supplies have been destroyed, such that community members regularly bathe with arsenic-rich water contributing to serious health issues.
Following a decision yesterday by Carrizalillo’s community assembly, the Ejido states that it will not longer talk or negotiate with Equinox Gold’s Senior Vice President of Operations for Mexico, Peter Burger, or the Vice President of External Affairs and Social Responsibility, Georgina Blanco. They call on Equinox management to name a new representative or representatives who will demonstrate respect for the community and stick to their decisions. They also underscore that the community’s proposed new social-cooperation agreement is not terribly different from the one signed in 2019, but does include new measures to ensure the company will follow through on its commitments this time.
You can find an updated timeline of the events as they have unfolded at Los Filos, here.
Ejido of Carrizalillo, Municipality of Eduardo Neri, Guerrero, México
October 15, 2020
Christian Milau, CEO
Doug Reddy, COO
Ross Beaty, Chair of the Board
Following 42 days in the encampment in front of gate #4 of the Los Filos mine belonging to your company, Canadian firm Equinox Gold, so as to pursue negotiations over a new social-cooperation agreement, your negotiation team withdrew on October 14 as a result of their incapacity to address the proposals and agreements that we had discussed days prior. This situation has provoked deep anger and concern in the Ejido given that, on Tuesday October 13, we had made gains in several points that gave us hope that the encampment and the mine closure would soon come to an end. As we have said from the beginning: this process started a result of lack of fulfillment of our agreement and the principal difference with the new agreement is that it will incorporate means to ensure that your company will not violate its agreements again.
We have grown tired of the talk of good faith and being referred to as “a community of interest” for your company, because in talks over each clause your team has been trying to incorporate conditions that are innegotiable for us as an ejido. The lies have gotten to such a point with your company that we have received manipulatory information presented by your team as if they were proposals, thinking that we are incapable of understanding and treating us as if we were children. The only thing this has reaffirmed, which we indicated from the start: Equinox is a company with a serious racist and discriminatory attitude. Consider for yourselves a simple issue of skills training concerning a project that is all about mining, your company proposes that we come up with a joint program to be trained in things not at all related to mining. Will workshops on how to make fruit jelly or undertake trades or agriculture help us when our lands have been occupied and drenched with sodium cyanide? For us, the mere fact of these things that your team has proposed underscores what we mentioned from the beginning: you are a Canadian company that thinks that Mexico is your colony.
Our ejido is ready to see you go, but we are also prepared to develop an agreement that is more dignified. The formula is simple. We will not negotiate at the cost of what we have already suffered in terms of harms to our health, the environment or to continue arguing over absurdities about whether it is possible for you to provide us with clean water because you still doubt if you should or not install a water treatment plant, revealing the economic costs that your company is not willing to assume, while the harms we face are serious as a result of bathing with arsenic-laced water since it’s all we have because the mine has destroyed our clean water sources. Enough with your colonial, racist and discriminatory attitude in which good faith is a phrase that really means abuse and lies.
Our principal interest is to ensure that, as workers and residents of Carrizalillo, we have better living conditions. As a result, in this context, in which mining activities according to you lead to “progress and development”, has turned out to be a lie after many years. It is false because we live this on a daily basis, so to think that we are naïve is far from the case. This rupture in relations with our community is very clear (especially now when we are living better in the encampment with the mine closed, than in our own community when the mine is operating), and if we add to this the health harms and the promise of benefits, for example, the highly lauded creation of jobs, the happy figures that you wield are a myth.
Today our community assembly decided to refuse to recognize any longer Dr. Georgina Blanco and Mr. Peter Burger as interlocutors in this process of dialogue and negotiation. From today forward, we hope that you will send – from Canada if necessary – a new representative with capacity, sensitivity and a readiness to respond in a positive way to our agreement, without classist or racist attitudes that only serve to preach an idea of progress and development that is inequitable and unjust, but that you sell under the banner of supposed corporate social responsibility. All of this is a lie. Unless you give us clean water without arsenic and dignified work, we will fight until you leave our lands and Mexico.
Our lands are now useless and this is one of the reasons that has led us to fight over jobs, like the company and the government preach so vociferously in your meetings in your comfortable offices, but so full of asymmetry with those you call “interest groups”.
We reiterate that starting today, the community assembly has decided that it will have no further communication with Dr. Georgina Blanco and Mr. Peter Burger. Now it is up to your company to respond to our request to send a new representative to advance negotiations or to permanently close the mine.
Do not have any doubt that this is a clear break in relations, despite the advances we have achieved with significant effort. Without doubt, the setbacks are a result of the intransigent posture of your team lead by Dr. Georgina Blanco and Mr. Peter Burger who think we are inept or dumb or stubborn. At the end of the day, your company should know that your representatives have been completely incapable of finding a way to coherently managing a process of dialogue and conciliation without imposition. We can not understand the motives for which the company works against its own economic interest and business model against ensuring that that ejido achieves participation in the mining activities that have taken so much away from us.
We reiterate that here in Carrizalillo we seek treatment based on respect and not rhetoric of good faith based on hypocrisy rather than concrete acts.
We are aware that, years ago, we were deceived for lack of information and decided to give up our lands to mining activities. As a result, mining is the only activity that we have to help us get by today for which we demand mínimum conditions to guarantee a bit of wellbeing for those of us who have had our health affected and our social and cultural fabric torn apart and that you, from where you sit, can hardly imagine.
Since 2007, we have given up enough for “mining progress”. We have had enough and if your company does not understand, you can leave. For the next representatives of your company who come, if they do come at all, you should know that a month and a half ago we shared our proposal for a new social-cooperation agreement with the company. If you take a close look at it and compare it with the one signed in 2019, you will see great similiarity between the two, for which reason we do not understand the insistance in keeping up these constant abuses.
We reiterate that the community assembly has ended all talks or contact with Dr. Georgina Blanco and Mr. Peter Burger. As a result, we hope that the company will respond to this communiqué and send a representative shortly who respects us, who can make decisions without changing their mind about what is being worked out everyday, and that they do not come to talk more about good faith, corporate social responsibility or viewing us as an “interest group”.
Mr. Milau, we have been in the encampment for 42 days and will continue here awaiting your response.