UN human rights officials meet community landowners and workers in Excellon case

20.12.2012

At a meeting with UN human rights officials, community landowners and workers described how they had been evicted from their protest camp in Durango. They also said that Excellon violates human rights, has failed to comply with the lease it signed in 2008, and has threatened and harassed local people and workers.

After the violent eviction of a protest camp at the entrance to the La Platosa mine owned by the Canadian company Excellon Resources, in the state of Durango, Mexico, the community landowners of La Sierrita and a group of workers from Section 309 of the National Miners' Union (SNTMMSRM) met officials of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  (OHCHR) to denounce systematic violations of human rights by the federal and state governments and Canadian mining company Excellon.

The workers and community landowners who support the union had set up a camp at the entrance to the Platosa mine during the last three months to demand freedom of association but were violently evicted on 24 October.

Since the situation deteriorated, IndustriALL Global Union has supported the solidarity campaign also joined by LabourStart, Amnesty International and the Mexican NGO, the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Project (PRODESC) and criticised the eviction and the company’s intimidation. General Secretary Jyrki Raina wrote to Excellon calling on it to end its anti-trade union practices and respect workers’ right to be represented by a union of their choice without any outside interference.

The company replied to IndustriALL claiming that all was well at the mine and that the eviction was not violent. Jyrki Raina debunked Excellon’s version of events in another letter.

The UN officials also heard how the company has failed to comply with the terms of its agreement to lease land, signed in 2008, which covered the right to land, territory and natural resources, the right to development, the right to water and the right to the freedom of association. Workers also described the company’s campaign of threats and harassment.

The UN officials said they had met local and federal authorities to ask what action they had taken in the case and to find out what measures they had adopted to guarantee and protect the human rights of the La Sierrita community and the workers of Section 309. The Second Representative of the Durango State Commission on Human Rights, Sara de los Santos Llamas, promised to follow-up on this matter.

For the community landowners, the workers and PRODESC, the visit by OHCHR officials is recognition that the company’s dispute with the Ejido La Sierrita and Section 309 is not simply a contractual or labour dispute, but a typical case of human rights violations by a transnational company with the complicity of federal and state authorities.