Workers and community landowners supporting the Section 309 of the National Miners’ Union had set up a protest camp for the last three months outside the La Platosa mine entrance to demand freedom of association. The union is demanding an end to company violence and a solution to the dispute.
On the morning of 24 October, around 180 hired thugs violently evicted workers and landowners from the camp at the entrance to the La Platosa mine, located in La Sierrita, Durango and owned by the Canadian mining company Excellon Resources Inc., said the National Miners' Union (SNTMMSRM), led by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia.
The camp is located on a private property of a third party with explicit consent of the landowners; no part of the camp is located on Excellon or Ejido property. The protest camp was set up peacefully since July at the entrance to the mining complex in order to put pressure on the company to recognise freedom of association and the workers’ right to join the Miners' union; the community landowners were jointly protesting the company’s failure to comply with the terms of its 2008 agreement to lease the land from its peasant owners.
Protestors and local press said that the men who carried out the assault arrived in six buses, including a bus adorned with the logo of Excellon Resources Inc. and moved in with heavy machinery immediately proceding to destroy and burn down the protesters’ temporary housing.
The peasants had authorised miners belonging to SNTMMSRM Section 309 to occupy their land in order to continue their struggle. The union reports that the thugs had connections with the opposing union led by Carlos Pavón (Gómez Sada Union members) and that the violence was financed by Grupo Peñoles and coordinated by Excellon managers. It was also reported that Robert Moore, Chief Operating Officer of Excellon Resources Inc., directly participated in the action against the landowners, pulling down the fence that the landowners had set up to protect their camp. The protestors made repeated requests to federal and state officials to stop the aggressors but federal and local officials present took no action to stop the intervention.
The SNTMMSRM demands that the federal government, the Durango State government and the Bermejillo municipal government “immediately withdraw the mob of hired thugs and force the company to negotiate a solution to the dispute”. It added: “we hold them and Grupo Peñoles, which financed this attack, responsible for any act of violence that results in injury or loss of life.”
The workers are demanding that the company “recognize their freedom to join the National Union of Mineworkers and complies with the terms of its agreement to lease land from the peasant owners. The company has arrogantly refused to comply with this agreement”. IndustriALL has written to the CEO of Excellon HO and to the the federal and state governments, denouncing the complicity between the state authorities and Excellon management and demanding to ensure the physical integrity and safety of the protestors, as they continue exercising their recognized right to protest and their efforts to resolve this unfortunate conflict.