Blackfire Exploration response re allegations of human rights abuses in connection with its mine in Chiapas, Mexico

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Blackfire Exploration to respond to the following two reports which contain allegations that the company is responsible for human rights abuses, including the death of an anti-mining activist in Nov 2009, in connection with its mine in Chiapas, Mexico:

 

-   "Border Mining Projects Before Ethics Tribunal", Daniela Estrada, Inter-Press Service, 8 Sep 2010

-   "Canadian Fact-finding Delegation Discovers Mexican Community Devastated by Mining Activities of Blackfire Exploration," Mining Watch Canada, 21 Apr  2010 [includes links to full report and executive summary]

 

In response, Blackfire sent the following statement to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre:

September 13, 2010

Blackfire Exploration Ltd. would like to thank you for the opportunity to respond to some of the comments you passed along in your email. At this time, the company feels the information previously released responds to a variety of questions and represents the information available at this time. For your convenience, this material is attached.

Again thank you for your consideration.

[Attachment]

Blackfire Exploration Ltd. has been operating in Chiapas for 3 years now. Barite is a chemically inert substance that is used by drilling companies as a weighting agent, in the manufacturing of paints, and in medical applications for patients to drink before x-rays. When mining, an excavator removes the Barite from a vein and a truck transports it to a crusher. At the crusher, the rock is ground to 8 inch lumps and then hauled away. There are no chemicals used in our operation and no ore that leaches chemicals are mined. Drinking water is not used in the mining of Barite. At the Blackfire Barite mine in Chiapas, water is only used to prevent dust from rising from dirt roads per recommendations of the local environmental authorities and international standards.

In late 2009, the State Government of Chiapas requested closure of the mine to make an assessment on the environmental impact of our mine.  With Mexican federal authorities (PROFEPA), they spent three days at the mine and did not find any environmental infractions.  However, we were alerted to the fact that Blackfire was working outside of the permitted work area do to a mapping error.  BF takes full responsibility for this error and is working in cooperation with the Mexican government to resolve this issue. . The mine will remain closed until this permitted issue is fully resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Reports that Blackfire was threatening to sue the government over this issue are merely rumors.

In regards to the death of Mariano Abarca, Blackfire Exploration was not in any way involved and has never been implicated by law enforcement. At the onset of the investigation, Blackfire worked closely with law enforcement to provide any assistance we could. Blackfire is not involved in the defense, persecution or trial of anyone under investigation or related to the death of Mariano Abarca. Blackfire is the most significant employer in the town of Chicomuselo. The past employment or service ties to Blackfire Exploration of individuals involved in this incident is a result of the magnitude of which the company is involved in the community. As this remains a matter for the police and judicial systems, we believe it would be inappropriate to speculate or comment on the proceedings.

Regarding allegations of bribery, Blackfire Exploration has never provided inappropriate funds to a Mexican official. In this case, we contributed funds to the local town fair and to assist the municipal government in limited ongoing expenses. Cheques were addressed to the mayor as an elected official because the town has no banks. This is considered an appropriate practice in the State of Chiapas. Unfortunately the contributions were not used for their intended purpose and we reported this fact to the authority’s immediately.  Blackfire never sought nor obtained any benefit or service from the mayor or any other official different than the services provided and available to all citizens. We will seek other avenues for charitable giving in Chicomuselo in the future as we grow and support the community.

REMA is a special interest group and they are entitled to their opinions and the free speech surrounding those opinions. While we disagree with the majority of their points of view and perspectives, we take all concerns regarding the operation of our mine seriously. We are working with various government officials regarding the economic, social and environmental operation of our mine and for this reason we shall decline any further comment.