Letter to Ministers MacKay and Emerson Re: Metallica Resources - April 28, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Honourable Peter MacKay
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 992 6022

The Honourable David Emerson
Minister of International Trade
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Fax:  (613) 943-0219

Dear Minister MacKay and Minister Emerson:

We write to you as a group of Canadian NGOs, churches and unions who are concerned about the human rights and ecological impacts of Canadian mining companies in Canada and abroad. We are writing to express grave concern about the activities of Canadian mining company Metallica Resources Inc, through its wholly owned subsidiary Minera San Xavier (MSX), and the negative impact these activities are having on the rights and safety of the historic community of Cerro de San Pedro, in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

During her recent visit to Canada (April 3-10, 2006), we had the opportunity to meet with Ana Maria Alvarado, a member of the community of Cerro de San Pedro and representative of the Broad Opposition Front (FAO). Ms. Alvarado spoke at a forum in Toronto on Resource Extraction and Local Communities. Accompanied by KAIROS, she then went to Ottawa where she met with MPs, FAC, CIDA, and other government departments involved in the roundtable process that is looking at the impacts of Canadian mining in developing countries

Specifically, Ms. Alvarado testified how plans to establish an open pit gold mine in her community would, in fact, destroy historic 17th century landmarks, displace the population, cause irreparable damage to the environment and leach harmful cyanide into the water supply of 1.5 million inhabitants in the surrounding area. She described the considerable risks to the environment and the community of a process that will use 32 million litres of water, 16 tons of cyanide and 25 tons of explosives on a daily basis. Moreover, she testified that Metallica is doing all this in contravention of Mexican law.

For over ten years, the community and the Broad Opposition Front (FAO) have been engaged in a legal battle with Metallica Resource Inc. The courts have consistently handed down judgments in favour of the community and FAO.  Most recently (Feb 2006), the courts annulled Metallica's temporary permit to use explosives as it contravenes a state decree recognizing Cerro de San Pedro and the surrounding area as a protected site due to the unique flora and fauna in the area. Yet, Metallica Resources Inc. has gone ahead with blasting and other operations, in complete violation of Mexican law.  Furthermore, Mexican authorities at all levels of government have demonstrated a complete lack of political will to enforce the law.

Although the law is clearly on the community's side, the Mexican authorities are not willing to enforce the law.  Thus, while she was in Canada, Ms. Alvarado spoke of how, having no other recourse, the FAO and community members have begun to try to physically stop the mining operation by peacefully placing themselves in the path of Metallica's machinery.

On April 14, employees of Minera San Xavier reportedly attacked two members of the FAO.  Enrique Rivera Sierra, FAO's lawyer, was repeatedly struck on the head. Witnesses heard his assailants shout's see if you continue speaking against Minera San Xavier, my boss will be very happy with my work and if you continue talking, you are going to die. 

We are extremely concerned about these recent incidents.  Canada urgently needs to exert diplomatic pressure on Mexican authorities to conduct an immediate, impartial and full investigation into these attacks and to bring those responsible to justice. The safety and integrity of Enrique Rivera Sierra and other FAO members must be guaranteed along with their legitimate right to protest. 

Given the gravity of this situation, we request that the Canadian Ambassador travel immediately to Cerro de San Pedro to investigate how Metallica Resources Inc., a Canadian company, continues to operate in direct contravention of Mexican law.  Internationally, Canada has a reputation as a champion of human rights and as a global citizen.  Surely, the Canadian government does not want Canadian companies to undermine Canadian values and tarnish Canada's global image. visit to Cerro de San Pedro and a meeting with community members would signal Canadian support for this community that is simply asking that the law be respected.  The Canadian Ambassador did visit Cerro de San Pedro on May 2, 2005, shortly after Ms Alvarado's first trip to Canada.  We think there is an urgent need for the Ambassador to travel to meet with the community again.

As we write this letter, the Canadian government and various stakeholders are about to embark on a roundtable process on mining.  The Metallica case demonstrates the need for Canada to implement binding obligations for Canadian corporations working abroad.  Binding legislation ensures accountability to Canada's own standards regarding consent of the communities affected, as well as the respect for human rights and environmental standards.  We do not believe that the Canadian government would support the activities of a Canadian company that is violating both international standards and norms, and Mexican law.  Yet, that is what clearly appears to be happening in Mexico as the present voluntary mechanisms and norms regulating the activities of Canadian mining companies have not been effective in this case.  We call on the Canadian government to support legislation based on Canada's obligations under international human rights and environmental agreements.
We look forward to hearing what measures Canada will take to ensure that Metallica Resources Inc, as a Canadian company operating abroad, is accountable to the Canadian government and all Canadians.

We anxiously await your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Corkery
Executive Director,
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Bruce Cox
Executive Director,

Joan Kuyek
National Coordinator,
MiningWatch Canada

Roy Culpeper
President and CEO
The North-South Institute 

Fraser Reilly-King
Halifax Initiative Coalition

Doug Olthuis
Executive Director,
Steelworkers Humanity Fund 

Mike Shields,
Director, International Department
CAW- Canada

Catherine Bell,NDP
Roy Cullen, Liberal
Peter Julian, NDP
Francine Lalonde, BQ
Lawrence Macaulay, Liberal
Alexa McDonough, NDP
Dan McTeague, Liberal
Pierre Paquette, BQ
Pablo Rodriguez, Liberal
Ambassador Gaetan Lavertu