Blockade at Equinox Los Filos hinders mine restart

Los Filos had begun a staged restart mid-November and was working towards achieving full operations in December. (Image courtesy of Equinox Gold.)

Equinox Gold’s (TSX, NYSE: EQX) efforts to restart its Los Filos mine in Mexico, halted since Sept. 3, have been held up after members of the nearby Carrizalillo community resumed on Friday the long-held mine blockade.

The Canadian miner had suspended activities at the operation, in the Guerrero Gold Belt, after locals blocked access to it. They alleged the company had not met the community social collaboration agreement signed in 2019.

According to La Jornada, members of the Carrizalillo community said Equinox had failed to comply with about 70% of the clauses set up in the document allowing the Vancouver-based company to exploit Los Filos until 2025.

Los Filos gold-silver mine has been suspended since September 3

Equinox said last week the blockade had been lifted while “good-faith negotiations” continued to reach a final agreement related mostly to community benefits. The company’s goal was to achieve full operations in December.

Preparations to restart mining activities, however, had to be suspended.

“Equinox Gold continues to communicate with these individuals and hopes to achieve a long-term solution that will allow the mine to operate effectively and continue bringing benefits to its employees, contractors, suppliers and community partners,” the company said in a media statement.

The Agrarian Council of Carrizalillo said the action was a direct response to the company’s decision to start calling back workers and contractors to the site before reaching a final agreement with the community. They noted they saw Equinox’s move as a provocation, which raised serious concerns about potential confrontations.

“We continue to keep watch over mine gates to prevent a restart, limiting access to personnel responsible for safety and security measures during the shut-down,” the council said in a press release.

Limited mining in 2020

Equinox had also suspended operations at Los Filos for most of the June quarter due to government-mandated covid-19 restrictions.

The company recently withdrew 2020 production and cost guidance for the mine, which had been expected to produce 90,000-110,000 ounces of the company’s 470,000-530,000 ounces of gold this year.

Los Filos was one of the four mines Equinox gained through its merger with Leagold Mining earlier this year.

The Los Filos mine complex began commercial production in 2008. The operation consists of two large open pits (Los Filos and Bermejal) and one underground mine. 

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