Mexico says no link between killings and dispute at Canada’s Torex mine

The El Limon-Guajes Mine, Mexico. Photo by Torex Gold.

Mexican authorities have ruled out any link between a double murder near a gold mine owned by Canada’s Torex Gold Resources (TSX:TXG) and a labour dispute at the operation, located in violent Guerrero state.

The official statement (in Spanish) backs the company’s account, in which it said the two killed men were not its employees or contractors. The state attorney general’s office report suggests the men were killed in a dispute between community police groups (known as “autodefensas” or self-defenders), in charge of protecting residents from drug cartels operating in the southern Mexico state.

Illegal blockade of El Limón-Guajes mine, which began in early November, turned uglier this week when two men were killed nearby.

The shootings occurred on Saturday at a road blockade mounted as part of a workers demonstration at Torex’s El Limón-Guajes gold mine. Staff seeking to change their union representation called the stoppage, and Mexico’s Miners Union blamed the deaths on a rival group.

Canada’s United Steelworkers (USW), one of the largest trade unions in the country, had sided with Mexican workers, adding the deaths underscored the widespread repression of basic labour rights in the Latin American country, “even as these fundamental rights are a key part of the proposed changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) being renegotiated now,” Radio Canada International reported.

Working conditions in Mexico are a key element in talks about renegotiating the NAFTA with Canada and the US.

The El Limón-Guajes mine is located near the town of Real de Limón and is part of Torex’s Morelos Gold Property, in the Guerrero Gold Belt.

The state has been the scenario of increasing violence in recent years, mostly due to its importance to drug cartels as a key area for heroine production.

Workers at El Limón-Guajes and the neighbouring Los Filos mine, then owned by Goldcorp, were the target of kidnappings and murders in 2015.

Announcing the company’s results for the third quarter earlier this month, CEO Fred Standford said Torex was holding talks with Mexico’s National Gendarmerie police to provide additional security staff at the mine, already affected by the illegal blockade linked to the two recent deaths.

At the time, the Toronto-based company said it was lowering 2017 output guidance for El Limón to below 300,000 ounces of gold from 350-380,000 ounces originally expected, partially because of the blockade.