New blockade affects Newmont-Goldcorp’s Peñasquito mine

Peñasquito mine was part of the portfolio of Goldcorp, whose acquisition Newmont completed in April to become the world’s biggest gold producer. (Image courtesy of Newmont Goldcorp via Flickr)

Just three months after the latest, 80-day blockade that affected Newmont-Goldcorp’s (NYSE: NEM) (TSX: NGT) Peñasquito gold mine in Mexico, employees of the trucking contractor leading the protest action together with some members of the Cedros community, are once again obstructing access to the mine located in the north-central Zacatecas state.

Local media report that Saturday afternoon, some 40 workers from the CAVA trucking company decided to rally again to pressure Peñasquito into hiring them. They also said that the miner hasn’t recognized the fact that its extractive activities are drying out the Cedros’ water well and damaging the environment. 

In the last three years, Peñasquito has been the target of protests of landowners, truck drivers and residents of nearby towns who demand jobs, compensation for alleged environmental damages and clean water for their communities

The action, however, came as a surprise as just hours before, the Vancouver-based company together with state and federal authorities announced that everyone had agreed to stop the blockades and that, in exchange, Newmont-Goldcorp would pay about $2.9 million to the Los Cedros community, withdraw the criminal complaints filed against the blockaders, rehire 19 workers that were dismissed, reinstall the services of four local transportation providers, build a swimming pool, sports fields and a park for the community, come up with a water-management plan that takes into consideration people’s concerns about the utilization of the local aquifer, building and operating permanent water infrastructure to replace current facilities, among other commitments.

But in the face of the new blockade, Sunday afternoon, the miner announced that it temporarily suspended operations at Peñasquito.

“The Company remains willing to continue good-faith discussions and will be available to resume the dialogue once the other parties recognize their interests are best served by returning to the government-sponsored discussions and not through illegal and unproductive blockades that hurt local communities,” a communiqué issued by Newmont-Goldcorp reads. “In order to ensure the safety of people, assets, and the long-term viability of Peñasquito, the Company has temporarily suspended operations for as long as the illegal blockade persists.”

Jose Narro Cespedes, a Zacatecas senator that belongs to Mexico’s ruling party Morena, also issued a statement begging for the urgent installation of a new negotiation table.

Some 6,500 direct and 20,000 indirect workers have been affected by the activists’ actions this year, as only in mid-June was Peñasquito able to resume the shipping of concentrate after being forced to stop operations in April. 

Peñasquito is an open-pit mine that produced 272,000 ounces of gold last year, accounting for about 17% of the combined company’s net asset value, according to Scotiabank.

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