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Canada warned about mining practices in Mexico

Companies face increased scrutiny on environmental practices and treatment of indigenous people

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A Canadian Goldcorp truck rolls across a gold mine at the Los Filos complex at Carrizalillo, Guerrero in Mexico. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP / Getty

Mexico’s new ambassador to Canada has started off his tenure with a strong message to mining countries operating on his home turf.

Gomez Camacho’s first comments, even before he arrives in Ottawa, were reported by Stephanie Nolen, the Globe and Mail’s Latin America bureau chief.

“Canadian mining companies operating in Mexico should be on notice that the sector is going to face increased scrutiny on its environmental practices and treatment of indigenous people, according to the country’s new ambassador to Ottawa,” writes Nolen.

“President [Andres Manuel] Lopez Obrador has been very public about this, that we really want a strong, profitable mining sector — and Canadian mining companies are large investors in Mexico — but we expect them to operate in this country with exactly the same standards as they do in Canada,” Juan Jose Gomez Camacho, who was ratified as the new ambassador on Thursday, said in an interview at the foreign affairs ministry in the Mexican capital.

Some 70 percent of foreign-owned mining companies operating in Mexico are based in Canada, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Gomez Camacho said enforcement of Mexico’s existing laws will be increased under AMLO’s government. “One area that is very important to us, in the case of the mining industry, is that we see a stronger, more robust impact on the socio-economic development of the communities where the mines are,” the ambassador said.

Part of this process is strengthening the rule of law in Mexico, he said, and “increasing the role of the state in making sure that the standards of operation in Mexico from foreign companies in this or any other sector are sustainable. … But it’s also a self-discipline, it’s a question of companies’ values on how they operate.”

Gomez Camacho, 54, is a career diplomat who most recently was Mexico’s ambassador to the United Nations. He is fluent in English and French, and shares Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s fondness for stylish socks.

The most pressing file on Gomez Camacho’s desk when he gets to Ottawa will be the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Its text was completed nearly six months ago, but has yet to be ratified.

The primary obstacle at this point is the U.S. Congress, where House Democrats are reluctant to pass the Trump-led deal.

Another source of tension

A wide gulf remains, however, between Canada’s and Mexico’s respective positions on Venezuela. While Canada immediately recognized Juan Guaido when he declared himself interim president in January, Mexico has not. Almost alone in the hemisphere, Mexico continues to call for negotiations between the Nicolas Maduro’s government and the opposition.

“Only a politically negotiated outcome to the Venezuelan crisis can succeed — there should be no space for potential conflict because it could be very, very dangerous and very damaging,” said Gomez Camacho, who once headed the human rights division of Mexico’s foreign ministry. “So we are betting, and we will keep betting, on diplomacy. And to do that we need to continue to be a credible interlocutor to all actors in Venezuela. We see no viability in other opportunities that are not based on a political dialogue.”

He also hopes to do more to “even out” the triangle that is the North American relationship.

The three countries “don’t know each other well enough,” Gomez Camacho commented.

With information from the Globe and Mail.

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