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Mar 22, 2021

Americas Gold and Silver Corp. is 'optimistic' of end ahead in Mexican standoff

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Americas Gold and Silver Corp.’s top executive said he’s optimistic a dispute that has shuttered one of its mines in Mexico for about 14 months can be resolved through meetings with Mexican federal cabinet ministers this week.

Chief Executive Officer Darren Blasutti is betting that high-level meetings will provide enough sway to break a deadlock that has kept his company’s mine in Mexico’s western state of Sinaloa shuttered since former workers began blockading the site in January 2020. The standoff is over contracts for non-labor issues including haulage and concrete transportation, according to the Toronto-based company.

“We’re asking the Mexican government to basically uphold the rule of law, to remove the criminal actors, and to help us very simply reopen the mine and keep it open safely,” Blasutti said Sunday in an interview.

Blasutti said he’s scheduled to meet Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier and Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero in Mexico City on Tuesday, where he’ll push for federal government intervention to remove the blockade involving about 15 people. Earlier appeals with local and state authorities have been unsuccessful, he said.

“I’m optimistic on the government side because the ministers we’re dealing with understand the situation fully now,” Blasutti said.

Representatives for the two federal ministries didn’t respond to Bloomberg News requests to confirm the meetings.

President’s Attention

The dispute has caught the attention of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Asked about it at a news conference last week, the president raised the possibility of revoking Americas Gold and Silver’s concession if the company didn’t accept new union leadership at the site. Since taking office more than two years ago, Lopez Obrador has repeatedly pledged to champion Mexican workers and unions, and has often clashed with international investors and the nation’s business community.

Blasutti said there’s no legal basis for revoking the concession, and that Americas Gold and Silver will file a complaint under free trade provisions if Mexico doesn’t remove the blockade. The case provides a chance for Mexico’s government to assure foreign companies that investments in the country will be respected, he said.

Foreign direct investment in the mining industry fell by half in 2020 to US$344 million last year, the least since 2015, according to data from Mexico’s economy ministry. While partly due to pandemic shutdowns, the mining drop was steeper than the 15 per cent overall decline in foreign investment.

“The climate in Mexico has gotten more difficult,” Blasutti said.