Ejidatario of the ejido El Bajío, in resistance against Fresnillo plc, faced death threats.

Earlier this year, a delegation from Ejido el Bajío in Sonora, Mexico, supported by London Mining Network and London Mexico Solidarity, attended the Fresnillo AGM in London to present their demands and questions to the company. (An ejido is a community with a particular status under Mexican law, giving them rights over common land.) Among the members of the delegation was Jesús Javier Thomas, one of the representatives of the ejidatarios. Today, Jesús is receiving death threats.

This is not the first time that violence has affected the lives of people opposing Fresnillo in Ejido el Bajío. On February 12, 2018, Raúl Ibarra de la Paz disappeared and Noemí López Gutierrez was found dead. On April 28, 2021, the president of the ejidatarios, José de Jesús Robledo Cruz and his wife, María de Jesús Gómez Vega, were killed. Their bodies were found with a list naming 13 ejidatarios involved in the fight against the mining company.

Fresnillo Plc is a mining company based in Mexico. Since 2008, its shares have been traded on the London Stock Exchange in the UK. Fresnillo plc is the world’s largest producer of primary silver and the largest gold producer in Mexico. Fresnillo has mining operations in Sonora and Zacatecas in Mexico, and also has about 20 exploration projects in the country. The company plans to expand its operations in Latin America, especially in Peru and Chile. At the head of the Fresnillo Group is Alberto Bailléres, one of the richest men in the country. Bailleres’s fortune amounts to about 9.2 billion dollars.

In 2007, the Penmont mining company, a subsidiary of Fresnillo, began exploration in Sonora. The company offered 16,000 Mexican pesos (about £640) for mining rights to the ejidatarios. Two years later, Penmont opened the Soledad-Dipolos mine, citing a property title issued by the Secretariat of Agrarian Development for part of the Ejido territory. However, this title was never ratified by the Ejidal Assembly. As a consequence, in 2009, five ejidatarios of the Cruz family filed an agrarian dispute (188/2009) to request participation in the decisions of the territory. Despite this, in 2010 the construction of the Soledad-Dipolos mine began. 

In 2011, Agrarian Court No. 28 ruled in favour of the ejidatarios. The Penmont mining company, however, began to illegally exploit the territory. In 2013, the community managed to stop the illegal mining activity with the support of the Federal Police, and part of the territory was recovered. Later that year, the Ejidatarios filed 67 agrarian disputes in the same court. 

In 2014, the Agrarian Court ruled in favour of all 67 parties and ruled that the company must vacate the occupied land and return the extracted gold to the rightful owners of the Ejido. Among other points, the sentence requested that the company repair the environmental damage caused by gold extraction. The company has refused to comply with this sentence and has launched various legal actions to take ownership of the land. Since 2014, the Ejido community has alleged that company officials have been linked to the use of armed force in attempts to intimidate them. 

On September 7 of this year, Jesús Javier Thomas, representative of the Ejido El Bajío founded in 1971, travelling in his vehicle between Caborca ​​and Sonoyta, was arrested by alleged soldiers with high-calibre weapons and was informed that there was an operation against him, to assassinate him and recommended that he return. Days later, between Peñasco and the Ejido El Bajío, on the highway, another colleague of his was intercepted again, whom they tried to assassinate with high-calibre weapons, but realising that they had confused him with Jesús Javier Thomas, they suspended the action. Read the full  statement from the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA)

Read more about the case here https://londonminingnetwork.org/ejido-el-bajio-press-kit/