Calgary-owned mine shut in Mexico

Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration said Thursday it expects to re-open its barite mine in Mexico early next week.

The government of the Mexican state of Chiapas has shut down the Canadian-owned mine at the centre of controversy over the killing of a political activist who opposed its operations.

Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration said Thursday the shutdown was ordered Tuesday and it expects to re-open the barite mine early next week.

A crusher at a Blackfire barite mine in Chiapas. ((Blackfire Exploration))

CEO Brent Willis told CBC News the state has told the company to review its dust-control measures and the permit for carbon dioxide emissions from its equipment and apply for a new permit for a section of one of its roads.

The activist, Mariano Abarca Roblero, was gunned down in front of his home last month. 

One of the three men detained — but not yet arrested — in his death was an employee of Blackfire's Mexican subsidiary. 

The other two were former employees. Abarca Roblero had raised concerns about the mine polluting waterways.

Willis said there is no pollution. The company uses excavators to dig the barite out of a surface deposit. The barite is first trucked to a crusher and then to market, to be used in oil drilling fluids to keep the oil and gas from shooting up around the drilling stem.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson for the Council of Canadians, said Roblero's death wouldn't stop others from protesting mining activity in Mexico.

She said many people who are upset with the actions of Canadian mining companies would follow in his footsteps. The council and other groups are calling on the federal government to pass Bill C-300, which would penalize companies involved in human rights and environmental abuses abroad.

Willis repeated that Blackfire has no responsibility for the killing.

'Blackfire is not involved in this in any fashion.'—Brent Willis, CEO, Blackfire Exploration

"Blackfire is not involved in this in any fashion," he said. "The authorities haven't discussed with us what is going on. They haven't been looking at our company with regards to this matter. We're just trying to continue working and moving forward with our projects," he said, "and we hope that the authorities conclude their investigation soon."

Willis said Roblero was invited to the mine to see the operation and to discuss his concerns with the company but declined.

Blackfire has three mines in Chiapas as well as properties in the southeast corner of British Columbia.

With files from The Canadian Press