Napoleón Gómez Urrutia
Senator of the Republic
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Facing Mexico's Sociopolitical Transformation

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 11:21

Q: As a Senator and a mining union representative, what are the industry’s main demands and how are you responding to these?
A: Mexico is going through a sociopolitical transformation and the mining industry is no exception. The industry seeks investment certainty to foster its growth. It is demanding gradual changes and a general avoidance of radical modifications to the mining regime. Also, I perceive that it demands openness from the government to enter into dialogue and reach agreements that are beneficial for all mining stakeholders. I have met in person with providers, CAMIMEX members and other mining representatives. We understand the crucial role that mining plays in the economic performance of the country. In the Senate, we are discussing concessions, tax burdens and environmental matters. We have listened to mining companies’ perspectives but have also given opinions and suggestions on how to enhance the industry’s performance. One of the key concerns of the industry is related to the retroactivity of any changes to the mining law. While some reform initiatives are on the table, we still have not discussed their retroactivity. These initiatives concern compliance with CSR policies and also the time frames of mining concessions. The policy for granting concessions has been overlooked over the years and lead times can extend to over 50 years. We have spotted several contradictions that require a strong regulatory framework to reach a resolution and to prevent land hoarding.
Q: What is your ideal model for granting and following up on mining concessions?
A: Some compare the time it takes to get a concession in Mexico with other mining jurisdictions. For example, in Canada, a concession can be granted in one day but it has an initial duration of four years to guarantee that the company is really investing in exploration. Then the concession lasts for 10 years and can be extended up to 20 years if there is a productive operation. As for Mexico, the law used to have a two-year period for the company to demonstrate it was investing in mining development. But this clause was removed from our mining law and concessions are no longer tied to actually carrying out investment in them. The law should make investment a condition of keeping the concession. Also, miners can renounce concessions if nothing is found in exploration. But as the entitlement payments for a concession are so low, companies simply decide to keep their concessions. I believe that the Senate and CAMIMEX must maintain an open and permanent communication channel that can serve as a bridge to represent mining companies before the government.
Q: As representative of the Work and Social Prevision Commission in the Senate, what aspects of the labor law should be modified to foster the growth of the talent pool for the mining industry?
A: The labor law is very directed to ensure labor fairness and to guarantee union democracy. In this context, protection of the freedom, transparency and secrecy of workers is a key goal. I perceive that any reform to this law will be in the direction of protecting workers’ rights, such as to prevent unjustified dismissals and arbitrariness. I personally pushed for the ratification of Agreement 98 of the International Labor Organization for the right to organize and carry out collective bargaining. As the so-called stakeholder protection contracts are so common in the country, companies often make agreements with undemocratic union leaders that do not really represent workers and then impose these agreements.
Q: Now that you are back in Mexico, what are the misconceptions regarding your past role as a mining union leader that you would like to set straight?
A: The mining union and I were victims of obsessive political persecution from corrupt and immoral business leaders. The goal was to discredit our labor movement. But these incidents have already been unquestionably clarified by the Supreme Court of Justice and I now want to look forward to a modern Mexico with a common social vision. I hope corrupt practices will be eliminated and business leaders soon realize that this country has already changed and that we must work together for its growth.