The US Government has requested a dispute-settlement panel for Grupo Mexico’s San Martin mine, with hope of resolving long-term labour issues there. 

This follows news from June when the US requested that Mexico reviewed allegations of worker rights abuses at the mine, under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). However, Mexico declined to investigate, claiming the matter did not warrant review under the trade deal. 

Under the USMCA, companies can be sanctioned if labour complaints are not dealt with quickly. In a statement on Tuesday, Mexico’s economy ministry argued that the case should be excluded, as it had already been reviewed by the national authorities. 

The Mexican union that represents mine workers, The Miners, has claimed that Grupo Mexico violated a worker’s strike when it resumed operations at the San Martin mine, as well as negotiated with workers who did not have the right to represent them. If true, this would be a violation of Mexican law, which bars companies from normal operation while strike action takes place. A letter from the US government to Mexican officials stated that workers “are being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining.” 

Grupo Mexico has broadly denied the allegations of worker rights violations, and in a statement on Tuesday claimed that the panel would vindicate them.  

“For the San Martin mine it is important to put a final period to this chapter that unfortunately has hurt many workers and their families for more than 15 years,” Grupo Mexico said, adding that “no strike continues (at the mine) since the will of the workers is to continue working.” 

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Grupo Mexico is one of the world’s largest copper producers, with the San Martin mine also containing lead, zinc, and silver.