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Blockade at Ternium's mine in Mexico halts operations

Kitco News

MEXICO CITY, Jan 23 (Reuters) - A blockade by community members has forced operations at a Mexican mine of steelmaker Ternium to be halted from the weekend, with locals demanding a search for two environmental activists missing for more than a week.

The missing activists, Antonio Diaz and Ricardo Lagunes, have voiced concerns over the harmful impact of the Aquila Mine in western Michoacan state.

Diaz is the leader of a civic group in the region, while Lagunes is the head of a legal advisory firm in the area, which has worked with various organizations defending indigenous communities and their rights.

Residents of the town of Santa Maria closed off road access to the mine over the weekend to put pressure on the company to help find the missing activists.

The two men were reported missing by family members and other activists on Jan. 15.

Michoacan's prosecutor's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

"This blockade will last until our companions return," Maria Ramirez, Lagunes' wife, told a news conference on Monday.

Ternium, controlled by Argentine capital group Techint, later confirmed to Reuters the halt of operations from Saturday at the mine in response to "a request from community members."

Mexico is one of Ternium's top markets.

The local area around the mine has seen an uptick in violence over the last decade as criminal groups have sought to benefit from the mine, including from extortion schemes they have forced on residents, according to local authorities.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Additional reporting by Kylie Madry; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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