Protestors decry mining operations in Mexican town

Canadian and Mexican citizens denounced the government of Mexico in a demonstration downtown last Friday for what they claim are environmentally-threatening activities practiced by Metallica Resources in Cerro de San Pedro, Mexico. Part of the continued efforts of Frente Abierto Opositor (FAO), the demonstration was coordinated with two others in front of the Canadian Embassies in Mexico City and in Chicago so that all three took place simultaneously.
Protestors presented a petition to the Mexican Consulate in Montreal, asking them to uphold their environmental and human rights obligations. Concordia’s Mexican Association of Students (MAS) was also present at the rally, ready to denounce the activities of Metallica Resources, a Canadian mining corporation that has an open-pit mine project within 10 km of the town of Cerro de San Pedro; a historical city founded in 1592. FAO members claim Metallica’s project will destroy not only the city’s physical links to its past, but it will also pollute an aquifer that provides most of the water for residents in the area.
The Cerro de San Pedro project requires the daily use of 16 tons of cyanide along with 32 million litres of water taken from the already overloaded aquifer that sustains 1.5 million people in this semi-arid region.
The biggest concerns of inhabitants like Mario Martinez Ramos, an engineer who lives in the area, is that their water is being polluted with cyanide and other metals, such as arsenic.
“To separate the metals from the sulphurs, open mine projects use water mixed with sodium cyanide, which is poisonous,” claimed Ramos. “Even though Metallica Resources environmental impact assessment showed that the water would probably be polluted, they started operations. They say that if they realize that they polluted the water they will stop but, what is the point of stopping once they destroyed our water?”
The mine requires the daily use of 25 tons of explosives to discharge 75 thousand tons of rock and earth and will leave behind 80 million tons of toxic waste and 120 million tons of sulphur waste, as well as a crater half a mile wide and 300 meters deep, transforming the colonial site into a barren crater.
Professor at McGill, Davidken Studnicki-Gizbert, says that the mine has also killed off certain flora and fauna from the area, including a certain specie of cactus unique to the area. “We can already see that in certain areas the cactus have been wiped out. Animal species are not returning to the area. This is the same place that the Secretariat of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries of Mexico (SEMARNAP) had suggested should become a sanctuary.”
FAO recently brought a citizens complaint to the North American Free Trade Agreement’s Commission of Environmental Cooperation (CEC), who promptly agreed that there were violations of environmental law in the mining operation. “What this company is doing is horrendous,” said Enrique Rivera, who is seeking political asylum after a group of paramilitaries hired by Metallica allegedly assaulted him. Rivera could not attend the demonstration since his lawyer advised him not to due to his request for asylum, and must refrain from participating in activities that might “disturb the peace.”
“Shame on the Mexican government for selling Mexico,” said Daniella Guerrero, member of MAS. “Members of MAS are outraged about this situation. We will do whatever we can here to support FAO.”


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