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Mining in Mexico: the NAFTA connection

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

Out of a list of 926 mining projects in Mexico, there are 85 exploration projects from the U.S.A. 21 have been postponed, 23 in production, and 6 in development. In terms of Canadian projects, there are 501 exploration projects, 115 have been postponed, 58 in production, and 28 in development, according to the Mexican Bureau of Economy. In the 28 states where there are mining concessions, the rise in industry from the U.S. and Canada can be tied into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which created a free trade zone between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico starting in 1994. Those who argued for NAFTA promised it would create economic growth and prosperity across these three countries. However, at least in the case of U.S. and Mexico, there continues to be large income disparities.

Mexico is a country with resource rich land serving extractive transnational industries; thus, taking most of the wealth outside of Mexico’s borders. Also, with the high rates of impunity and corruption, most of the wealth that does stay within the country ends in the hands of public officials working hand in hand with transnational companies. The mining industry is not talked about enough by the international media. However, with ⅕ of Mexico’s land concessioned to mines, what is happening in Mexico in regards to the mining industry must be addressed.

In towns such as San Jose del Progreso located in the southern state of Oaxaca, there have been several cases of assassinations and intimidation practices towards environmental activists protesting the Canadian mine company Fortuna Silver. On June 16, 2012, environmental activists Bertín Vásquez Ruiz and Guadalupe Vázquez were shot in front of city hall for protesting the presence of Fortuna Silver in the town. Local human rights groups assert that the three gunmen were hired by the mining company. Also in 2009, while 300 people (including women with children) were blockading the mine’s entrance into the town, 700 police units arrived and violently removed the townspeople. Water is of main concern because the mining industry absorbs a great amount of the resource in the arid town of San Jose. The local population is also worried about pollution of their water by chemicals. An infamous case is the nearby town of Capulálpam, where water became so polluted by the company Continuum Resources that even the Mexican Federal Environmental Protection Agency intervened.


The paved road leading to the Yahuín mountain

Most recently there have been rumors that Fortuna Silver is planning to spread to the town of San Juan Chilateca which is in the same municipality as San Jose del Progreso. Espacio Kruz, a grassroots project working on environment protection, human rights, gender equity, cultural preservation, and defense of the land and territory asserts that in the mountain of San Juan Chilateca, called “Yahuín” there is presence of minerals, mostly gold and silver. Espacio Kruz started noticing a couple of years ago that there was construction in the perimeter of the mountain such as paving, road and electricity amplification principally near the mountain, as well as the arrival of trucks with the logo of Fortuna Silver.


The reed fence and unpaved road out front from Espacio Kruz

Espacio Kruz’s private property is found along one of the roads that lead to the mountain. The municipal government decided to pave the road, which Espacio Kruz opposed to. The response from the authorities was one of hostility and threats. On August 1st, 2016 Espacio Kruz was notified by the municipal authorities that it had to move its fence in three days or otherwise it would be taken down by force. The fence has become polemic because it has prevented the paving of that portion of road. (The majority of the neighbors had already donated their 2 meters of land for the pavement project of the municipality.) Espacio Kruz argues that the document they received is illegal because it is not signed by a judge. There are rumors too that the politicians in the creation of this document work with the mining company Fortuna Silver. This is not the first time Espacio Kruz has experienced acts of intimidation. On February 25th, 2016 the fence was intentionally burned.


Khalil Bendib is Other Worlds’ cartoonist

Although the rumors in San Juan Chilateca are just that, it is important to make the connections with the cases of San Jose del Progreso and Capulálpam, within the context of U.S. policy and NAFTA. The towns mentioned above are only three small examples of how the actions of our national companies are diminishing the way of life of people all across Latin America. An important change we need is policy change. It is time to educate ourselves about where our tax money is going and what policies our representatives are supporting, especially now in times of elections. Take action and recommend your Congress member to say NO to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the international trade agreement that has been called NAFTA on steroids.


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