Later this summer and into the fall, hordes of beautiful monarch butterflies will make a long journey from North America to Mexico, a migration that covers thousands of miles. It is a spectacle enjoyed by many, though the butterfly's population has dwindled over the years, in large part due to loss of wintering habitat in Mexico. So what does this have to do with mining?
There are several mines, including Goldcorp's Penasquito, that are currently operating in in the desert state of Zacatecas that serves as part of these butterflies' destination. The mines threaten not only the butterfly's habitat, but other plants and animals and critical water resources for local people.
Fortunately, the Mexican central government has proposed the creation of a protected natural area in this state that would protect not only the monarch butterfly, but many other native plants and animals, as well as wetlands and water sources critical to local communities. Area mining companies predictably oppose the creation of this protected area.
If finalized, the area would span 2.5 million hectares, and would help protect endemic plant species, such as agave and cacti, and numerous animals, such as the peregrine falcon, flathead bat, and pronghorn. Also in the area are two key water bodies critical to an arid desert region, including the Lake San Juan de los Ahorcados, a wetlands area designated as a RAMSAR site of international ecological importance.
An article detailed the impact of establishing a biosphere reserve for the local community of Salaverna.””If the area is not declared a Biosphere Reserve we risk that in a few years life is over here. Mines are a threat to people and the natural resources of the region. We believe that the declaration would be a way to halt destruction of the land at the hands of mines that only care about money,” said Roberto de la Rosa, chief of Salaverna community.[Note: this quote is translated from the original Spanish.]
Unfortunately, the same agency that has proposed a protected area in the state of Zacatecas is also considering allowing Los Cardones mine to operate in the Sierra Laguna reserve in Baja California, despite opposition from local communities and scientists. The area, also arid and water-challenged is designated by UNESCO as a global biosphere reserve.
Together, these regions in Mexico highlight the threats of habitat destruction and water depletion that mining companies pose. These areas in Mexico, like other biologically critical spots around the world, should be preserved. We hope the Mexican government makes the right decision on both these natural areas.