La Paz, Mexico and Washington, D.C. –An international coalition of 34 civil society groups has urged Mexico’s central environment authority SEMARNAT to deny permits for the Los Cardones mine proposed by Mexican corporation Invecture. The groups demanded that SEMARNAT protect the Sierra la Laguna Mountains UNESCO Global Biosphere Reserve, its limited water resources, and the communities that depend on them. The coalition comprises of community organizations, and environmental and human rights groups based in Baja California Sur and around the world.
“Los Cardones would place at risk all future development in Baja California Sur,” said Jesús Echevarría Haro, President of the Advisory Board of Sierra La Laguna. He continued, “Our economy is driven by tourism, real estate and organic agriculture. There is no room for open-pit mines in our fragile part of the world.”
Recent mine disasters highlight Los Cardones’ pollution risks. In Mexico and Canada, the Sonora and Mount Polley mine waste spills poured billions of gallons of toxics into nearby rivers and lakes. The Los Cardones mine’s tailings dam would be located atop the watershed from which a new aqueduct will be supplying the city of La Paz — threatening the water supply for its nearly 250,000 inhabitants.
“Mount Polley’s operator claimed to use best practices and technology when it was built, just as Los Cardones’ promoters are saying now” said Payal Sampat, International Program Director at Earthworks. “A short-lived gold mine is just not worth the risk of permanent pollution.”
The creation of this 10-year mine would generate more than 64,000 tons of waste material each day. Even without the mine, historical mining has contaminated water and produced waste rock in the area.
“Building a massive, open-pit gold mine would result in the leaching of arsenic, uranium and other toxic chemicals from the granite rock found in the Reserve,” added Logan Vail, manager of Sueño Tropical Organic Farms. “These chemicals will contaminate not only groundwater, but also soil and vegetation in the area.”
The mine would be located within a UNESCO designated “Global Biosphere Reserve.” If constructed, it would require the clearing of vegetation and use of explosives to fragment rocks, activities that could prove deadly to endemic plant and animal species found in the area.
“The Sierra la Laguna Biosphere Reserve contains species not found in any other part of the world. In addition, hundreds of thousands of residents depend on the Sierra la Laguna, as it absorbs rainwater and recharges the aquifers. The area should be a no-go zone for mining, said Ariel Ruiz, President of Agua Vale Mas Que Oro. “For years, the people of Baja California Sur have opposed mining projects in the area because they understand the impact that mine pollution could have on their livelihoods.”
Beyond pollution, the mine could deplete local water supplies as well. Most of the 6,000 residents in the immediate vicinity of the proposed mine are farmers. Agriculture – much of it certified organic – is the backbone of the local economy.
“For the people of La Paz, Todos Santos and Los Cabos, access to fresh water is already fragile. It makes no sense to put an open-pit mine on top of this critical watershed,” said Echevarría. He added: “The response from SEMARNAT to date has not been adequate. We ask SEMARNAT and all other authorities to not allow this mine to go forward.”