One year ago in August, a mine waste dam failed. The breach sent 24.4 million cubic meters of a liquefied mixture of toxic heavy metals and other chemicals into the Fraser River watershed in British Columbia, Canada. To help prevent further toxic catastrophes, over 3 dozen environmental and social justice groups including Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace sent a letter today to the United Nations Environment Programme urging the agency to call for global review and regulations to address threats posed by similar dams at existing and proposed mines around the world. As the global authority on environmental protection, UNEP can not only bring much-needed attention to this problem, but also develop international guidelines and assist countries to respond to this growing threat.
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.
The 34 undersigned human rights, environmental and civil society groups in Mexico and around the world, urge you, and all the government institutions responsible for handing out authorizations to the Los Cardones mine, to cancel any existing permits and deny any new ones.
Mexico has been hit hard these past few weeks with two separate mine waste spills. One was a toxic mine spill that occurred two weeks ago in the state of Sonora, which I blogged about previously. Here, 10 million gallons of sulfuric acid spilled from the Buenavista copper mine, contaminating two rivers and leaving thousands of people without access to water. Reports also found fish kills and cattle who drank the water dead. Just a week after, a tailings spill contaminated a river in Durango.
Just a week after the Mount Polley disaster, another mine waste spill has occurred, this time from a copper mine in Mexico. About 10 million gallons of toxic mine waste spilled from the Buenavista mine into nearby rivers. Water restrictions have been imposed on thousands of people.
There are several mines, including Goldcorp's Penasquito, that are currently operating in in the desert state of Zacatecas that serves as the destination for the migratory monarch butterfly. The mines threaten not only the butterfly's habitat, but other plants and animals and critical water resources for local people.
Mining exploration is on the upswing in Baja California Sur, whose residents mostly farm or engage in the tourism industry. One proposed project in particular, the Los Cardones mine, currently owned by Invecture Group, a Mexican company, closely affiliated with Vancouver-based Frontera Mining Corporation, draws a great deal concern from the local communities. Covering more than 13,000 hectares of land, the anticipated risks of the proposed Los Cardones mine include contaminated ground and drinking water, cyanide pollution and high levels of dust laced with arsenic and heavy metals.
Last week Global Witness released the report, A Hidden Crisis?, documenting the murders of environmental activists around the world. The report examines reported killings of journalist, activists, and community members that have been killed because of their involvement in the defense of the environment. Spanning back to 2002, the report finds that 711 people have been killed in the last decade, or more than one person a week. The report paints a stark picture of the threats community members are facing as the mining industry, logging, and cattle ranching look to develop new lands. Killings have skyrocketed in the past years. Global Witness reports that there were over 106 murders in 2011 alone.