Frente No a la Minería calls for the closure of Vancouver-based Fortuna’s San José Mine in Mexico

Published by Brent Patterson on

A company security guard checks a truck entering the San José Mine, November 2012.

Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver Mines Inc., through its subsidiary Compañía Minera Cuzcatlán, operates the San José Mine about 2 kilometres from the Indigenous Zapotec village of San José del Progreso in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

The mine has a controversial history.

In 2006, Fortuna signed agreements with individual landowners and secured permission to explore the area through closed-door negotiations with municipal authorities, but community members were not informed of this as required by the International Labor Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169.

NACLA reports: “In March 2009, a group of residents protested this violation of their rights by setting up an encampment at the entrance to the mine. In May, 1,000 state and federal police—acting at the request of the mining company and its local political allies—evicted protesters using helicopters, tear gas, and dogs.”

The mine began production in September 2011.

El Universal has reported that there has been four deaths and eight people shot in direct relation to the mine between 2010 and 2012.

Those deaths included community defenders Bernardo Méndez who was killed on January 18, 2012 after he and others confronted a municipal crew working on a water pipeline they suspected would divert water for use at the mine and Bernardo Vásquez who was killed on March 15, 2012 as he travelled back home from the Oaxaca airport.

El Universal has also reported that in 2018 four defenders had precautionary (protection) measures granted by the Human Rights Defender of the People of Oaxaca (DDHPO), an autonomous organ of the State of Oaxaca.

In October 2018, residents of the town of Magdalena Ocotlán stated that heavy rains resulted in mine waste overflowing into the Coyote River leaving behind contaminated mud in the vicinity of the community’s drinking wells.

While the Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) had Cuzcatlán pay a fine for the spill, no remediation plan was put into place.

That same month, a People’s Trial against the State and Mining Companies in Oaxaca called for the closure of the San José mine and the cancellation of 322 concessions in Oaxaca granted to mining companies by the Mexican government.

In November 2018, Peace Brigades International-Canada hosted a visit in Ottawa and Toronto by Salvador Martínez Arellanes (an Indigenous leader from Santa Carina Minas) and Neftalí Reyes Méndez (from Educa Oaxaca).

They brought news of the People’s Trial and opposition from Santa Catarina Minas (situated about 15 kilometres from San José del Progreso) to a mining concession granted to Fortuna near that community.

Then in March 2019 the No-to-Mining Front (Frente No a la Minería) issued these 8 demands including the cancellation of the San José mining project.

In June 2019, the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project accompanied Educa Oaxaca at a Guelaguetza (a celebration) against mining that reaffirmed the call to close the Fortuna mine and cancel the 322 mining concessions.

And on February 20 of this year, El Muro reported on the No-to-Mining Front announcing that the federal Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) had denied the authorization of the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed San José II mine, a 7,000 hectare expansion of the existing 700 hectare mine.

Periodismo Hoy further reported that the No-to-Mining Front had called on Semarnat not to grant a renewal of the existing mine which was conditionally authorized to operate for a period of 12 years from 2009 to 2021. That article notes that Cuzcatlán wants to extend the operations of the San José I mine to 2029.

PBI has accompanied Educa Oaxaca since May 2013 and continues to follow closely the situation in San José del Progreso.

For more in Spanish, please see this 7-minute video posted on May 7, 2020 by CODIGO DH (also accompanied by PBI-Mexico) that notes that Fortuna, through four subsidiaries, holds 26 mining concessions “with which it has stripped indigenous and peasant peoples and communities of 80 thousand hectares.”

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