Organizations express concern following the permit granted to Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver Mines in Mexico
The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, MiningWatch Canada and the Blue Planet Project are among the organizations that have signed this statement:
“We are greatly concerned about the extreme situation lived by peasant and indigenous communities of the Ocotlán Valley. For the past 11 years, the Cuzcatlán mining company, owned by the Canadian company Fortuna Silver Mines, has been extracting silver and gold without permission from local communities, and now the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) is about to approve an extension of this company’s environmental permit.
It is important to remember the assassinations of Bernardo Méndez Vásquez and Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez ten years ago, both citizens of San José del Progreso, the mining project’s center of operations. Both were territory, life, and environmental defenders, as well as opponents to the Cuzcatlán mining project, owned by Fortuna Silver Mines.
In 2018, the tailings dam of this mining project overflowed twice, spilling polluting waste into the El Coyote riverbed.
The environmental authorities, for their part, visited the mining project but did not, at any time, reach out to the affected communities. There was no remediation nor restoration process to El Coyote, and polluting residues are still present in the river three years later. The affected communities did not receive any reparations from the damage.
These past years, the company has irregularly built 75 projects, in disregard for the original environmental impact statement. In 2019 and 2020, it requested the “San José II” environmental permits, both of which were denied by SEMARNAT for disregarding the cumulative, synergistic, and residual impacts of these projects and for having violated the communities’ right to a healthy environment.
In 2021, the company once again applied for a “new” environmental permit with SEMARNAT, calling it a “works and activities update,” while requesting for an expansion to the original environmental impact statement.
In the midst of a dialogue process with the affected communities, on December 14, 2021, SEMARNAT notified the mining company it had authorized environmental permits for another 12 years of commercial exploitation.
In its resolution, SEMARNAT did not mention the assassinations, irregular practices, water contamination, nor the aquifer’s hydric stress.
Faced with this situation:
We express a deep concern for the climate of insecurity and threats against defenders, whose lives are at risk. We urge the Mexican authorities to guarantee their physical and psychological integrity.
We demand the Mexican State to safeguard the rights of the communities defending water and their territories.
We remind the authorities that, among other international commitments, Mexico signed the Escazú Agreement in 2021, which mandates the country to promote the protection of defenders of the environment and their territories.
We will be on the lookout in the coming weeks for actions from the Oaxaca communities in their legitimate defense against this mining project.“
For an additional context, see our article here.