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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A battle for water erupts between a Canadian miner and Mexican neighbors

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Minera Gorrion, a Mexican subsidiary of the Canadian company Almaden Minerals, is developing a project to open a gold and silver mine in Ixtacamaxtitlan, a municipality located in the Sierra Norte de Puebla, which requires the consumption of more than 5 million liters of water per day.

Although the company promised that the liquid it requires will be obtained from the rains in the area, civil organizations and some specialists warn that this alternative does not guarantee that the mining project will get the water it needs. This, from its perspective, threatens the flow of the Tecolutla rivers and their tributaries, which supply the inhabitants of Ixtacamaxtitlán.

Organizations such as Poder, Fundar, as well as the Center for Rural Development Studies have accused that, during the phase of exploration of the land for the mine, Gorrion caused damage to the natural springs of the area, which affects local farmers and their crops.

In October 2019, a group of residents of Ixtacamaxtitlan demonstrated in front of the office of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) in Mexico City and a petition was signed by 3,500 people to sue its owner, Victor Toledo.

Since 2015, the Ejidatarios of the area, backed by various civil organizations, have protection in order to curb Minera Gorrion’s plans, based on its human right to water. Similarly, they argue that the communities close to the project should have been consulted before granting the concession over the territory.

In light of the allegations, the Almaden Minerals subsidiary has promised that it will build two dams to store rainwater, which it intends to deliver to the communities in case the construction of the mine does not require it. They also proposed storing the waste generated by mining exploitation in dry and filtered deposits, in order to reduce the contamination footprint.

However, researchers in the region warn that several indigenous communities in Ixtacamaxtitlán take turns supplying drinking water every three days. The Mexican Drought Monitor, prepared by the National Water Commission (Conagua), points out that this municipality registers periods of “abnormally dry” or “severe droughts.

Minera Gorrion even admits in the MIA that the availability of water in the area “is a critical issue”, since the climatic conditions of Ixtacamaxtitlan are of scarce rainfall. Despite this, the mining company defends its project and considers it “robust, modern and realistic.”

Specialists criticize that the Environmental Impact Statement opens the door for the mining project to feed on the groundwater captured by the springs in the area since much of it accumulates in the place where the Canadian affiliate Almaden Minerals plans to drill the mine.

Ixtacamaxtitlan is a municipality of 25,000 inhabitants, of which 8% speak an indigenous language. According to local sources, local communities are divided, as some support the mining plan given the promise that it will provide 600 jobs, although other groups criticize the company’s failure to consult with them to approve the project.

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