The UVEAS clinic in Ures, Sonora. The UVEAS clinic in Ures, Sonora.

Firm closes clinic that treated spill victims

Grupo México accused of failing to meet obligations ordered after copper mine spill

A Sonora clinic opened for the purpose of monitoring and treating victims of a toxic spill nearly two years ago has been closed.

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The UVEAS clinic, or Unidad de Vigilancia Epidemiológica y Ambiental de Sonora, was one of the obligations assigned to the Mexican mining company Grupo México after its Buenavista copper mine spilled 40 million liters of copper sulphate solution into the Sonora and Bacanuchi rivers in August 2014.

Area residents and representatives of civil organizations gathered Saturday in Aconchi, Sonora, for a conference entitled “The Sonora River two years after the spill,” where Grupo México was accused of having failed to address all the important issues that resulted from the spill.

Among them were cleaning up the waterway, installing water treatment plants with the technology necessary to filter out heavy metals and building a new clinic for the UVEAS personnel. Only one of the 27 treatment plants has been installed and it is no longer operating for lack of energy supply.

The clinic, located in the city of Ures, was intended to provide medical attention to the more than 27,000 people affected by the spill, which poisoned the rivers and the water supplies to seven municipalities.

At last 360 people have been identified with health problems caused by the spill. The clinic was supposed to provide services to those victims and identify others over the course of 25 years. But it was reportedly closed June 30 and its 17 workers — six doctors among them — were dismissed.

Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich Arellano issued a call to the company and the federal government to complete their commitments to residents. “. . . it’s important that the federal government requires the company to fulfill the promises that were made, especially with the treatment plants and also the clinic.

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“It’s a matter for the federal government and it’s a matter that must be addressed . . . .”

Funding for the commitments comes from a trust into which Grupo México was ordered to pay 2 billion pesos, of which a little more than 1.27 million has been paid out.

The environmental protection agency Profepa blamed the mine spill on negligence and fined the company 23 million pesos last year. Testing of water from the Sonora River after the spill found unacceptable levels of arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, iron, manganese, nickel and copper.

Located in Cananea, Sonora, 35 kilometers south of the U.S. border, the Buenavista mine’s reserve is one of the largest in Mexico and the world.

Source: Excélsior (sp), El Financiero (sp)

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