Plans to reopen a copper mine located within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve are moving forward, according to the mayor of Angangueo, who says the Michoacán state government is directly involved.
Leonel Martínez Maya also denies that the reactivation of mining activities in the municipality would have a detrimental effect on the monarch butterflies or their habitat.
The mine, owned by Grupo México, the largest mining conglomerate in the country, has been performing exploration and maintenance activities, he said.
Martínez Maya said the state government is committed to the mine’s reactivation: “A few days ago we had a meeting in [the state capital] Morelia with the Secretary of Economic Development and Government Secretariat staff, along with representatives of the Urban and Environment and Finance Secretariats, and of course, executives from the mining company.”
The outlook is positive, said Martínez Maya, after a group was created to follow up on the project. “Under the new legal framework, mining companies are bound to share 7% [of their earnings] with the municipalities, which would undoubtedly benefit the people of Angangueo, even before taking into consideration job creation and social programs.”
Martínez Maya said that preservation of the monarch butterflies and their winter habitat has never been at risk due to mining activities, and that such claims are part of misinformation campaigns by organizations and people concerned about the environment, but who “don’t have the whole picture.”
Once the mine is in operation, continued the mayor, the company will invest in treating its wastewater. Martínez Maya predicted “the environment will surely benefit, as [the mining company] will be required to comply with several safety measures if they are to exploit the minerals, helping in the process to clean up” and improve current environmental conditions.
Residents of Angangueo might welcome new employment opportunities but as far as the director of the biosphere reserve is concerned, industrial activity is supposed to be banned in the area, and Grupo México is taking advantage of a legal loophole to get its way.
The company argues that it should be allowed to go forward because the mine never technically closed, and thus predates the creation of the biosphere reserve and its accompanying restrictions, said Felipe Martínez Meza.
The mine ceased operations in 1972 when it could no longer operate profitably. Grupo México estimates that the area’s copper, zinc and lead reserves could keep the mine going for about 10-12 years, employing nearly 3,000 people, according to reports in the fall of 2014.
Concerns over the viability and safety of operating a mine within the confines of the reserve are heightened due to Grupo México’s track record: during the summer of 2014, a mine operated by the conglomerate in the state of Sonora spilled about 40 million liters of toxic copper sulfate into two rivers that supply water to more than 24,000 people.