There could be more headaches on the way for Grupo Mexico and its Buenavista copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, as disgruntled former employees are teaming up with unhappy members of an indigenous group to engage in a protest over water.
Leaders of the indigenous Yaquis and Section 55 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers have renewed an alliance against Grupo Mexico and the State of Sonora.
Another participant in the protest is the Citizens’ Movement in Defense of Water which, along with the Yaqui tribe, has opposed the construction of the Independence Aquaduct, completed last year to deliver water to the state capital, Hermosillo.
Section 55 is the union local that used to represent Buenavista miners but was turfed out in 2010 after a three-year strike against the mine. Police were sent in to end the strike, and the union lost its concession to represent workers. Its president and secretary general is Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, who directs the union from Vancouver, Canada, where he is now a citizen.
Gómez has been accused of defrauding miners of US $55 million and is wanted by the Mexican government.
In a statement, the alliance of Yaquis and miners said Grupo Mexico and the state government of Gov. Guillermo Padrés are similar in character, which can be seen “in the proposal to divert water of the Yaqui River to feed the big real estate businesses in the capital, Hermosillo.
“It’s the same greed and the same obsession for money that blinds them and makes them commit crimes that, in this case, threaten the existence of the Yaqui tribe and productive activities all over Sonora, principally the production of food.”
Yaqui spokesman Tomas Rojo Valencia said plans will be announced in the next few days for peaceful civil resistance that will be implemented against the state government and the Buenavista mine.
There have been ongoing protests against the Independence Aquaduct, along with some discussions between the federal government and the Yaquis, but the two sides cannot agree on how much water should be drawn from the aquaduct’s source.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that there had not been sufficient consultation with the Yaquis before the pipeline was built. Last August the court said the pipeline’s operation should be suspended if it were determined that the project could cause “irreparable damage” to the Yaqui community.
The alliance has stipulated two demands, the first being withdrawal of the mine’s concession. The second is that officials of the National Water Commission and the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat attend to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The mine workers began their own protest last week by closing access roads to the Cananea mine, and promising they would continue the blockades to protest the August 6 chemical spill. They stepped up their protest on Sunday by erecting a blockade on the railway track, impeding the shipment of copper from the mine.
Federal police were posted near the blockade last Wednesday but took no action against the protesters.