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Mine protesters in Zacatecas. Mine protesters in Zacatecas.

Neighbors protest Zacatecas gold mine

Residents are blocking access to Peñasquito, Mexico's largest gold mine

A group of community land owners and a truckers’ organization in Zacatecas continue to block access to Peñasquito, Mexico’s largest gold mine.

For five days residents of the municipality of Mazapil, organized under the banner of the Popular Front for the Fight for Zacatecas (FPLZ), have been protesting labor, environmental and social issues.

Among their chief demands are the construction of a health clinic and a landfill, the drilling of several wells and the creation of jobs.

The protesters have warned that the conflict could reach “unprecedented dimensions,” and threatened to paralyze all mining activity if their demands are not met.

Health concerns are also an issue. The protesters claim the mine has affected the health of people in the ejidos of Cedros, El Vergel, Matamoros, Tecolotes and Cerro Gordo.

The presence of high concentrations of selenium and lead, they claim, has caused skin diseases among the population, along with at least 27 high-risk pregnancies.

For its part, Goldcorp, the Canadian-based parent company of Peñasquito, said in a press release that it is open to dialogue, but rejects “any forceful measures outside the law.” It claims the blockade is illegal and was actually caused by a trucking contractor concerned about losing business due to efficiency improvements at the mine, Reuters reported this week.

It also said mining operations were unaffected.

“The blockade is not affecting operations. We have met with the contractor’s representatives and expect this to be resolved shortly,” spokeswoman Christine Marks said.

In August, federal authorities began investigating a leak of contaminated water dating back to October 2013. The company says the leak was contained and it found no evidence that it had affected water supplies outside the confines of the mine.

Peñasquito has seen conflicts with community land owners since 2005. In 2009, they demanded the restitution of close to 600 hectares located adjacent to the mine, and took the case to court.

The lawsuit was withdrawn after an economic settlement was reached.

Peñasquito has proven gold reserves of 13 million ounces, and has created 3,000 jobs.

Source: El Universal (sp), Reuters (en)

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