Elected officials in Baja California Sur have said they will support efforts to prevent a controversial gold mine from going ahead in the Sierra de Laguna biosphere reserve.
State Congresswoman Eda María Palacios Márquez this week declared that Desarollos Zapal, the company developing the Los Cardones mine in La Paz, can expect to face strong opposition to its plans. Baja California Sur Governor Carlos Mendoza Davis and La Paz mayor Armando Martínez Vega have also pledged their support to prevent the mining development from proceeding.
“We will put up a legal fight whenever necessary to avert this toxic mineral project and prevent it from going ahead,” said Palacios Márquez. “In this there is no going back – a lot of people have joined forces to form a united front that is saying no to the public service that has betrayed the interests of the citizens [of La Paz].”
The congresswoman’s last comment is an allusion to the municipal government of La Paz, which with the exception of three members voted last week in favor of the mining project.
Municipal director Socorro Icela Fiol Manríquez further stirred the waters of controversy in August when she said general secretary Marco Antonio Núñez Rosas had pressured her into signing off on a change to land-use laws to facilitate the project.
Protesters demonstrated in La Paz earlier this week, calling on the municipal government to revoke the change to permitted land use on the 18 properties where the Los Cardones project will be developed. If unchecked, opponents say, the open-pit gold mine could have a negative impact on groundwater in Sierra de Laguna, which itself lies within a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The Los Cardones mine was first proposed in 2009 but the idea was dropped after concerns were raised over its impact on the environment and tourism, the mainstay of La Paz’s economy. But the Environment Secretariat, Semarnat, which initially opposed the project, relented last year after being satisfied with fresh plans put forward by Desarollos Zapal, a subsidiary of Mexican company Invecture. The latter has been linked to Grupo Salinas and other firms.
“We know very well who we are going up against, but we are not alone,” said Palacios Márquez, adding that several organizations had voiced support for the campaign against the mine, including the Business Coordinating Council.
There are at least three dozen disputed mining projects in Mexico – most of them opposed because of concerns over labor law violations, pollution and health hazards. Activists claim the mines are promoted by all levels of Mexican government, and that use of police force to shore up support has resulted in deaths and injuries.