Environment Secretary Juan José Guerra Abud made the assurance this week that there would be strict adherence to the law with respect to the damage created by the spill of copper sulphate leachate into the Sonora and Bacanuchi Rivers August 6.
But he also stated there would be no sanctions against the Buenavista del Cobre mine, nor the cancellation of its concession, ahead of time. He expects a decision will be made on Monday or Tuesday after environmental agency specialists have concluded their analysis.
Guerra Abud also urged that the mining industry not be “demonized” for what happened at the mine, located in Cananea, Sonora. Earlier this week, Congress urged the government to cancel the mine’s concession in light of the environmental damage caused by the 40,000-cubic-meter spill.
The environment secretary said the majority of mining companies operate with respect for environmental rules. The mining industry, he added, “generates a lot of employment, much added value, much wealth and products that are indispensable in our lives.”
There are about 1,300 major mines operating in Mexico. Guerra Abud said their supervision would be intensified in the future, “but with the firm intention to strengthen the industry.”
Profepa, the environmental agency, has already said it will be seeking sanctions of 40 million pesos for the spill. After touring the area on foot and in a helicopter, Profepa chief Guillermo Haro Bélchez said the mine has been ordered to suspend leach irrigation activities and recover the product discharged by the spill from parts of the two rivers where it might have become trapped.
Mine owner Grupo Mexico, meanwhile, said it has invited more than 20 specialists in geology and ecology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the University of Sonora, the University of Arizona and others to evaluate the damages caused.
The director of the Centre for Environmentally Sustainable Mining at the University of Arizona, Raina M. Maier, confirmed that the company had approached the institutions, and observed that there was little information available about the effects of the spill.
The company said the evaluation of the spill’s impact will permit the establishment of measures to remediate the effects.
During the last few days there have been blockades of roads leading to the mine by union members and others, in protest over the incident.