Monday, June 17, 2024

Got 1 min? Long-awaited Barrancas del Cobre airport in Creel opens

A new airport in Creel, in the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) region of Chihuahua, is finally receiving flights, 14 years after the project was first announced.

The first flight arrived at the airport from Chihuahua, at 8:41 on Wednesday morning, according to a social media post by the state government. It was crewed by two pilots from the Mexican Airspace Navigation Services (Seneam).

Copper Canyon Airport project, Creel Chihuahua
The airport has been under construction for 14 years. (Gobierno de Chihuahua)

“In the last two years, the state government invested 30 million pesos (US $1.75 million) to conclude the work started two decades before,” the Chihuahua government wrote on X. “The opening will benefit Chihuahuan businesses that provide regional transport services, as well as local businesses and tourists.”

The airport will generate 23 direct jobs and 25 indirect jobs for local people, according to administrators.

The project was first announced in 2010, in a location about 3 kilometers from the “Magic Town” of Creel, in the Sierra Tarahumara.

However, it was blocked by a successful injunction from members of the Rarámuri Indigenous group, including residents of the nearby village of Bosques San Elías de Repechique, who said they had not been consulted about the damage the airport would cause to their lands.

Urique, in the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua
The ‘Copper Canyon’ is a popular destination in Chihuahua, with many extreme sporting activities taking place amongst the stunning landscape.  (Wikipedia)

The case was finally resolved in April 2016, when the Chihuahua state government agreed to pay the community 65 million pesos (US $3.8 million) in compensation, to be delivered over seven and a half years via a public trust administered by residents.

The airport was expected to open in December 2022 or January 2023, but ended up taking an extra year to complete. Its official inauguration and ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place in the next few days.

Although the airport was originally hoping to receive tourist flights from cities around Mexico and the United States, it currently appears to be receiving only light private aircraft and air taxis.

The Copper Canyon region is home to six spectacular canyons, which offer a wide range of adventure activities such as climbing, whitewater rafting and trekking, as well as the world’s third longest cable car.

Prior to the airport’s opening, the most popular way for tourists to reach Creel was via the Chepe Express – a scenic 350 kilometer railroad offering three overnight stops in local towns.

With reports from Reforma and El Economista

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