Baja California Sur
Mexico | Baja California Sur: Los Cardones
November 19, 2013
Mining exploration is on the upswing in Baja California Sur, whose residents mostly farm or engage in the tourism industry. One project in particular, Los Cardones mine, owned by Invecture, draws a great deal concern from the local communities. In August 2014, SEMARANT, Mexico's central environmental authority, gave initial approval for the project, reversing past denials. However, perhaps because of the strong opposition, this approval comes with many conditions, including obtaining permit approvals from several other agencies.
Covering more than 13,000 hectares of land, the anticipated risks of Los Cardones include contaminated ground and drinking water, cyanide pollution and high levels of dust laced with arsenic and heavy metals. The proposed mine is situated only 65km southeast of the city of La Paz in Baja California, and within the Sierra de La Laguna Biosphere, a UNESCO protected area in Mexico. Invecture's proposed plan also includes a tailings dam located just outside the biosphere reserve but close to area rivers. It poses a huge threat to the people of the rapidly growing state of Baja.
2011 protest over Los Cardones (then called Concordia). Photo credit: Baja Insider
On January 16, 2011 over 8,500 local concerned citizens protested the then proposed Vista Gold “Concordia” open pit gold mine in Baja del Sur, Mexico. Led by environmental organizers Quaayip of La Paz, Baja Sur en Peligro and Vista Gold No the assembled protesters made their position clear, “agua vale mas sue pro --” water is worth more than gold.
In addition to a strong social resistance Vista Gold, the project's previous operators, has met considerable legal entanglements. On February 17, 2010 the state government rejected the last of three major permits needed to begin operation, the change of land use permit needed to prove ownership over the land. SEMARNAT, the Mexican environmental authority, denied the permit citing insufficient information on the effects on biodiversity and erosion caused by the mine.
While Vista Gold had claimed to provide jobs, in fact the project would create only 300 jobs in an area that supports ten thousand with agricultural work. Furthermore, the taxes incurred by the Mexican government (5.08 pesos per hectare of land used paid semiannual for only the first two years) are negligible given the profits expected for Vista Gold at current prices. With continued pressure on both local and state officials the debated economic and employment benefits championed by mine supporters can be overcome in light of the severe environmental impacts.
Though Invecture, the most recent company seeking to mine Los Cardones, has suspended the project, community groups are concerned this may be a temporary measure. A coalition of 34 groups, including Earthworks, based in Mexico and around the world urged SEMARNAT deny permits for this mine, but the environmental authority's response has been inadequate to date.
For more information:
- "Mexican/International Coalition Urges Mexico’s Environment Ministry to Block Los Cardones Mine Proposal Within UNESCO Global Biosphere Reserve." Earthworks press release
- Joint letter to SEMARNAT opposing the permittal of the Los Cardones mine proposal
- History of Mining in Baja California
- U.S. company's open pit gold mine in UNESCO reserve in Mexico raises concerns
- State Senator Luis Coppola speaks to SEMARNAT (Mexico’s EPA) asking them to reject permits for Vista Gold (Previous operators) 3/11
- State government rejects project and all similar mining proposals that would affect the environment 01/11
- Proposed Gold Mine in Baja Splits Miners and Farmers: Earth Island Journal article about another area proposed mine site.
- Defiende La Sierra La Laguna