Open Pit Mine Operation Bitterly Fought By Eco People

It’s getting ugly out there
BY: PAIGE TURNER

There’s gold in those hills behind Los Cabos, and a mining company that keep changing their name is pretty determined to pluck it out of the ground and peddle it on the international market. But their rather heavy handed tactics up there have alienated many locals who are lobbying against any mining.

This river provided drinking water for 30,000 people until the holding pond for a gold mine gave way, polluting it so badly it can’t be tapped for human consumption. Mine officials, who are politically connected in Mexico City, have not been forced to clean it upMuch of the opposition to the open pit mine comes from the foreign community, which prompted immigration officials to take a ride up there on a recent Sunday when the foreign anti mine people are most active. Immigration representatives addressed the crowd, warning them that they could lose their status in the country if they continued to meddle in this issue. Most continued to meddle, even to return to the scene of the proposed mine every Sunday.

Most of the opposition is coming from the ecology group calling themselves “Agua Vale mas que el Oro,” or “water is worth more than gold”. They are supporting the Cordero family that’s been living on the property for generations. These are simple people who don’t know how to stick up for their rights, say the organizers of the opposition. These people visit each week, taking supplies to the ranchers so they don’t have to leave their land unattended.

Men who say they have been hired by mine officials have tried to move onto the land, bringing with them camping supplies adequate for a long haul. At that point a scuffle broke out between the hired squatters and those helping the ranchers, with state police wading into the fight, and even immigration officials taking some swings and taking some punches. Following that low point, the hired men have backed off, but the situation remains tense, with the supporters of the ranchers not trusting that the mining interests have backed off permanently.

This goes way deeper than sympathy for one family with deep roots to the community. The anti mine faction cites concerns about disposing of the waste water generated by the operation of an open pit gold mine. Just this year a pond holding contaminated water burst in northern Mexico and drinking water for 30,000 people was ruined. (See sidebar).

Also, the operation of a mine like this uses a lot of water and the anti mine people believe the operation will be stealing the water from the people living downstream from the mountains, meaning themselves, most of whom live in Todos Santos.

A spokesman for the mine owners said there is no water in the ground near the site so they will not be taking any that down streamers were going to use. They say they will have to build a desalination plant  at the beach and pump the water up the hill to the mine. Las Playitas, just north of Todos Santos has been mentioned as the site for that. Anti mine people are still not satisfied, saying the desal plant will pollute and be a heavy user of electricity.

For now it appears that the mining interests have retracted and are regrouping, but nobody believes they have given up, least of all the defenders of the Sierra Laguna mountains. After all, this is a federal permit that’s needed, and all the marching and protesting by a handful of well meaning people is not going to do much to influence the politicians in Mexico City who are being courted by mining officials who have a lot of money to spread around in their quest for their permits. ,