On July 22, we come together with people around the world, as we have every year since 2009, to demonstrate against the devastation and dispossession caused by the ambitious possessors of capital who impose extractivism on our lands. Rather than considering it an anniversary - along with so many others in the “environmental calendar” – it is a time when those movements that defend the land denounce and expose the complicity between governments and capitalists who profit at the cost of the health, life and rights of the people. It is a condemnation and defence that we sustain throughout the 365 days of the year since, when life is at stake, one must be vigilant in this profoundly asymmetrical fight for survival.
The International Day of Action Against Mining has its origins in Mexico, and takes place in the context of the fight against the open-pit gold mining project promoted by Minera San Xavier, a subsidiary of Canadian company New Gold Inc. This project – now referred to as the National Ecocide Museum – is located on the stripped remnants of land in the vicinity of Cerro de San Pedro (San Luis Potosí). After the company destroyed the entire territory, including the vibrant community and people who lived there, they began the process of abandonment, which the company euphemistically calls an "exemplary mine closure”. Minera San Xavier leaves behind a large pit, a mountain of environmental liabilities such as protruding sulfates and heavy metals, another mountain of leached residual oxides; as well as land stripped of the area’s flora and fauna, and the total destruction of the emblematic hill that gave rise to the coat of arms of San Luis Potosí. It places the water supply for the capital of San Luis Potosí at severe risk, and it has caused the contamination of water sources that supply neighbouring towns. It leaves thousands of tons of toxic metal particles exposed that will be carried in the air, causing potential damage to those who inhabit the valley of the metropolis and neighboring towns. The company has a history of multiple spills from the tailings dam and of violating multiple judicial rulings without receiving any sanctions by the government. It continually disregards the serious health effects that it has caused, and, of course, it also leaves an irreversible divided community which it is responsible for creating, and a region abandoned as a result of forced displacement. In summary, this project is the clearest example of the evident collusion that persists between the government and the extractive industries.
The Cerro de San Pedro mining project is emblematic because it shows the true significance and path of devastation caused by open-pit mining. Today, Mexico is plagued from end to end by these types of projects, with approximately 1,500 mining projects in operation, which mark a future without return for those who inhabit these territories. Worse still, the government of the Fourth Transformation (4T) constantly complains about the excessive handover of national territory; meanwhile, it demonstrates its total complacency by not taking any steps to cancel the more than 25 thousand mining concessions in force. The government repeatedly mentions, and even boasts, that they will NOT hand over more mining concessions in an effort to influence public opinion, and falsely claims that 4T represents a change of substance from the past. This is a lie; with the concessions that were already operating and those that are now in force, we face a debacle with no return, as we have documented for more than 11 years in the Mexican Network of Peoples Affected by Mining. (REMA, by its initials in Spanish). In this context, this government refuses to stop and change the neoliberal policy of mining extractivism.
While on the theme of mining - although not only in this area - the 4T government is just as disappointing as its predecessors, because it continues to work hand in hand with the great national predators, and despite the hundreds of grievances made against these companies, the government DOESN’T hold them accountable; instead it continues to give them whole pieces of our country. The Larrea, Slim, Salinas Pliego, Bailléres, and Romo are reliable proof that impunity continues. Equally depressing is hearing this government say that mining in Canada or the United States is responsible and protects the environment, because these kinds of statements only reveal their cynicism or ignorance – their assumption that they can make us believe that a call from the Presidency is enough to make foreign companies "behave well in Mexico, just as they do in their countries”. Likewise, it is an insult to think that lithium should be considered the white oil of the future, because it reveals a short-term and reductionist vision that demonstrates, among other things, a great lack of knowledge about the value chains associated with extractivism that feed back to the poorly-named renewable, green, clean or sustainable energies.
It is in this sense that it seems absurd to us that it has been announced, from SEMARNAT's Secretariat for Environmental Promotion and Regulation through to the Undersecretary Julio Trujillo Segura, that modifications will be made to the Official Mexican Norms to promote the mining sector in order to initiate the transition to “sustainable, clean and renewable” energy. It is clear that SEMARNAT, despite claiming to be science-based, acts like many of the world's governments; only fine-tuning or "improving" rules or procedures, which, regardless of whether they do well or badly, do not end have the installed capacity to supervise. Not only are they unable to determine whether companies carry out the processes that they supposedly “impose”, when the sector applies political pressure - as happened with the Glyphosate issue when SEMARNAT had to “negotiate” between the damage to health and the environment due to the continued use of Glyphosate - it is clear that “science” will not protect them from intimidation and political influence exerted by the empowered sector.
It is also nonsensical that extractive companies pay taxes but these are not sufficient to correct the destruction of life, territory and natural assets. It is useless to speak against corruption every day if it flows with increasing force in the mining territories. There is no point in militarizing the country if the mining companies are a growing source of insecurity. Of course, a renewed Mining Law, supposedly fair and supportive of human rights, will not work; nor will the so-called right to free and informed prior consent, or the incorporation of the highest international standards, because, fundamentally, the true vocation of mining is the depredation of life and dispossession of land.
Current mining generates permanent damage and takes away the future of the next generations.
This day is also to remember our colleagues murdered by and within the context of mining operations. It also serves to fraternally commemorate the comrades who have died in mining accidents due to corporate negligence, and the fact that, to date, neither the government nor the companies have taken action to repair the pain experienced by thousands of families. We send a fraternal hug to the families of the deceased colleagues from Pasta de Conchos, who continue in the hope of recovering their children, husbands, brothers, and friends; and that the environmental criminal, Mr. Larrea, go to prison for his actions. We embrace all the struggles in the world that, on this day, uphold their daily struggle against the most predatory activity in the world, so predatory that it is nonsensical to carry it out and nonsensical to try to regulate it.
A special and combative hug for our sisters and brothers of the Social Movements of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with whom we are in agreement when they affirm that; “In the context of the Covid-19 and in the face of the pretense of expansion of the extractive activity, we raise our voices to denounce the manipulation of the mining companies, in complicity with the governments, who present the mining activity as an essential activity that will provide a solution to our economic problems, denying once again the importance of water, trees, forest reserves, collective heritage and the need to put the health of the people at the center of any political agenda and any investment strategy."
REMA hears and endorses your claims. The 4T safeguards the continuity of extractive mining, resulting in the dispossession of land, forced displacement, loss of life and the suffering of the Mexican people on a massive scale.
MINING SHOULD BE PROHIBITED AROUND THE WORLD
FOR TERRITORIES FREE OF MINING
MEXICAN NETWORK OF PEOPLES AFFECTED BY MINING
[Translated by Leslie Dolman]