“In the case of Los Chimalapas as well as the Chontal region, there was a conspicuous lack of prior disclosure and consultation of Indigenous peoples as outlined in ILO Convention 169, under the argument that the Law on Mining does not establish a consultation process,” said Carbajal.
De La Cruz pointed out that in the suit against Minera Zalamera, government agencies argued in the company’s favor claiming that “they were not obligated to consult because it was not stipulated in the law.”
However, since Mexico is a signatory of ILO Convention 169, this right can be demanded by the communities, even though “it is the state’s responsibility to consult them and if this isn’t done, the concessions are effectively illegal, because international law—above the Mexican constitution in terms of protection of Indigenous territory—is not being applied,” De La Cruz added.
Francisco López Bárcenas, an Indigenous Mixtec lawyer, also maintains that the concessions granted in Indigenous territory are illegal due to lack of consultation and prior disclosure. As evidence, he said, “all of the lawsuits brought against this type of concession have won,” which means that there is a legal precedent for rejecting the validity of other concessions and, in his assessment, “the pueblos are right.”
Although Mexican law takes one approach to the subsoil—where mineral exploitation occurs—and another to the surface, where Indigenous people live, López explained that this is the wrong way to view things, especially where Indigenous rights are concerned. As an example, he discussed flowing water, considered part of Indigenous territory. “Water permeates all of the activities of the pueblos, and it doesn’t matter if it flows underground or on the surface; when these flows are affected, it’s an attack against the existence of peoples and their ecosystems,” he said.
López took a shot at the Mexican Law on Mining, claiming that it serves businesses “because it protects the mining companies from paying taxes and allows free movement on the margin of and outside their concessions. The current Law on Mining seems more like a wish list from the mining sector made into law.”
Technically, mining companies are supposed to pay federal taxes, but in reality this is complicated because of the lack of transparency regarding their activities. Tax rates and volumes of mineral extracted are not publicly available information; they are considered “confidential.” Because of this, Congresswoman Adriana Bustamante Castellanos stated that “the economic statuses of mining companies must be made public, in the interest of promoting accountability to the state, society, and the communities in which they operate,” during a September 2022 address to the Mexican Congress.
Meanwhile, the government boasts of the economic fruits the mining sector will bear, claiming that this industry makes up 2.05% of Mexican GDP. According to information requested from the Ministry of Economy, as of 2022 there are more than 24,126 valid concessions in Mexico, which together add up 41.3 million acres (16.7 million ha).
Article 6 of the Law on Mining establishes mining as a preferential activity that doesn’t have to pay state or municipal taxes. According to López, this means that communities can’t charge the companies for road use, use of potable water, or other services. Additionally, “there is no environmental oversight,” he added, which means “that Indigenous peoples and the environment are inferior to the Law on Mining. This is where the illegality lies in relation to the international conventions on Indigenous rights.”