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Zoque Community Faces Mining Exploration and Exploitation in Chimalapas

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On September 4th, a committee of residents and municipal authorities of San Miguel Chimalapa, Oaxaca, handed the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) a formal statement completely rejecting mining exploration and exploitation in their territory.

The comuneros contested the legitimacy of minutes from a September 30, 2018 assembly, which supposedly took place in the community of La Cristalina and grants the Canadian company Minaurum Gold S.A. de C.V. permission to carry out mining exploration, investigation, and analysis. The decision was made without consent from the municipal or communal authorities and much less “the general assembly of the Zoque community,” as the document states. As such, they demand that the SEMARNAT deny permission to the mining company.

In an interview with Avispa Midia, the committee of residents and municipal authorities that presented this document emphasized, “we are not requesting a consultation; we are giving our position regarding this attempted mining exploration, and the position of the community is clear: the mine is not wanted.” Avispa Midia obtained a copy of the document submitted to SEMARNAT, which clearly states: “Through general assemblies and records issued and signed by former municipal and communal authorities, our community in its entirety has expressed our total rejection of mining exploration and exploitation in all our communal and municipal territory”.

Background

Through several aliases and subsidiaries in Mexico, the Canadian Minaurum Gold Corporation has or is in the process of acquiring the mineral rights to more than 247,000 acres of Mexican territory, equal to about two-thirds the area of Mexico City. It has opened up at least eight mining projects in three Mexican states under just three of its subsidiaries: Minera Mariposa S.A. de C.V., Esperanza Silver de Mexico S.A. de C.V., and Minera Zalamera S.A. de C.V.

In Oaxaca, Minera Zalamera has seven mining concessions in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region alone. On March 14, 2017, Minaurum Gold, S.A. de C.V., another subsidiary, applied for a 97,908 acre mining concession called Sea of Copper 2 in Santiago Niltepec. It is still in process under file number 062/10049.

On July 23, 2020, the company submitted an environmental impact statement to the SEMARNAT for a permit for “direct mining exploration by 20 drilling units” as part of the “Santa Martha Mining Exploration,” according to La Gaceta Ecológica in a report published August 13.

However, on its website the company admits that it has already carried out reconnaissance, rock sampling, geological mapping, and even an aerial geophysical survey with the Versatile Time Domain Electromagnetic (VTEM) system. They’ve used this to study 508 miles of deposits and geological environments, identifying seven key objectives.

Example of aerogeophysical survey with the VTEM system. Photo by the company GEOTECH

The Santa Martha project would extract gold and copper across a 15,839 acre expanse, with 100% of the profit going to the company, as Minaurum admits. Close to the Chimalapas Jungle, six miles from Zanatepec and 77 miles from the port of Salina Cruz, the project would be strategically close to the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a controversial infrastructural project currently under construction, in one of the most biodiverse areas of the country.

That is why the statement to the SEMARNAT signed by the members of the council, the agrarian and communal authorities, and the municipal president of San Miguel Chimalapa states: “We ask the SEMARNAT to refrain from granting such exploration permits ( …) as the permits are granted without the consent of the Zoque community, undermining our rights as Indigenous people and ancestral owners of the territory that comprises the core of San Miguel Chimalapa.”

The document also warns that “the environmental impact would bring irreversible consequences in our territory, mainly in the aquifers, since Chimalapa is primarily virgin forest with an immense variety of endangered flora and fauna.”

It is addressed to, among others, Oaxacan Governor Alejandro Murat, the heads of the Ministry of Economy and the SEMARNAT, President of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) Rosario Piedra Ibarra, and head of the National Institute of Indigenous People (INPI) Adelfo Regino.

The residents, as well as the municipal authorities who presented it, stated: “We are going to wait for the SEMARNAT to respond after delivering this document that states we do not want mining exploration or exploitation. (…) We are exercising our right to autonomy and self-determination by handing over our position in writing; now it is up to them to assess it”.

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