Around 50 people gathered at the fence of the San Xavier mine on Thursday, placing a padlock on the gates and blocking supplier shipments during their three hour rally. Simultaneously, demonstrators also rallied in front of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. The action coincided with the Global Day of Action Against Open Pit Mining.
The New Gold mine was previously ordered to shut down by Mexico’s Environmental Enforcement Agency (PROFEPA) in November 2009, but on March 20, 2010, it began operations again. This mining project, previously held by Canadian company Metallica Resources, had dodged public and legal opinion before. In 2004, a federal tribunal had ruled against mining operations in the region. Metallica appealed that decision, but lost again in 2005. Despite this, in 2006, they were granted a new environmental permit, under questionable and controversial circumstances. The company began mining that year.
In 2009, however, rulings by the Ninth Circuit Administrative Court and the Federal Tribunal of Fiscal and Administrative Justice found that the environmental permit was not legal, and indeed the project should have been void before the digging began. Mexico’s Federal Agrarian Courts also found that a number of signatories on New Gold’s contracts with communal land owners were fraudulent, nullifying their land use contracts. On June 30 of this year, the Fifth District Court of the Auxiliary Center of the First Region in México City affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.
The FAO (Frente Amplio Opositor) is an organization who was been opposing New Gold’s Mineria San Xavier open pit mine through legal battles and public education. Consequently, they have been targets of police harassment and local violence. In 2006, FAO organizer Enrique Rivera was attacked and hit repeatedly on the head by several men. Veronica Islas, reports in her article,“A Mining Refugee in Canada”, that witnesses heard the attackers shouting, “If you continue talking , you are going to die”. In 2007, Rivera learned five students demonstrating against the mine were arrested and tortured by police in order to obtain testimonies against him. Rivera fled México to Canada, where he was granted political asylum this spring.
In front of the Canadian embassy in México City on Thursday, a member of the FAO, Ivette Lacaba, told the press that New Gold uses 25 tons of explosives daily, in violation of regulations concerning proximity to urban zones. She says, the mine uses 32 million liters of water a day, which is mixed with 16 tons of the cyanide used in processing gold ore from rock. FAO member, Juan Carlos Ruiz Guadalajara, was present at the blockade of the New Gold mine in historic Cerro de San Pedro. He says, the mine must be closed, and that the state and federal government must initiate inquiries into the corruption that has allowed the operation to move forward. Ruiz Guadalajara says the illegal gold mining operations being conducted by New Gold are causing irreversible damage to the environmental and cultural integrity of Cerro de San Perdo, San Luis Potosi. The FAO announced that they would continue intermittent blockades of mining production in August.