Alberto Villatoro, a farmer in the fertile region of Los Cacaos in Chiapas, Mexico, recalls, with a mixture of sadness and anger, how innocently he used to walk over the area’s silvery blue rocks.
“I can remember those metals in the river ever since I was a child,” he told Truthout. “We would kick them around on the paths, unaware that it was titanium.”
Now those same rocks have become highly sought after, and the Chinese mining company Honour Up Trading is seeking to gain control of large swaths of land in Villatoro’s community to exploit one of the biggest seams of titanium in Mexico. “We’ve already had open-pit titanium mining here [in 2009]. Now they want to build the tunnel and leave us living on land resembling an eggshell,” he said. “That would be the end of our shared land.”
Mexico’s government gave the green light for titanium mining to occur below 500 of the 530 hectares that make up the Los Cacaos community, via underground tunnels stretching from the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range up to the upper section of the town.
Villatoro and his neighbors in Los Cacaos express acute fears about the potential environmental effects of Honour Up Trading’s plans. “If they build tunnels, the mountain will collapse, because it is a very wet area,” Villatoro told Truthout. He believes that local leaders “were tricked into signing off on the exploration process” by the mining company, he added.
Florentina Antonio Morales, a local farmer echoed this allegation. “They came here to trick us, that’s the truth,” she told Truthout. “They promised us a lot. They said they would build a market, a road, a park for the kids. But none of that went any further than just talk.”