Mining Moratorium Expires in Chiapas

Moratorium On Mining Expires in Chiapas

By: Jose Plascencia

The state of Chiapas produces about 3.1% of natural gas, 1.8% of oil, 7.5% of electrical production, and contains about 30% of México’s surface water.  This means Chiapas is one of the richest states in terms of natural resources.

Moratorium On Mining Expires in Chiapas

The state of Chiapas produces about 3.1% of natural gas, 1.8% of oil, 7.5% of electrical production, and contains about 30% of México’s surface water.  This means Chiapas is one of the richest states in terms of natural resources.

It is estimated that just ten countries contain between 50 and 80% of the planet’s biodiversity; Mexico is one of them.   The state of Chiapas includes about a third of the Mexican flora (around 8,000 different plant species) and 80% of the tropical tree species in the country. Approximately 30% of amphibians, 28% of reptiles, 65% of birds, and 55% of mammals known in Mexico are found in Chiapas. What this means is that Chiaps is also one of the regions richest in biodiversity.

Unfortunatley, Chiapas is also home to a diversity of minerals, which include some of the more highly exploited such as gold, silver, lead, titanium, and zinc.   This makes Chiapas of huge interest to transnational mining corporations seeking mining concessions, many of which are granted in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, which begins in the northwest of Chiapas and extends into Central America.

This territory is also home to communities that have generational history in the region whose interests are being ignored and human rights outright violated. One famous case is that of anti-mining activist leader Mariano Abarca Roblero of the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA), who was shot to death in front of his home. Abarca was one of the most visible figures to publicly denounce the negative impacts of Blackfire Exploration Limited’s mining practices in Chiapas. At one point Mariano Abarca had to file charges against two Blackfire employees for threatening to kill him for continuing to organize community members to protest the loss of land and subsistence to mining concessions.  As of now, three men linked to Blackfire are in prison for Abarca’s murder.

Blackfire has also admitted to the validity of documents filed in 2009 by REMA with the Chiapas Attorney General’s Office that exposed Blackfire’s monthly payments of $1,000 to the bank account of the Mayor of Chicomuselo, the town in which Mariano Abarca was organizing. This payoff sealed a mutual agreement that municipal authorities would suppress opposition from community residents.

The conflict around mining is not new, it is a complex conflict that dates back to more than 500 hundred years of history of oppression and exploitation and was recently made worse by constitutional reforms in 1993 to pave the way for NAFTA.  These reforms allowed for an increase in mining concessions to transnational mining corporations that have caused an even greater transfer of wealth because most of the profits generated are not invested back into the communities in which these mines are located, (and don’t get me started on the labor violations)!  Mining companies also gain access into the communities because of promises of development, but it’s all marketing.

What typically happens is that the mining companies mine the areas for several years, devastate the local water supplies and in some cases causing serious issues of public health with increased cases of chemical poisoning, lung disease, and leaving the community without the ability to go back to their subsistence farming because lands are contaminated. So these transnational mining corporations are basically leaving communities sick, jobless, and landless after pillaging their mines.

Presently in Chiapas the air is buzzing with talk that a moratorium on mining that had been placed on the region is about to be lifted, or may very well be lifted by the time you’re reading this.  What this means is more displacement of communities, of culture, serious environmental degradation of one of the last remaining biospheres our planet has, loss of wild life, and the list goes on and on….

Please support our work with the Zapatista communities that continue to live in resistance in order to keep this from happening to their communities. Support us by continuing to read our newsletter and staying informed, and of course every dollar counts in the fight to build autonomy.

In Solidarity…


This article is featured in the September 2012 Chiapas Update newsletter:


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