Mining: the hope of Mexico?

By: Gilberto López y Rivas

Statements from the Mexican Network of those Affected by Mining (Rema, for its initials in Spanish) made to the leader of the Morena Party did not go unnoticed. In an open letter, it rejects Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal to “make commitments in order to achieve greater investment of the Canadian mining companies in Mexico, with fair wages and care of the environment,” which is inscribed in a Decalogue to counteract Donald Trump’s policies.

Rema clarifies that it has no ties to any political party, and that its position obeys the need to express its profound concern before the fact that “the country’s political class continues deaf and dumb to the recurrent denunciations that society, and especially the Rema, have made against the mining companies that work in Mexico and in Latin America. […] Mining is one of the extractive processes that have the largest emission of toxic contaminants into the water, the sediments and the air, and this contamination is practically irreversible. The model is maintained in the spirit of obtaining the greatest possible profit, and is a precursor to the destruction of labor rights, because it was the first to promote-adopt the attack against traditional trade unionism, it raises up and favors the appearance of company unions, to later confront workers in the same mine and, increasingly uses outsourcing more and more as its principal means of contracting workers […] Its interest in promoting Canadian investment leaves much to be desired, not only because the Canadian mining companies concentrate 70% of that industry’s projects in our country, but also because it’s just in Canada where the current predatory extractive mining model was developed […] Canada doesn’t recognize or respect the right of the peoples to prior, free and informed consent, because it’s not a signatory to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and delayed four years to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples […] there are hundreds of experiences of what we state here. We are not fantasizing; the extractive mining model is predatory and “improving it,” “diminishing it” or “better regulating it” is not enough, since that is impossible. Today, mining extraction is the planet’s most predatory technical and technological system. From our humble contribution to its Decalogue, we tell you that this investment must be banished from the country.” (See the page

As has frequently been made evident in La Jornada through opinion articles, editorials and numerous special reports, the mining corporations promise jobs, public services, productive projects and respect for the environment, but it is a fact that historically these companies have left a trail of death, impoverishment, irreversible damage to the environment and health effects, polarization and social division in the communities. Toxic mega-mining is especially injurious and contrary to the spirit and letter of Constitutional Articles 2 and 27, since different secondary laws grant the exploration, exploitation and benefit of minerals the character of “public utility” and “preference” over any other use or of the terrain, and give extraordinary facilities to private parties for accessing the lands that the concessions protect, transforming the ejido owners and comuneros into the unprecedented condition of “surface owners,” outside of every criteria or legal framework. These privileges for corporations, the majority foreign, which already possess concessions for 35% of the national territory, constitute a rupture of the constitutional pact that results from the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917, and one more proof of the governing clique’s national betrayal.

In the global ambit, empirical data shows that mining companies leave a sequel of millions of tons of removed earth and rocks in extensive operation areas, with the consequent destruction of the habitat and deterioration of the social atmosphere: they contaminate rivers, groundwater, dams and drainage with extremely toxic substances; they monopolize the water; exploit their workers and expose them to conditions with extreme risk; they support anti-democratic regimens–like the one in Mexico–, they even contract gunmen (sicarios) and paramilitary groups to confront their opponents and organize powerful “pressure groups” (called lobbies for the Anglican euphemism) that act in the parliaments, bribing and buying consciences, even of congresspersons of the institutionalized left, so that they support their businesses directly or indirectly in the country. All of that in exchange for the very scarce income that residents of the exploited territories receive (1.3 to 2.9 percent, between rent and subsidies, when they actually receive them), when they get pressured to grant the “permits” through deception, because of the commanding need and the corruption of “leaders” or caciques that lend themselves to serve as the corporations’ native clerks.

The only defense in the face of the mining threat is organization, mobilization and the strengthening of the autonomy of the affected indigenous-campesino communities, and of the social movements that defend popular sovereignty from below. The ignorance and disinformation throughout Mexico, with respect to the multiplicity and severity of the damages that toxic mega-mining implies, be it among campesinos in assemblies, among professionals and academics, among legislators, judges, functionaries and political leaders has very serious consequences for our country and its territories. And one must not expect any kind of defense or protection from the Mexican government, which loses more credibility and dignity with each day that passes. Breaking records as for “opening” to foreign investment, Mexico is perhaps the country in the world where it’s easiest to obtain a concession for this kind of mining exploitation, and its government even grants inclusive favorable credits and numerous other protections to the mining companies.

On this theme, as in many others, it is necessary to listen to the peoples.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, February 24, 2017

Re-Published with English  interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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