On June 22, 2019, PBI accompanied EDUCA (Servicios para una Educación Alternativa) at Oaxaca’s first ever “Guelaguetza” against mining, in the municipality of San Martín de los Cansecos. Various communities from the Valles Centrales in Oaxaca joined together to commemorate the state’s annual “Rebellion Against Mining Day” and to reaffirm “¡Sí a la vida, no a la minería!” (Yes to life, no to mining!)
The twist on the traditional Guelaguetza celebration aimed to shed light on the ongoing issues surrounding mining projects in Oaxaca and to demand the cancellation of the 322 mining concessions that exist within the state. In total, 5% of land in Oaxaca has been consumed by mining activity, predominantly affecting indigenous communities and land. The Colectivo Oaxaqueño en Defensa de los Territorios (Oaxacan Collective in Defense of Territories) reported that “the federal government’s extractive and economic model - its concessions and its mining projects - are the principal threat to surrounding communities. The violent implementation of these projects strips mineral, cultural, spiritual and organizational wealth”.
The affected communities state that extractivism in the region, which is often operated by foreign companies, has caused serious damage to the environment. According to Oxfam’s case study, Mining and Privileges impacts include, the contamination of water; a lack of water (due to the high demand for the mine); the emission of dangerous gases and; an excess of dust that damages crops. Last year a tailings dam that collects mining residues for Canadian mining company Fortuna Silver Mines overflowed on two occasions contaminating the Coyote River and its surrounding tributaries.
Not only has the Fortuna Silver mining project in San José del Progreso harmed the environment, but it has also had a seriously damaging social impact which has largely been driven by the lack of transparency from municipal authorities and the company itself. It is important to highlight that in 1990 Mexico ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention which declares the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation and Consent. Additionally, those who have spoken out and defended the rights of the communities and their territories against the project have suffered threats, harassment, criminalization and to date the mining conflict has led to four murders in the area.
Last March, the “Frente No a la Minería” (Anti Mining Front), sent a press release to the President of Mexico demanding that their right to declare territories as prohibited to mining activity be respected. In the press release they expressed their opposition to Fortuna Silver’s “San Jose” mine project and requested an exhaustive investigation into the responsibility of the company for the contamination it is believed to have caused. Additionally, the press release demanded the cancellation of the mining concessions and reparation for damage. Despite the demand, the Mexican president confirmed that no current mining concessions would be canceled, but nor would new concessions be approved.
According to Oxfam’s case study, in the Valles Centrales there are currently 112 mining concessions covering a total of 211,428 hectares, which accounts for 22% of total land in the region.
To read the full declaration from the Guelaguetza Against Mining, click here.
PBI Mexico’s mission is to contribute to the maintenance and increase in the spaces for action of human rights defenders, civil society organisations, communities and other groups that demand respect for human rights in a nonviolent way.
This article originally appeared on PBI-Mexico.org.