La Jornada: Rejection of Canadian mining operations in their communities, indigenous pact in Chiapas

What follows is an English translation of the article Rechazar operación de minera canadiense en sus poblados, pacto indígena en Chiapas by Hermann Bellinghausen that was published in the Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada about half a year before Mariano Abarca Robledo was killed outside of his home in Chicomuselo, Chiapas.

This article is property of DEMOS, Desarrollo de Medios S.A. de C.V. The original version is available here. I’m the one responsible for this English translation.

Rejection of Canadian mining operations in their communities, indigenous pact in Chiapas

Periódico La Jornada
Thursday 21st of May, 2009, p. 18

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, May 20th. The communities of the Sierra Madre, in the municipality of Chicomuselo, reject the presence on their land of the voracious Canadian mining corporation Blackfire Exploration, to whom the governments of Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía and Juan Sabines Guerrero granted — on this date in 2005 — 2,352 hectares in this municipality alone.

The majority of the inhabitants of the Huanacaste, El Terronal, Loma Bonita and Cuatro Caminos communities, in coordination with the municipal authorities and the supervisory council of the district of Monte Sinaí, approved their “objection”, previously expressed, “with regard to the exploitation of the mines” on their land.

Today they revealed that, convened in assembly on the fourteenth of this month, in Cuatro Caminos, they had declared that “at no time will we give way to the mining company so that it can destroy our lands. Because the place where the mine is located is land for growing coffee, with natural springs where the four communities obtain drinking water; we protest so that they will not destroy the land where we work, because that is where we raise our families, and furthermore, we do not want pollution of our health, of the trees, of animals and of our crops.”

And so they warn that “if the mining company were to come to the communities to negotiate, we will not allow for it, and if it were to come into force, we will be obliged to take other measures, because we have the right to defend our land, our heritage and that of our children, and as members of a cooperative. The land that we own is cooperatively owned, for which we pay property taxes, where no outsider can come and destroy what is ours.”

Rivers converted into garbage dumps

The Canadian mining companies like Blackfire extract water in stratospheric quantities (even the municipal headquarters do not have adequate water supply, although the mountains of the region are abundant in the liquid); the rest they pollute, as is already occurring with the Tachinula and Yayahuita rivers, and in consequence also the Grijalva from upstream of the Sumidero canyon (which, promoted today by the government as a “wonder of the world”, seems more like a garbage dump).

The philosopher Heraclitus, in addition to knowing something about rivers, wrote in one of his fragments: “Gold prospectors dig very deep in the land and find very little.” Let him tell that to these communities. Arsenic, cyanide, lead, mercury, and sulphuric acid invade the air, ground and water so that the miners can obtain gold, silver, barite, or whatever may be there, and they take it away from under the noses of the true owners of the land. The open-pit mining plague extends throughout Chiapas, in particular in the mountainous border region: Comalapa, Motozintla, Mazapa de Madero, Chicomuselo.

The resistance of the people, especially the indigenous people, extends to the forested regions, the highlands, the northern region and the Sierra Madre. On the past 8th of March, women from these areas protested in Tuxtla Gutiérrez against the multinational mining corporations Linear Gold and Blackfire, “that only offer a few poorly-compensated jobs of very high risk,” but “intend to pillage our resources while leaving in their place serious ailments, depletion of the reserves and the water sources, along with total devastation of mountains.”

The floods, landslides and burials that were brought on by hurricanes Mitch and Stan demonstrate that devastation brings more, and more will come in the future if the annihilation of land and mountains in the Sierra Madre continues as it does.

I updated this post on Nov. 6/2010 to fix a typo in the name of Mariano Abarca Robledo.


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