MAC: Mines and Communities

US & Canadian miners face backlash in Mexico

Published by MAC on 2011-01-25
Source: QMI Agency, The Log (2011-01-14)

Two north American companies are facing strident opposition over their plans to extract gold from a much-prized ecological region of Mexico.

One of these is Denver-based Vista Gold; the second is Pediment Gold which is also planing to link up with fellow-Canada registered Argonaut Gold.

Background note: Brian J. Kennedy, Chairman of Argonaut Gold, was President and Chief Executive Officer of Meridian Gold when that company sustained a major defeat over its Esquel gold project around 10 years ago. See: http://www.argonautgoldinc.com/s/BoardOfDirectors.asp

In fact, Argonaut is a company formed by various former Meridian staff, after Yamana Gold took over the company in 2007.

To see a previous "Human SOS" posted on MAC: Minera Alumbrera Accused of Co-Responsibility in Pollution of Río Hondo Reservoir (Argentina)

 

ESPAÑOL

Canadian-held miners face backlash in Mexico

Stefania Moretti

QMI Agency

14 January 2011

Two Toronto-listed mining companies face a mass protest by environmentalists who claim the miners' plans to extract gold from beneath or near a United Nations biosphere reserve in Mexico threaten the delicate ecosystem.

Protest at Vista Gold in Mexico
Human SOS to protest Vista Gold
Photos taken from a video at: http://bajasurviva.com/

Denver-based Vista Gold Corp. is trying to get regulatory approval to blast an open-pit mine in the Sierra la Laguna mountain range located in Mexico's Baja California Sur region.

The United Nations says Sierra la Laguna is important because of its freshwater supply - a rarity in mostly arid Mexico - and because its water basin drains into sea turtle spawning grounds. Whales also rely on connected estuaries.

Meanwhile, Canada's Argonaut Gold Inc. has plans to team up with Pediment Gold Corp. to extract the precious metal nearby.

The projects have attracted fierce criticism from environmentalists and residents of Los Cabos who rely on tourism.

They say open-pit mines permanently scar the landscape and runoff from cyanide - an agent used to treat gold - threatens drinking water and wildlife.

One group of protesters is planning to stage a 5,000-person human SOS on Sunday to draw attention to the projects.

Vista bought the rights to 1.3 million ounces of gold from Canada's Viceroy Resources for $2.3 million in 2002 and is no stranger to opposition.

Vista recently changed the project name from Paredones Amarillos to Concordia, which means "agreement."

There's some misinformation in the nearby city of La Paz, Vista spokesperson Connie Martinez told QMI Agency.

"It's somewhat of a big deal down there," she said.

To try to convince locals of the Concordia's benefits, Vista is holding workshops to discuss ways to improve the quality of life for Sierra la Laguna area residents, chief among them being jobs. It's also dedicated to preserving the environment, it said.

"This is one of several steps Concordia is taking to work closely with the mining communities to help bring opportunity and social and economic progress to Baja California Sur," Hector Araya, project general manager, said in a recent release.

"It is further evidence of the commitment we have made to the Sierra Laguna communities, one that will continue far into the future."

But critics say 10-years' worth of mining jobs aren't worth the risk.

An online petition against Vista and Argonaut/Pediment says the benefits do not justify the destruction to the unique ecosystems and that they do support "less toxic" types of mining.

Concordia is sitting atop an area once set aside specifically for mining, Martinez said.

Mining analyst John McClintock of Mackie Research Capital in Toronto said the optics of the Argonaut/Pediment open-pit project are less sensitive because it's outside the boundaries of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and no known at-risk species are involved.

Vista has an uphill battle when it comes to getting the land use permits, McClintock said.

"Not going to say it's not going to happen, but they've got some issues," he said.

RBC Capital is Vista's fourth largest institutional investor behind three U.S. funds.


Protesters to Fight Gold Mine Near Los Cabos

By Capt. Pat Rains

The Log

5 January 2011

LOS CABOS, Mexico -- Most Baja California boaters know that the East Cape's mountains were mined for silver from 1910 to 1920, and El Triunfo mining company named a popular anchorage Bahia de Muertos for massive train axles (not dead bodies) it buried underwater there in order to moor gold ore barges. By 1920, profits withered and El Triunfo mine closed.

A Mining Comeback? -- El Triunfo, the historic mining village in the Sierra Laguna mountains, is one of the places recently opened to new mining exploration. But BajaSurViva is protesting the miners' planned use of cyanide and arsenic that could poison the water supply of Los Cabos, harm sportfishing and marine tourism, and deepen unemployment in the region.

Extraction Plans -- Pediment Gold Corp. of Canada and Vista Gold both plan to extract gold from the recently opened Picacho Blanco site.

But gold and silver prices have been skyrocketing in recent years, so Mexico's economic secretary has reexamined the nation's resources. In June 2010, the Mexico Geological Survey opened 12 sites in nine states to potential international mining investors: "gold diggers."

Picacho Blanco is the name of one of those recently opened mining sites in Baja California Sur. The 163-square-mile site is located near the tourist village of El Triunfo in the Sierra Laguna mountains. However, it is a UNESCO-designated Biological Reserve, and it is also the sole source of drinking water for Los Cabos and Baja California's East Cape.

For boaters, Picacho Blanco is a landmark peak (elevation 7,090 feet). It is visible (with binoculars) from ships offshore on the Pacific and is visible on radar from Todos Santos down to Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and around East Cape toward La Paz in the Sea of Cortez.

Humanos SOS, a collection of environmental groups in Mexico, is protesting to the Baja California Sur state legislature against "toxic open-pit mining activities" and the use of cyanide and arsenic in mining practices -- specifically against plans by Pediment Gold Corp. of Canada and Vista Gold to extract gold from the Picacho Blanco site.

On Jan. 16, Humanos SOS hopes to assemble at least 5,000 people at Playa del Tule to form a human SOS symbol on the beach, with participants "expressing their support for local tourism," to "ensure the permanence of Los Cabos as a world-class tourist destination and principal source of employment in the region."

Playa del Tule is the sandy river mouth a mile north of Chileno Bay, a popular yacht anchorage and dive site. On Highway 1, the hotel corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, Playa del Tule is reached at the Km 16.2 exit, and a parking lot is available. For the group's reports about Baja California's gold-mining practices and about the SOS protest event this month, visit bajasurviva.com and click "English."

According to the La Paz newspaper Sudcaliforniano, Mexico's two main environmental agencies, SEMARNAT and CONANP, have not yet completed the permitting process for high- and low-impact exploration with at least six additional mining companies that are planning to dig exploratory holes at Picacho Blanco, San Antonio de la Sierra, Los Planes and Las Colinas -- all in southern Baja California.

Other mining companies similarly engaged in Baja California exploration, according to the La Paz paper, include Barroteran, La Cieneguita, La Pitahaya, La Cacachila, Recami, Paredones Amarillos and La Concordia.

Pediment Gold Corp.'s website pedimentgold.com reports that the company has drilled positive test samples at several Baja California sites and has recently partnered with Argonaut Gold to mine in both Baja California and Sonora.

Eleven additional sites that the Mexico Geological Survey has opened to mine exploration are in the coastal states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Michoacan and Oaxaca. The interior states of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Nuevo Leon and Hidalgo also have mining sites opened for new development.

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