MAC: Mines and Communities

Canadian Mining Giant Dries Up Water Resources in Mexico

Published by MAC on 2016-06-12
Source:, Reuters

Please note that Telesur has made an error in transposing the numbers from the original La Jornada story by an order of magnitude. Conagua accorded Goldcorp annual rights to 56 million cubic meters of water, which is a bit over 14 billion gallons. 14 million gallons is something on the order of twenty Olympic swimming pools. We're really talking about over twenty thousand pools.

In a semi-arid state like Zacatecas, dependent on irrigation for agriculture, this is indeed an enormous overdraft. Judging from Conagua's annual statistics this single mine is taking in ca. 4% of the entire state's water budget for agriculture. The duration of the impact of this kind of water appropriation will be exceedingly long given low precipitation and slow recharge rates.

Previous article on MAC: Mexico’s Worst Mining Disaster Survivors Turn to U.S. Court for Assistance
Mexican mining disaster - the human and environmental costs

Canadian Mining Giant Dries Up Water Resources in Mexico

7 June 2016

The Mexican mining company Buenavista del Cobre was accused of contaminating the Sonora and Bacanuchi rivers with copper sulfate in 2015

Mining corporations in the Mexican state of Zacatecas use 14 million gallons of water annually, which is expected to cause increasing scarcity in the coming years.

A Canadian mining giant sucks up more water than any other in the north-central Mexican state of Zacatecas, where mining corporations use more water than the entire local population and concerns are rising about highly unequal access to the scarce and precious resource, according to a study reported by the Mexican daily La Jornada on Tuesday.

According to the report completed by researchers from the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, the Mexican water authority, known as Conagua, has given the greenlight to national and transnational mining companies operating in Zacatecas to use over 14 million gallons (nearly 56,000 cubic meters) of water per year.

Meanwhile, over half of the aquifers being exploited, or seven of the 12, already suffer a water deficit that isn’t being replenished and is affecting supply in local communities. Overall, 14 of the 34 aquifers statewide show signs of depletion and overexploitation, according to the report.

By far and away the biggest water offender in the region is the Canadian mining giant Goldcorp, through its local subsidiary Peñasquito, at a total of nearly 12 million gallons of groundwater use every year. Goldcorp has repeatedly been accused of being behind massive environmental damage and human rights abuses in the Americas, while Canadian mining corporations in general have a notorious record in Latin America and Africa.

Trailing far behind at 1.5 million gallons of water, the mining company Minera Frisco, owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, is the second largest water user in Zacatecas.

But one of the lead researchers has warned that the bad situation is only expected to get worse, La Jornada reported.

While signs of water shortages have already started to be seen, scarcity is expected to increase in the coming years with nearly 100 mining projects in the “exploitation” phase across more than two dozen municipalities in the state.

New Mexico sues EPA, mine owners over massive gold mine waste spill

By Dan Whitcomb


23 May 2016

New Mexico sued the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, an agency contractor and two mining companies on Monday over the 2015 breach of an abandoned Colorado gold mine that spilled some 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into three states.

The Gold King Mine spill, which was accidentally triggered by EPA inspection team called to the mine to inspect an existing seepage, unleashed a torrent of yellow sludge which contained high concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement issued with the 51-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that the discharge left behind widespread environmental damage and caused substantial economic harm to residents, farmers and local businesses for which the state has not been compensated.

"The release of hazardous substances into waters that are the lifeblood of our economy and culture in New Mexico has had a devastating impact on our historical rural, agricultural and tribal communities," New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement announcing the court action.

The lawsuit, which names the EPA, its contractor Environmental Restoration and the Kinross Gold Corp and Sunnyside Gold Corporation, seeks reimbursement for cleanup costs as well as damages and a court order requiring that the defendants take steps to prevent future such spills.

Representatives for the EPA, Missouri-based Environmental Restoration and the two mining companies, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Colorado and New Mexico both declared state of emergencies over the spill from the century-old Gold King Mine near the town of Silverton, which fouled the San Juan River and its northern tributary, the Animas River.

Residents living downstream from the mine were advised to avoid drinking or bathing in water drawn from wells in the vicinity and two Colorado municipalities, including the city of Durango, and the New Mexico towns of Aztec and Farmington temporarily shut off their river intakes.

Utah was the third state affected by the spill.

Colorado has more than 4,000 abandoned mines, about 1,100 of them around Silverton, according to American Rivers, which calls those sites "ticking time bombs." (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, editing by G Crosse)

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