Environmental groups urge Mexican Senate to ban mining in protected areasPublished by MAC on 2021-04-30
Source: Fronteras Desk, Bnamericas
Mining companies and industry bodies oppose the bill.
A coalition of environmental nonprofits is pushing Mexican lawmakers to pass a bill that would ban mining in protected areas, Fronteras Desk reported.
Examples of mining projects in protected areas include Invecture Group’s Los Cardones gold project in Baja California Sur state, part of which lies within the Sierra de la Laguna nature reserve.
Last year, Zacatecas state politicians presented a bill to establish a PNA covering Mazapil municipality which industry groups warned would have negative economic consequences.
Mines in Mazapil include Newmont’s Peñasquito, one of Mexico’s biggest gold, silver, lead and zinc producers, and Minera Frisco’s Tayahua copper-zinc asset. Newmont and Frisco are also engaged in exploration through a joint venture agreement in Mazapil valley. Orla Mining is active in the area with its Camino Rojo gold project.
Environmental groups urge Mexican Senate to ban mining in protected areas
Fronteras Desk https://fronterasdesk.org/
April 28, 2021
A coalition of environmental nonprofits is pushing Mexican lawmakers to pass a bill that would ban mining in protected areas.
On Tuesday, the coalition of environmental nonprofits presented the Mexican Senate with a petition urging to approve reforms to an environmental law that would prohibit mining in federally designated Natural Protected Areas (ANP).
"We’re not asking for mining to cease to exist in Mexico, we’re asking for 13%-14% of the territory to be considered off-limits, because we’ve already designated it as protected, and that protection ought to mean something," said Juan Carlos Bravo, Mexico and borderlands program director for Wildlands Network, which has been pushing for the change.
"It is pretty straight forward: protected areas ought to be protected. That’s all we’re asking for," he said. "And if not, we might as well stop deluding ourselves and just say, 'You know, these places are not protected. They're not protected areas.'"
Mexico has very few public lands, which means most of the protected areas are a layer of regulations "on other people's land," Bravo said. And mining is currently within the limits of what is allowed on those lands.
"So that begs the question, 'What are we protecting them from,'" he said.
The proposed reform would not affect existing mines or mining land concessions on Mexico’s protected lands, but would ban new projects, Bravo said.
The bill has already passed in the lower chamber of Mexico’s Congress. Now, the senate’s environmental commission will need to assess the bill before the upper house can vote on it.
Mexico legislators back mining ban in nature reserves
April 09, 2021
Politicians and environmental groups are urging Mexico’s senators to pass a law banning mining in the country’s nature reserves.
Legislators, academics and NGOs are backing a bill to outlaw mining and hydrocarbons extraction in protected natural areas (PNAs), warning the activities pose a serious threat to biodiversity in Mexico, one of the world’s megadiverse countries which harbor the majority of plant and animal species.
The proposal secured overwhelming support in the lower house in March, passing with 407 votes in favor to zero against, with 56 abstentions.
“Mexico is a megadiverse country and we still have natural areas that have not been significantly altered by human activity, but they face a serious threat to their biodiversity,” Oaxaca state senator Susana Harp, of the ruling leftist Morena party, told an event hosted by Mexico’s Autonomous National University (UNAM).
“It is inconsistent that in these areas [PNAs] an activity exists that not only produces serious damage to the environment but also sociocultural conflict,” Laura Guerra, Morena party legislator and environment and natural resources coordinator told the event, called Toward Effective Protection in PNAs.
MINING AND PROTECTED AREAS
Mexico has 182 federally protected PNAs, within which 25,000 mining concessions have been granted to date, Harp told the event.
These concessions include 53 active mining and exploration projects which overlap with PNAs, Manuel Llano of environmental NGO CartoCrítica said, citing data from geological service SGM.
Of these, 22 are primary gold and 16 primary silver assets.
Currently, 70 federal PNAs have a total of 2,089 mining concessions within their boundaries, with the area of overlap amounting to 1.58Mha.
The vast bulk of overlap is in the larger ‘buffer’ zones of PNAs, where restrictions on economic activities are weaker, rather than the core ‘nucleus’ zones, for which the overlap is around 60,000ha, according to Llano.
Examples of mining projects in PNAs include Invecture Group’s US$250mn Los Cardones gold project in Baja California Sur state, part of which lies within the Sierra de la Laguna nature reserve.
A permit application for the open pit project was rejected in 2019.
The bill involves an amendment to article 46 of Mexico’s General Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection law, adding a series of activities that will not be authorized in PNAs.
These are exploration, exploitation and processing of minerals, exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons, establishment of human settlements and introduction of exotic invasive species.
While mining is not currently prohibited in PNAs, companies require additional authorization from environment ministry Semarnat to secure exploration and production concessions in the areas.
Following its approval by the lower house, the bill is currently undergoing analysis by a number of senate committees, Jatziri Pando, chief of staff of the senate environment, natural resources and climate change committee, told the event.
These include the mining committee, which has called for an economic analysis of the bill, something that has not been conducted to date.
A number of other entities, including the environment and economy ministries, along with industry bodies, are also expected to present opinions on the bill, Pando added.
After the committee stage, the bill will be passed to the full senate where it could be approved, paving the way for it to be enacted into law, or sent back to the lower house for changes, or rejected.
Rejection appears unlikely, according to Pando, given the government’s commitments to protecting biodiversity and complying with international environmental standards.
Mining companies and industry bodies in Mexico are likely to oppose the bill, which will hamper project development in PNAs.
But two key factors will limit impacts on the industry.
Firstly, the amendment only affects the small nucleus zones of PNAs, rather than the larger buffer zones. Secondly, the legislation will not affect existing concessions.
“No law is retroactive, meaning that no previously authorized concession will be affected by the reform, which will only apply to future applications,” Guerra said.
However, companies seeking to advance exploration projects to production – requiring new permits or concessions – may find their path blocked at assets which overlap with PNAs.
Mining companies will also be keen to avoid scenarios in which PNAs are used as a means to impose blanket bans on mining in certain areas.
Last year, Zacatecas state politicians presented a bill to establish a PNA covering Mazapil municipality – a key mining zone – which industry groups warned would have negative economic consequences.