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Mining Concessions threaten Mexican Biosphere Reserve

Published by MAC on 2006-01-14

Mining Concessions threaten Mexican Biosphere Reserve

14th January 2006

 5 5The Peña Colorada mining company is currently locked in a dispute with the residents of Ayotitlán, over plans to mine iron deposits located just outside of the "buffer zone" of the Biosphere Reserve of Sierra de Manantlán.

The problem is that, within these protected mountains, there also lie rich mineral desposits. And the Mexican Federal government has deeded concessions to almost everything inside. The mining concessions amount to 16 within the reserve, ten of which are current, and cover almost the entire protected area, except a large portion of Cerro Grande and another peak located near Cautitlán.

In other nature zones, there is open debate over the exploitation of subsurface mineral resources. For example, in the forest and natural reserves of La Primavera, adjacent to Guadalajara, there are currently plans to use geothermal activity there to generate electricity. The director of the National Commission for Protected Nature Areas (CONANP), Ernesto Enkerlin Hoeflich, commented, "In strictly legal terms, there are many projects that one can or cannot carry out in a protected area, but if you ask me as a conservationist, I would not like to see a geothermal plant in a protected area," he said in a visit to Guadalajara on September 22, 2005.

For J. Santos Rosales Contreras, an indigenous Ayotitlánan, the predatory methods of the mines of the region are more than well known, and the serious risks to the heritage of the Nahua community are heightened by the "voracity" of Peña Colorada and its pressure tactics.

"They extract a lot of minerals, it is one of the biggest companies in México, and right now, we are fighting against the exploration in Chaquiahuil, but there are other conflicts, such as land ownership, and the state boundaries, where the mining company has intervened in the conflicts with the aim of our letting them get their way."

Because of this, the Reserve of Manantlán - although it is not directly affected at the moment by the exploration in Chanquiahuil in the south of the buffer zone around the Reserve - has intervened in support of the rights of the people of Ayotitlán. It is a history whose conclusion is yet to be written.

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