Cross-Posted from Vancouver Media Co-op
MAG Silver and its Mexican subsidiary have categorically denied any involvement in the murders of Ismael Solorio and his wife Manuela Solis.
Yesterday at a public meeting in Mexico City, Martín Solis, member of the Barzón and resident of Benito Juárez, Chihuahua declared:
"Six years ago, in the Ejido of Benito Juárez, Municipality of Buenaventura, Chihuahua, the Canadian mining company, MAG silver and its subsidiary, Cascabel, illegally acquired 40 shares to land that is used by the whole community for livestock grazing. The total number of Ejido members is 398 (1)", which means that the company illegally purchased just over 10% of the shares. "On two separate occasions, the Assembly has denied permission to engage in any form of mining exploration. After the Ejido Assembly agreed to undertake an investigation into how the mining company has acted in Benito Juárez, the following irregularities were unearthed:
Violations of Environmental Legislation:
- NOM 120 of SEMARNAT (2) has been violated
- Perforation of 400 exploratory wells at a depth of 400 meters, below the water table, which is prohibited by environmental laws,
- Lack of aquifer vulnerability studies required by law.
Violation of Agrarian Legislation
- Falsification of Ejido Assembly minutes in order to certify common use lands in the name of three of its employees in the National Agrarian Registry,
- Undertaking exploratory work without the permission of the Ejido Assembly
- Illegal purchase of common use lands."
Canadian mining companies have exploited NAFTA-related legislation, the recent climate of social decomposition, governmental corruption and lax environmental law enforcement in Chihuahua, Mexico and other parts of Latin America. The exodus in the wake of NAFTA-driven rural poverty, drug violence and the prevailing climate of fear have made social organizing in defense of the environment extremely difficult.
Many of the farmers of Benito Juárez consider the struggle against MAG Silver a matter of life and death, which is attested to by the willingness of Ismael Solorio and his wife Manuela Solis to continue their resistance efforts despite having been attacked, threatened and finally murdered. For generations Benito Juárez farmers have cultivated cotton, chile peppers, alfalfa and other crops for local consumption and export. The MAG mining operation threatens to irrevocably contaminate vital and scarce ground water in addition to devastating the fragile desert ecosystem, which few people seem to value. Their lands and the toil of generations would suddenly become useless, and, like hundreds of thousands of small farmers, they would be forced to migrate.
Armed drug organizations also exact tribute from the mining companies, who would find it difficult, if not impossible to operate in the isolated and ore-rich regions of Chihuahua´s Sierra Madre. Though the government declares otherwise, the Sierra is firmly controlled by well-armed groups that periodically and randomly seek tribute from all passers-by on one or several of the roads in the Sierra. However, tourist attractions such as Creel and the Copper Canyon region seem to be relatively safe, probably due to some negotiation process that temporarily exempts them from direct extorsion.
It is undeniable that some roads necessary for ore transport have been improved, local salaries have temporarily benefitted some employees, and economic benefits can be perceived in mining-related industries in cities like Parral and Chihuahua City. Irreversible environmental damage like mountain-top removal, strip mining, cyanide spills, deep water contamination and deforestation are the physical result of mining operations. The most unsavory aspects of mining operations like payoffs and death threats and, perhaps even murder can be undertaken by local subsidiaries of the Mother company or other, more informal operatives. Thus, when things go awry, investors can be insured that the Mother company --as MAG has already made public on its website-- had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Years down the pike, when the companies have gone, leaving only heaps of contaminated slag, deteriorated ecosystems, dilapidated roads to nowhere, what will linger in the embittered, collective memory are the tragic and unacceptable costs once tied to the frenzied rush to accumulate as much silver and gold as quickly as possible; things that guilty consciences can do little to remedy.
(1) (Note: The Ejido is a form of communal land tenure in which each member has a share that gives him or her certain rights and responsibilities. When Article 27 was modified to facilitate NAFTA, these shares could be bought and sold. However, each Ejido had the right to create its own bylaws that all members were to abide by. Common use land can only be sold when the Assembly agrees to such a sale in a majority vote. All decisions regarding the Ejido, or modifications to the by-laws must be made by the Assembly in a plenary session.)
(2) NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-120-SEMARNAT-2011, establishes the specifications for environmental protection for activities related to direct mining exploration in agricultural, livestock and uncultivated lands and in regions with dry and temperate climates inhabited by xerophilus, deciduous, coniferous or oak plant populations.