Some 20,000 inhabitants of Puebla’s Sierra Norte may lose their lands with the construction of five hydroelectric power plants on the Ajajalpan River, which will serve the mines that belong to the Grupo Mexico consortium in this central-western region of the country.
One of the most affected communities is Ahuacatlán, where local authorities have threatened to expropriate from indigenous Totonaca people who refuse to sell their land to Grupo Mexico.
Indigenous and civil society organizations participated in the forum Project of Death in Puebla, held June 20 at the Autonomous University of Puebla, and reported that “the alderman of the Interior of the Ahuacatlán municipality warned that if [the land] is not sold, it will be expropriated; he also threatened with the Army’s presence in the town if necessary.”
The Indigenous Totonaca Nahua Unit, the Independent Totonaca Organization, the Independent Indigenous Ahuacatena Organization, the civic association Tetela Toward the Future, the Mexican Institute for Community Development, and the Earth University, were among a group of organizations that denounced exploration by multimillionaire Carlos Slim’s mining company, Frisco, in the La Cañada mountains of Tetela de Ocampo. The company is planning an open pit mine in the area that would eliminate 10,600 Ha (26,200 acres), where there are important headsprings that provide water for the region, the organizations said. Some people have sold their land in the area, while others refused and have organized to learn and discuss the consequences of such a mine.
In Puebla, 31,300 Ha (77,350 acres) have been turned over already to mining exploration and there remain available another 443,000 Ha (1.9 million acres), according to Mexico´s Secretary of the Economy.
Gian Carlo Delgado, water expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, warned of the damage gold and silver open-pit mining will cause to the environment and the communities.
“Such industries tend to destroy the aquifers, because of the large amount of water they require, and they often use cyanide in their processes, a product that is released without control, causing irreparable damage to land and therefore agricultural production,” Delgado told Mexican newspaper Milenio in June.
“Some mining companies have explicitly recognized that during the process of the cyanide water bath, which is a closed-cycle, there are evaporation losses of up to 30 percent,” he said. “This has tremendous implications, since the impact on biodiversity, the impact of soil and water contamination mainly by cyanide, but also by other agents, is unknown.”