Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver has announced that its estimates on the silver reserves at its Cuzcatlan/ San Jose mine in Oaxaca, Mexico have increased by 22 per cent. Their media release notes, "These materials have subsequently been converted to reserves and will enter into the mine plan starting in 2014." They also note their new 'Trinidad North discovery', and that, "the expansion of the processing plant capacity to 1,800 tons per day was successfully completed in September of this year and the mine and mill are currently ramping up to the expanded capacity."
But behind the company's announcement is a painful reality for the local community of San Jose del Progreso. On November 19-21, 2012, the Blue Planet Project participated in a 'civilian observation mission' and met with community members who related to us their experiences of rising social conflict, contaminated water sources and adverse health impacts since the mine opened in September 2011.
Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan wrote, "Community members we spoke to are concerned about water contamination as a result of the mining operation. There have been accounts of sheep dying, skin diseases and a rise in the number of miscarriages, which members of the community attribute primarily to water contamination. There were also accounts of wells drying up and concerns expressed in relation to contamination of groundwater and surface water sources."
The preliminary statement for the observation mission (released on November 23) noted, "In terms of environmental impact, the citizens denounced that they can no longer bring their animals to drink water from the Coyote River due to the yellowish tinge of the water since the arrival of the mining company, as well as stating that the water levels have gone down significantly in all the wells. They likewise report that hardly any corn can be grown near the mine, milpa (mixed) crops no longer grow, and the earth has become infertile."
On the one-year anniversary of this mission, we reiterate the demands jointly made by the observation mission:
- From the federal government: the cancellation of the San José mining project and the immediate departure from San José del Progreso of the Cuzcatlán mine, subsidiary of Canadian company Fortuna Silver, as well as the reparation of the social, environmental, and cultural damage done by the mine.
- From the Oaxacan state government: urgent measures to reconcile the community of San José del Progreso and to reconstruct the damaged social fabric of the community, so as to avoid future loss of life.
- From the State Electoral and Citizen Participation Institute and the Rural Prosecutor of the Congress of the State of Oaxaca: conditions and guarantees of a transparent and democratic election process for municipal and rural authorities, in which the mining company should not be involved.
- From the Cuzcatlán mining company: that in the short term, it move its Community Relations Office and avoid sending dump-trucks and heavy load vehicles through the downtown area of San José del Progreso.
- From the Human Rights Defender’s Office of Oaxaca: a Recommendation for the protection of human rights defenders in San José del Progreso.
While these human and environmental consequences are long-term concerns, the company's 'good news' announcement last month noted that the life of their San Jose mine is just over six more years.