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UPDATE: The Wixarika at First Majestic’s shareholders meeting, May 19

Mexico City-based Blue Planet Project organizer Claudia Campero Arena has alerted us to this threat posed by a Canadian-based mining company to water in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Professor Darcy Victor Tetreault writes, “Every year, the Wixarika (Huichol) indigenous people of central west México walk 500 kilometres to the sacred land of Wirikuta, where according to legend, the sun was born. …Located in the state of San Luis Potosi, Wirikuta is one of the most biologically rich and diverse deserts in the world. …In 2001 it was declared a Sacred Natural Site by UNESCO. …This (area) is now the backdrop for a social environmental conflict that is unfolding around (Vancouver-based mining company) First Majestic Silver’s intentions to reinitiate mining activities in the area.”

“Where the Wixarika people see sacred beauty and the fountain of life, Keith Neumeyer – president and CEO of First Majestic Silver – sees an opportunity to further enrich himself and his company’s shareholders. …There are promises of job creation and social corporate responsibility, but the jobs are both dangerous and ephemeral. Moreover, it is not entirely clear how cyanide and other noxious substances could possibly be contained (from impacting the area’s water).”

Tim Harvey has written in The Tyee, “First Majestic’s mining claims overlap the Huichol’s sacred mountain as well as the only underground water source in the Sierra de Catorce. The aquifer feeds 16 villages and an ecosystem recognized as among the three most biodiverse deserts in the world. …There is already a scarcity of water in the Sierra de Catorce, where years sometimes pass between rains. Mines typically use large amounts of water to separate precious metals from rock, so residents fear that the mine is bound to consume much of a water resource currently shared between sixteen villages.”

Jamie Kneen of Miningwatch has said, “Typically gold and silver do their processing on the spot. One issue is the arsenic or cyanide used in the processing, and another is contaminants originating in the rocks themselves, as many of these rocks are being exposed to water for the first time. If there are not water problems now, there will be. …First Majestic will have to de-water the mine. Presumably they will be digging below the water table, so they’ll be pumping out a lot of water. This implies sucking water out of the aquifer.”

Tetreault adds, “According to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, indigenous and native peoples must be consulted about any project that affects their territories. No such consultations have taken place and very little information is being provided. What is more, in 2008 president Felipe Calderon signed the Hauxa Manaka Accord, designed to respect and protect the sacred sites of the Huichol people. The 22 mining concessions granted to First Majestic Silver by the Ministry of Economy blatantly violate these accords. These concessions cover an area of 6,326 hectares, 70 percent of which is in the Natural Protected Area of Wirikuta, whose management plan explicitly prohibits any kind of mining activities.”

“On September 23, 2010, traditional leaders from the agrarian communities that make up the Wixarika nation signed an official statement to manifest their ‘profound rejection of First Majestic Silver’s mining project in the Real de Catorce desert’. They demanded ‘the immediate cancelation of all mining concessions’ in their sacred lands and they made it clear that they ‘will do everything within [their] means to stop this devastating mining project’. A number of civil society organizations have come together to support this resistance. Together, with representatives from the Wixarika nation, they have formed the Tamatzima Huaha Front.”

The Wixarika people who would be affected by this mine have organized to send a delegate to Vancouver to intervene at First Majestic Silver’s annual shareholders meeting. The Council of Canadians Blue Planet Project will be supporting their travel to this meeting, which takes place on Thursday May 19 at 9:30 am at the Terminal City Tower, 837 West Hastings Street, Vancouver.

The articles by Tetreault and Harvey are at http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/2981-sacred-indigenous-site-in-mexico-threatened-by-canadian-mining-company and http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2011/03/02/SacredMountain/print.html.