A Canadian mining company has spilled an estimated 1,200 gallons of toxic waste into a river in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, Mexican media reported Saturday.
The leak into the Cata River in Guanajuato City at the site of Great Panther Silver's mining operations was caused by a rupture of an eight-inch pipe transporting mining tailings, leaking the toxic mud-like mining waste into the river.
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Mexico's federal environmental protection body known as Profepa is investigating the spill to assess the extent of water and soil contamination and presence of dangerous substances. Profepa has indicated that it intends to levels fines against Great Panther Silver as a penalty for the contamination.
Profepa investiga derrame de mina en Guanajuato http://t.co/O189YOwF1g pic.twitter.com/KWxAX0hsea— Noticieros Televisa (@NTelevisa_com) June 20, 201
“Profepa investigates mining leak in Guanajuato.”
Great Panther Silver has denied the toxicity of the spill, saying in a statement that the mining tailings do not contain heavy metals, chemicals, or other dangerous substances.
Toxic substances used in mining to separate precious metals from the earth, such as cyanide in gold mining, remain in tailings at the end of the extraction process. Safe handling and storage of mining tailings is considered among the most critical environmental concerns of mining operations, as a tailing pond breach or other major spill can cause catastrophic damage to rivers, soil, and groundwater.
Most mining tailings are permanently stored in isolation from the surrounding environment to avoid contamination.
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Great Panther Silver is a Canadian silver mining and exploration company currently focused on its operations in Mexico, which include the gold and silver extraction mine complex in Guanajuato and the Topia Mine in the northwestern state of Durango, as well as other metals explorations projects.
Great Panther Silver describes the Guanajuato mine complex as its “flagship operation” including 32 mining claims spanning an area of close to 6,500 acres.
The Canadian mining industry has a dubious record of violence, human rights abuses, environmental damage, and other violations in communities where its companies conduct mining operations across Latin America and the world.
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According to Mining Watch Canada, Mexico is the top destination for Canadian mining investment outside of Canada, with nearly 200 Canadian companies with operations in Mexico.