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  • First Majestic operates three different mines in Chalchihuites, which community members claim are polluting the environment and causing health problems

    First Majestic operates three different mines in Chalchihuites, which community members claim are polluting the environment and causing health problems | Photo: First Majestic

Published 11 April 2018

The Canadian First Majestic Silver Corp operates three mines in Chalchihuites, Zacatecas, and pollution is harming locals and killing cattle.

Members of the Chalchihuites Citizen Movement (MCC) are calling on Mexico's federal government to revoke the mining licenses granted to First Majestic Silver Corporation. The Canadian company is currently operating three mines in the northern state of Zacatecas, Mexico, and citizens say the company's reckless practices are damaging the environment and the health of the locals.

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Hundreds of people from the Chalchihuites communities, led by the MCC, and accompanied by several local environmental and social organizations, marched Monday to ask the local authorities to bring their demands to federal officials.

They claim the mining activities are polluting the water, which now looks oily, and is causing skin and digestive diseases among the local population. People from the Rancho Colorado community also report the death of cattle.

Protesters gathered in front of the municipality's government building and marched to the First Majestic facilities, symbolically closing its entrance.

“By this means you're being notified that, from now on, all and each one of the mining licenses that the neo-liberal Mexican state granted you are to be revoked,” said the MCC in front of the facilities during the symbolic closure.

“Your presence in our land is an attack on our national sovereignty and risks the life and physical integrity of workers and local inhabitants, besides poisoning our land, our water, and our air.”

First Majestic has operated the San Juan, San Nicolas and Dolores mines in Chalchihuites, a municipality in Zacatecas, through the El Toro Mining Unit since 2007. Now, suffering from water shortages, injuries to their eyes, skin, breathing and hearing problems, and environmental damage, community members are demanding President Enrique Peña Nieto to revoke the mining licenses to the Canadian miner, which they claim were granted without consult to the local population.

The MCC has denounced that both the company and the government are ignoring their demands. “We're totally defenseless, without adequate medical care or money to face the problems we have now and that were never listed as part of the alleged 'progress' and 'development' the mine would bring,” said the citizens' movement in a communique.

The promised jobs never arrived and instead, the environment is suffering. The Chalchihuites communities have lived from the land and cattle for more than 461 years, they said, without transnational extractivist and aggressive companies.

In 2017, the mining company processed 278 thousand 204 tons of silver with 834 millions 612 thousand liters of water, equivalent to “the water consumption of the whole municipality during 7.2 months.”

“Where are they getting that much water from? They must be taking it from aquifers that should be for irrigation and home use. They are not only using the water but contaminating it. Their wastes end up in the Suchil and Chalchihuites rivers, risking life, crops, flora, fauna and human life, taking into account that the main chemicals used are lead and arsenic.”

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The company also started using explosives three months ago, visibly damaging near-by homes and public buildings. “So far we have registered damages in more than 50 houses, and we're still counting. We fear a catastrophe day and night.”

“Since 2017 we've seen how the mountain and our landscape began vanishing. Water shortage started, and we've seen our houses cracking and weakening due to explosions and mining activities. We've seen how our lands are occupied only to be devastated by the company and little by little we've felt health problems associated with the mine,” the MCC pointed out in a press release.

The State's Civil Protection agency started investigations into the houses' damages to determine if these were caused by explosives or are an outcome of seismic activity, but they haven't published any conclusion on it.

Their inaction has caused the movement to demand a further investigation to measure the negative impacts of mining on nature and the municipality's economic activities, as well as the people's health.

They are also demanding the local authorities assume their responsibilities and support them in their demands to the federal government, to take care of the local population's health.

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