Dolores Hidalgo, cuna de la Independencia, ¡libre de minería!

Gilberto López y Rivas

10/01/2021

[Translation] The Independence watershed, in the north of the state of Guanajuato, is a territory that encompasses seven municipalities, including Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende, which share a subterranean aquifer. The semi-desert climate and the scarcity of water make almost all human activities in the region dependent on this flow. In addition to the negative impacts of consuming this vital liquid extracted at depths of between 600 and 700 meters, contaminated with arsenic and fluoride, which causes serious health problems for the population, such as kidney failure, neuronal damage, cancer and dental and skeletal fluorosis, the overexploitation and hoarding of water by large agricultural export companies is a case of privatization and dispossession of such essential common goods as water. Despite this alarming water problem, the state government does not seem to realize the socio-environmental crisis facing Guanajuato, and continues to promote the installation of industrial and agro-industrial parks, which are high consumers of groundwater, with the consequent damage to ecosystems and the quality of life of rural communities.

To the serious water and environmental crisis, which began in the 1990s, a greater threat has been added: the mining curse. Since 2017, the Canadian corporation Argonaut Gold has tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain environmental impact authorization from Semarnat for its Cerro del Gallo open-pit toxic mining project in San Antón de las Minas, a former mining community, 10 kilometers from Dolores Hidalgo. If this project were to become operational, the damage to the population and the environment would be catastrophic, directly affecting at least 8,000 people and, indirectly, about 700,000 people, due to the use of cyanide, a lethal poison that would generate soil and water contamination, killing fauna and flora, not only by the leaching of thousands of tons of minerals during its operation, but also by the inevitable spills of acid drainage into streams and the subterranean aquifer of the entire basin. To address these threats, the Hermandad de la Cuenca de la Independencia, a network of grassroots and non-governmental organizations, is coordinating with affected communities to defend their human rights to water, territory and dignified peasant life.

In May, after Argonaut Gold submitted another environmental impact authorization request to Semarnat in November 2020, the fourth in the last four years, the affected communities, the Hermandad de la Cuenca de la Independencia and the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining, got the candidates for the municipal presidency of Dolores Hidalgo to sign electoral commitments to shield the municipal territory, that is, they committed that the winner in the elections would, together with his city council, initiate a process to declare Dolores Hidalgo as a mining free municipality. This commitment to shield the territory was signed by the now-elected municipal president, Adrián Hernández Alejandrí, of the National Action Party (PAN). However, the state governor, Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo, also of the PAN, despite not having the legal authority to grant mining authorizations, has expressed his unconditional backing and support for Argonaut Gold's project.

On September 20, the Hermandad de la Cuenca de la Independencia, the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining and the organization Acción Colectiva Socioambiental, issued a statement pointing out the persistence of Argonaut Gold's deceit in collusion with the government of Guanajuato (https://cutt. ly/FEP2Bha). Governor Diego Sinhue met, on July 13, with Argonaut Gold executives to welcome them and their potentially lethal activities to the state. The governor subsequently joined the Canadian company in its strategy of deceiving the population or conflict engineering, disguised as social responsibility, by participating along with Guanajuato's Secretary of Education, in the delivery of school supplies to students in the communities that could be affected by the exploitation of mine. Despite Governor Diego Sinhue's extractivist leanings, Adrián Hernández Alejandri, who will take office as Mayor of Dolores Hidalgo on October 10, must comply with his signed commitment and, consequently, declare the city, considered the cradle of national independence, to be free of mining.