President Says No To Local Gold Mine

Sees the industry as being unfriendly to tourism
BY: JACK MEHOF

BY JACKIE RODRIGUEZ

“Water is more valuable than gold because life is more valuable than money, and gold mining is water intensive.”

These words are from the President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, (AMLO), as he announced he was saying no to giving the permit for the Los Cardones open pit gold mining project and yes to a $30 million investment in a desalination plant in Los Cabos.

The mining project, planned for the hills of the Sierra la Laguna area between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, but up in the hills, inland a little ways from the highway, is thought to have reserves of approximately1.5 billion dollars at today’s price of golf.

The problem is gold mining is very water intensive and that area is La Paz’s biggest source of water.

The project started in 2016 with controversial permits which were issued by a former La Paz administration. That move drew an immediate reaction from the representative for the civil association of environment and society in Mexico, Trasvnia Taylos, who said the environmental damage the project could bring down on us, was substantial.  “In this area there are toxic minerals contained in the earth which with the mining activity could release and jeopardize 10,000 local farmers’ jobs and the  population’s general health due to pollution of the air and water,” he said.

Ouch! For sure it was not easy to leave that money in the ground. The property was originally owned by a Canadian company that threw in the towel on getting permits to start digging, so they sold to a well connected Mexican company for $13 million. No doubt the Mexican buyers thought they could trade their political clout for permits but they didn’t plan on AMLO getting elected and putting the kybosh on that.

The current owner even promised they would build a desal plant and pump the water all the way up the hill, not taking any fresh water from the area surrounding the mine. Of course nobody was believing that was going to happen. And what about the holding ponds for the tailings? Earthen dams at other mines have broken with no consequences. And who would get the profit from this mine, those who took the risk to their environment? Of course not.

The mining company almost made it, they got every permit but the one from the President. It was their one and a half billion dollar bad luck that AMLO was elected.

He explained we need to take care of our paradise because, “Our people live from tourism, so we need to take care of our paradise and natural resources.”

In the same announcement, which came on a visit to San Lucas, he said yes to a $50 million desalinization plant and that the federal government would provide the money. And for good measure he tossed in another $30 million dollars for local urban improvement.

He called it, “Offensive to see the contrast between luxurious tourist compounds and marginal barrios with no basic services like water or light.” His new programs are designed to reverse the inequalities of the country and will focus on basic services like water, light, paved streets, public transport, quality public spaces, and legal help to fix land inequities suffered by poor Mexican families.

The promised new desalinization plant is scheduled to be inaugurated in 27 months, which might be a bit ambitious, and everyone’s hoping the money will actually be there to get it built. But part of AMLO’s promise has been for all his federal projects to be administered by his people, not the locals, as has been the procedure in the past. This, in hopes there will be less hanky panky with the money. Our mayor, Armida Castro, must be seething.