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Sacred Indigenous Site Threatened by Canadian Mining Company

By torachi, May 2, 2011 | | |
  1. torachi
    Every year, the Wixarika (Huichol) indigenous people of central-west Mexico walk 500 km to the sacred land of Wirikuta, where according to legend, the sun was born. Here, they collect jíkuri (peyote), carry out rituals of purification and come into communion with their gods, who give them blessings and guidance. In this way, they conserve their culture, maintain harmony with nature, and uphold a thousand-year-old tradition.

    Located in the state of San Luis Potosi, Wirikuta is one of the most biologically rich and diverse deserts in the world. In 1994 it was decreed "a Site of Cultural and Historic Heritage and an Area under Ecological Conservation"; in the year 2000 the protected area was expanded to 140 thousand hectares; and in 2001 it was declared a Sacred Natural Site by UNESCO.

    There is also a bird sanctuary in Wirikuta. In spite of this, it is currently under siege by First Majestic Silver, a Vancouver-based mining company that paid 3 million dollars to obtain 22 mining concessions in the area.

    To be sure, First Majestic Silver is not the first mining company to covet the mineral resources in the region. In fact, local mining activities were initiated by the Spanish in the 1770s. The town of Real de Catorce was founded then, but it did not reach the height of its splendor until the end of the 19th century, during the Porfirio Diaz dictatorship.

    Decadence followed as mining activities became more sporadic. The last mining activities in Real de Catorce took place about 20 years ago, leaving behind a ghost town, hills pockmarked with mining shafts, contaminated water and soil, unemployment and poverty.

    The aesthetic beauty of the landscape, however, remains intact and Real de Catorce has since become an off-the-beaten-track tourist attraction. It has also served as a filming site for two Hollywood movies: The Mexican, starring Brad Pitt and Julie Roberts, and Bandidas, featuring Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz.

    This same stage is now the backdrop for a social environmental conflict that is unfolding around 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.

    With state-of-the-art technologies, he hopes to reopen old mines, exploit previously undetected veins of minerals, and squeeze out the last remaining traces of silver from tailings left behind by others. 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.

    In Real de Catorce, past experience has shown that mining companies do not stay for long and when they go, they leave behind diverse forms of environmental degradation. Along these lines, in 2010 a team of researchers from the University of Guadalajara detected lead and arsenic in plant and animal samples collected in the Wirikuta desert.

    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% of which is in the Natural Protected Area of Wirikuta, whose management plan explicitly prohibits any kind of mining activities.

    There is nothing extraordinary about this. In Mexico, protected areas and environmental laws are often sidestepped in order to facilitate the activities of national and transnational corporations.

    The problem, though, is not just one of weak environmental legislation and corruption in Mexico; the Canadian government is also responsible, refusing to regulate resource-extraction companies operating outside of the country. This negligence was perpetuated by the narrow defeat of Bill C-300 in the House of Commons, in October of 2010.

    Designed to create a complaint and investigative mechanism for communities adversely affected by Canadian mining companies, the bill was rejected by Stephen Harper and all but two of his Conservative MPs, while 20 members of the Liberal and NDP caucuses, including Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, absented themselves from the vote.

    Most Canadians would probably be surprised to hear that, in academic and civil society circles, Canadian mining has come to epitomize rapacious capitalism and imperialism. Canadian companies dominate the mining sector in Latin America, with interests in over 12,000 properties.

    In 2010 alone, at least five social activists were murdered for protesting against Canadian mining activities, including Abarca Roblero, who opposed Blackfire's operations in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

    First Majestic Silver is contributing to this notorious reputation. It is currently seeking local support and ways to convince government officials to grant permission for mineral extraction in Wirikuta. As part of this effort, company representatives have opened a museum in Real de Catorce and they have hired 15 locals to clean up the entrance to the old Santa Ana mine.

    Pay is between 70 and 240 dollars a week, a pittance compared to what the company is worth (1.58 billion dollars), but hard to refuse for people living in poverty. This strategy is not new: by offering jobs to some, mining companies can divide the local population and conquer. Another common strategy is to invent subsidiaries with Spanish names—in the case, Minera Real de Bonanza—in an effort to promote a Mexican public image.

    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.

    As one Wixarika representative of this Front put it: "These sites are alive, they have a heart, and we are worried that their veins will be destroyed." In accordance with this vision, indigenous protestors have recently set up a camp in the outskirts of the municipality of Real de Catorce, where they have been fasting and chanting prayers.

    by Darcy Tetreault, Upside Down World



  1. benzup!
    sounds ingenious to me. with silver prices beginning to spike as well as other precious metals, i can see a lot more old mines reopening because profits can now be made using new technology when they couldn't before. and in a political volatile country like mexico, this shit is going to happen whether you like it or not. murder is illegal, but that doesn't stop 3000 people a year being killed in Juarez alone. you can preach till the peyote kicks in about how wrong things are, but money also talks and it begs you the question: who do you listen to? the man with the morals, or the man with the money? as a human being, that decision has already been made for me; i'd rape mother earth so dry, she'd be bleeding dust.
  2. torachi
    It's just sad because universally, human culture, specifically those pre-dating modern time, ought to be at the epicenter of our concern. AND, that if properly studied, the alkaloids of peyote plant ought to be more valuable than the silver under it. Its just sad and shows that there is really no focus, in the long run, to human development and technological advancement
  3. torachi
    While the Huichol sent messengers to various international meetings taking place right now in Vancouver, Canada, Chicago and New York, United States, to denounce the alleged abuses by the Mexican government to hand over part of their ancestral territory pilgrimage to transnational mining, opens a new controversy over the opening of tomato plantations in the desert of San Luis, in the same natural and cultural reserve Wirikuta.

    This complaint is already being integrated by the Federal Office for Environmental Protection (Profepa), "against whoever is responsible for the works of clearing and destruction of natural vegetation, demolition and felling of one or a few trees, change illegal forest land use and extraction of flora subject to special protection [...] in the protected area called Huiricuta Book [or Wirikuta] in the municipality of Catorce, San Luis Potosi, "says the document signed by President AC Human Conservation, Humberto Fernandez Borja, and supported by the Mexican Center for Environmental Law.

    The works referred to "develop and affect an area of ​​great environmental value, cultural and indigenous Huichol people, such as natural reserves and cultural Wirikuta, the priority terrestrial region 80 of the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), the traditional route of the Huichol to Wirikuta inscribed on the Tentative List of the Convention Mexican Natural and Cultural Heritage of Unesco, and is home to dozens of species of flora and fauna endemic, rare, threatened and endangered species subject to special protection by the Mexican Official Standard NOM-059-ECOL.

    There is also a commitment signed by the President of the Republic, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, and the governors of Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi, Haux called Manaka Pact for the Preservation and Development of Culture Huixárica, signed on 22 April 2008.

    "Based on field surveys conducted in recent days in the rural road station Dolores Fourteen-tank, approximately 12.5 kilometers starting from Estación Catorce tank toward Dolores, near the door to the place called 'The Owl'-just before formation of hillocks, were identified irregularities affecting natural resources in the territory said," it notes.

    "The alleged illegal works appear to be preparing ground for the development of intensive cultivation of tomato. From the above rural road can easily spot the deforestation and natural vegetation destroyed, even sighting the machinery working," that featured photographs of evidence.

    Deemed "particularly serious" that the work of dismantling and destruction of natural vegetation "were made in a land of hills and plains with xerophytic scrub with cactus populations of the following listed in NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001: Ferocactus pilosus, Ferocactus hamatacanthus , poselgeriana Coryphantha, Echinocactus platyacanthus, Lophophora williamsii, Leuchtenbergia principis, and these were removed and whose fate is unknown. "

    The complaint has not resulted in the closing ceremony, and "it takes community support to stop this Wixárika. On the one hand, and significant damage was done, but if not stop, will continue to expand their cultivation areas within Wirikuta, taking care that everyone has the threat of the mine, "Hernandez said about Bob.

    In his view, "this is a serious problem, almost as serious as the mine First Majestic, just as it is happening now it is not real, but a potential threat. Just look a bit further north in Vanegas to see how they have destroyed thousands of hectares of tomato in recent years." And Profepa has not acted in a month and a half of the complaint.

    International reports

    Members of the Huichol of northern Jalisco have moved this past week at various international forums to denounce the risk that is the path to Huiricuta, Wixaritari, the ancestral pilgrimage from their mountains to the desert area of ​​San Luis, where he was born into the sacred peyote worldview.

    In Vancouver, Canada, the event was a global meeting on the damage caused by the mining and the mission was aimed by the Huichol to announce the threat that Canadian miner First Majestic has for the fragile desert ecosystem of San Luis.

    Moreover, there is a delegation present in the Huichol Week National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, said xaureme [teacher] Jesus Candelario, where in addition to promoting cultural values, it highlights the social problems these people, surviving Indians, continue to see.

    "Also in New York aims to deliver a letter to the United Nations which calls for international intervention to curb abuses in the mining issue, because the territorial spoils," and the unresolved problem of the road Bolaños-Huejuquilla in northern Jalisco.

  4. torachi
    Huichol march on Friday by downtown

    Guadalajara - In what is the first sponsored walk in this city directly by the Huichol indigenous communities of northern Jalisco, on Friday May 20 will be held from 10:00 am. The procession of protesters will be from the core by the Aboriginal streets of downtown Guadalajara, demanding respect for their sacred site Wirikuta, San Luis Potosi, threatened by foreign and domestic mining and agricultural entrepreneurs

    Antonio Garcia Mijares, coordinator of the event, said the procession will have replicas cited other cities such as Guanajuato and Mexico City, where he intended to make "a Wirikuta eye of God" against the embassy of Canada because this nation belongs to the company First Majestic Silver, with its Mexican partners, they aim to extract silver from the subsoil of Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, whose latches are the main ceremonial center of all Wixárica culture.

    "Wirikuta is where the sun rose, which had a time of darkness when you open the time of men, hence from the main lines that identify us as a culture, there once went deer and walking in his footsteps, Wirikuta became the peyote, and corn flowers out of five colors [...]" They ask that all Mexicans join the protest.

    The site that is affected is referred to in Haux Manaka Pact for the Preservation and Development of Culture Wixárica held on April 22, 2008 in which the President of the Republic, Felipe Calderón, and the governors of Nayarit, Durango, Jalisco, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi pledged to take necessary actions to protect, preserve and promote the historical continuity of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Huichol people in a special way which is undertaken to go to Wirikuta.

    Wirikuta site is integrated into the UNESCO list as "one of the fourteen most important sacred sites of the world" is subject Natural and Cultural; Region Priority Terrestrial Tokyo No 80 (RTP - CONABIO); fate of Traditional Route Huichol to Wirikuta inscribed on the Tentative List of Mexican natural World Heritage Convention and Cultural Unesco habitat for dozens of species of flora and fauna endemic, rare, threatened and endangered species under special protection by the Standard NOM-059-ECOL.

    The appointment to all citizens who wish to join the demonstration will be this Friday at 9:00 pm in the Glorieta de la Normal, for an hour before leaving for the Government Palace where he will deliver a petition of support. These days, will also perform a demonstration in Vancouver, Canada, off the premises of the company's mining and delivered a list of demands at the UN headquarters in New York, by emissaries of the Huichol people. Complete information on the web:

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Agustín del Castillo

  5. torachi
    [imgl=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=1583&pictureid=13452[/imgl]Members of indigenous communities from the isolated highlands of northern Jalisco marched Friday in Guadalajara in protest at the Mexican government's decision to allow a Canadian mining company to explore and develop mineral deposits in a part of San Luis Potosi State they say is a sacred area for their people.

    The 6,327-hectare property lies in the Real de Catorce region, 25 kilometers west of Matehuala, and was purchased by Vancouver-based First Majestic Silver Corporation in November 2009. Almost 70 percent of the land falls inside a sacred area for the Wixárika (the traditional name for the Huichols), who make an annual pilgrimage there to carry out religious observances and gather peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus.

    As well as Huichols, Friday morning's march included students and members of NGOs that are calling for the federal government to revoke the mining concession.

    Local reporters commented that they couldn't recall a previous occasion when so many members of an indigenous tribe had taken part in a demonstration in Guadalajara.

    [imgr=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=1583&pictureid=13453[/imgr]Similar protests took place simultaneously outside the United Nations headquarters in New York and in Vancouver, Canada, organizers said.

According to march spokesman Antonio García Mijares, UNESCO considers the disputed land among the world's 14 most important sacred sites.

    First Majestic said in a recent press release that Real de Cartorce will become “an important mine for the region and help the community create new jobs and increase the economic opportunities in the area.” First Majestic owns three other producing silver mines in Mexico.

    FRIDAY, MAY 20 2011 16:44


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