dorset chiapas solidarity

December 31, 2014

Megaprojects among Major Causes of Conflict

Filed under: Corporations, Displacement, Indigenous, Mining, Tourism, water — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:55 pm


Megaprojects among Major Causes of Conflict


For over 11 years the Council of Ejidos and Communities opposed to the La Parota dam have been in struggle to defend their territory, culture and identity. Photo Javier Verdin.

For over 11 years the Council of Ejidos and Communities opposed to the La Parota dam have been in struggle to defend their territory, culture and identity. Photo Javier Verdin.

 Correspondents with Fernando Camacho

La Jornada, 30th December 2014

In recent years, megaprojects, including mines, hydroelectric dams, expressways, airports, wind farms, aqueducts and even tourist development, have become one of the main causes of social unrest across the country, report regional correspondents for La Jornada.

This is not only because where megaprojects become established they “deprive” the communities of their natural resources, “ignoring their opinion and their will,” but also because they generate “high levels” of contamination in the soil and water, and [companies] divide the people in order to impose their interests. They are even identified as being responsible for the imprisonment and murder of opposition activists, according to reports by multiple civil society groups.

Mining Companies Impose Their Interests

According to an analysis conducted by this newspaper’s regional correspondents, the mining megaprojects are one of the activities most questioned by the peoples whose lands are exploited by these companies—the majority being foreign—, but specialists from universities and NGOs also object to them.

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal recently reported that mines are a major cause of tension in Latin America, generating about 200 social conflicts in the region, of which about 90 involve Canadian companies that violate the environmental laws of the region where they work and cause the breakdown of the social fabric.

Locally, the Mexican Network of People Affected by the Mining Industry identified at least 35 “hot spots” occasioned by this activity:

  • San Luis Potosí: 10;
  • Oaxaca: 4;
  • Michoacán and Guerrero: 3 each;
  • Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Puebla and Zacatecas: 2 per state; and in
  • Chiapas, Colima, Jalisco, Durango, Morelos and Veracruz: at least 1 in each state.

Furthermore, in virtually all cases, the mining companies violate Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization—signed and ratified by Mexico—, which establishes the right of indigenous communities to prior, free and informed consultation, to ask for their authorization before implementing any economic project in their territories.

A recent case illustrating the lack of controls on mining companies and the ecological damage that they can cause is that of the Buenavista Copper mine and the Cananea mine, subsidiaries of Grupo Mexico. On August 7, 2014, they spilled 45 million litres of copper sulphate and heavy metals into the Bacanuchi and Sonora Rivers. The spill has almost completely paralyzed economic activities in seven Sonora municipalities.

Another prime example illustrating the poor conditions in which miners work, despite the millions in profits for owners of the mining companies, is the Pasta de Conchos mine located in the coal region of Coahuila—also owned by Grupo México. On February 19, 2006, an explosion occurred that trapped 65 workers at a depth of more than 700 metres.

According to the Coahuila Attorney General, the mine exploded from the accumulation of methane gas, which is derived from the extraction of coal and cannot be smelled. Surviving workers and former employees at that mine said the company forced them to work even when electronic sensors detected concentrations of gas that exceeded permissible levels.

Expressways Deprive Communities

Similarly, the construction of expressways is a source of conflicts in various states; above all, because the process is often rife with land grabs, non-payment of compensation and a lack of consultation with affected peoples.

In the state of Mexico, the case of 15 families from the village of San Francisco, whose homes and businesses were demolished to start construction of the Naucalpan expressway to the Toluca Airport, is emblematic. Additionally, they were fined more than 3.7 million pesos for filling in part of a ravine adjoining the lots where they had once lived.

Although they never refused to leave the land, the former landowners claim that state authorities demolished their houses when they were still inhabited, so they could not rescue either their goods or personal documents. Similarly, they never kept promises that they would be compensated, so that they had to resort to legal means to claim the payment of damages.

In Guanajuato, Magdaleno Ramírez, president of the Indigenous State Council and representative of 26 Ñañus communities, appeared before the National Human Rights Commission to report the violation of the rights of indigenous people by the PAN government of Guanajuato while trying to steal their land for construction of the Silao-San Miguel de Allende expressway.

In the complaint, the indigenous leader accused the state of constantly threatening him that it might withdraw the amparo [injunction-like protection] issued against the expressway. The judicial process has stopped construction work.

Another Source of Conflict: Power Plants and Wind Farms

10689664_590724571049895_6459446259659774191_nRegarding power generation initiatives, one of the latest examples is the Morelos Comprehensive Project, through which it is sought to install two combined cycle thermoelectric plants in the village of Huexca, Morelos. The project also includes a gas pipeline of 160 kilometres that will go through 60 villages in three states (Puebla, Tlaxcala and Morelos) and an aqueduct that will transport 50 million litres of water a day.


According to social organizations in the region, the Federal Electricity Commission’s project—where 1.6 million USD would be invested, above all in concessions to the Spanish companies Elecnor and Enagas, and to the Italian company Bonatti—is a “time bomb”. In addition to the environmental implications of the use of different materials in the thermoelectric plants, the gas pipeline would pass through an area of seismic and volcanic activity.

Similarly, in the state of Oaxaca, the installation of 17 wind farms—licensed to 11 international companies—caused several Zapotec and Huave communities on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to organize themselves to resist what they called “the new Conquest”.

In the town of Union Hidalgo, a group of 28 villagers agreed to lease their land to the company Mexican Wind Developments, a subsidiary of the Spanish Renewable Energy company, but after a few months they changed their minds and organized themselves, demanding that the Agriculture Prosecutor decree cessation of the contracts.

Another iconic, recent case of megaprojects begun without asking for the consent of the people is the Independence Aqueduct in the state of Sonora, by which annually 75 million cubic metres of water would be diverted from the Yaqui River watershed to the Sonora River in order to supply water to the city of Hermosillo [Sonora state capital].

Although in 2013 the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation granted an amparo [injunction-like protection] filed by the Yaqui tribe against the environmental impact statement issued by the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources for the aqueduct, it continues to operate while a consultation has not been held among the indigenous people on this issue, and thus has not met the requirements of being free and informed, according to protesters.

Tourist Development

Tourist projects can also become elements of conflict or ecological imbalance, as is demonstrated by the case of the Cabo Cortés project in National Cabo Pulmo Park in Baja California Sur. The project aimed to construct a marina for more than 400 boats, 27,000 hotel rooms, shopping centres and two golf courses in a region of low population density and great water scarcity.

However, in June of 2012, after various civil organizations and academic experts, had for years warned of the infeasibility of the project, then-President Felipe Calderón announced cancellation of the licences granted to the Spanish company Hansa Baja Investments


Translated by Jane Brundage




1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on [Modern Times].

    Comment by aboriginalpress — January 1, 2015 @ 12:54 am

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