Mining Giants Rob Water From Millions of Mexicans Every Year
Greenpeace activists kayak in front of the El Salto waterfall in Juanacatlan, Mexico, to protest contamination and promote water conservation, March 22, 2012. | Photo: EFE
While nearly 14 million Mexicans do not have taps in their home, transnational mining corporations suck up billions of gallons of the precious resource.
Over 400 mines in Mexico use enough water to meet the annual needs of 3.2 million people, more than one-fifth of the Mexican population without running water in their homes, according to an investigation reported by local media Monday.
With a whopping 115.3 billion gallons (436.6 million cubic meters) of annual water used annually by 417 mining companies doing business in the state, researchers are increasingly concerned about rising water scarcities, not to mention the water rights of 13.8 million people across the company without access to running water in their homes.
What’s more, transnational companies, mostly based in North America, are the biggest beneficiaries of Mexico’s mining industry.
Water shortages are particularly felt in the northern part of the country, where the state of Sonora sees the largest volume of water go towards mining, at about 28.5 billion gallons per year. The smaller states of Zacatecas and Michoacan, divert about half as much water to mining as does Sonora.
Together, the three states—which are dominated by mining projects by Canadian companies, according to data from Mexico’s Interior Ministry—account for half of the total annual water use by mining companies in the country, according to the study.
And the mining corporations in Zacatecas use more water than the entire local population. The Canadian mining giant Goldcorp, through its local subsidiary Peñasquito, is far and away the biggest water consumer in the region with a total of nearly 12 million gallons of groundwater use every year.
The main researcher in the new study, Manuel Llano, stressed that the industry impacts both water availability and quality due to high consumption, contamination, and destruction of important water sources through mining activities in the country, the Mexican daily La Jornada reported.
According to public data from Mexico’s Interior Ministry, the country is home to 926 transnational and local mines in various stages of exploration, development, and production. A total of 293 foreign-owned mining companies operate in the country, many with multiple projects. Canadian transnationals make up the vast majority with 205 of the foreign companies operating in the country, followed by the United States with 46, China with 10, and smaller numbers from other countries including Australia, the United Kingdom, and Peru.
Canadian mining corporations have a notorious record in Latin America and Africa. Earlier this year, over 200 environmental, Indigenous, and human rights organizations petitioned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make Canadian mining corporations more accountable for human rights violations and environmental destruction caused in overseas operations, scores of cases of which have long gone unpunished.