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Trading Our Water for Gold

Open pit mining

"You say you love your children above all things,
and yet you steal their future in front of their own eyes."

- Greta Thunberg

by Colette Morya

I attended the march and event "Climate Action for the Future" that took place in San Miguel de Allende on Friday, September 20. A group of mostly women who were part of that mobilization caught my attention. A couple of them held a canvas with the phrase: "WATER FOR LIFE NOT FOR THE MINE." I approached and asked one of them, "Excuse me, what mine are you talking about?"

She filled me in, telling me the story: "We are originally from a community called San Anton de las Minas, which is part of the municipality of Dolores Hidalgo. The Canadian company Argonaut Gold wants to open an open pit mine and exploit Cerro del Gallo to get gold, silver and copper. Those men analyzed the soil of the entire community, for years. They made clear their intention to buy all the land. But they were most interested in the landy where the church is located, where San Antonio de Padua is venerated, since they discovered that there was gold under the church and on the stones with which it is built." The mining company wants to crush the stones of which the church is built to extract the gold in them.

The church at risk

"The residents of this community and 35 others in the surrounding area are rejecting this project because of the environmental and water pollution that would be generated, since the processes to extract gold would poison the Independence Basin, an aquifer that supplies Dolores with water Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, San Luis de la Paz, San José Iturbide, among other nearby municipalities. We would be the first to receive dirty water, but it would also come to you," she pointedly told me.

The inhabitants of the San Anton community took advantage of that Friday's event to be heard, not by the Government, but by the inhabitants of San Miguel de Allende, including the foreign and artistic community. "Perhaps with their help this project will be stopped in time because it will also harm them." This was the last sentence she uttered before the larger assembly began chanting together "The people, united, will never be defeated!" At that moment the march began.

Protesting the mine

Five days later, on Wednesday, September 25, I also was present at a press conference that was held at Representatives of the 16 associations that make up the Agua Vida Coalition attended. Where the the indices of water pollution in San Miguel de Allende were discussed. It was noted that the levels of arsenic in some wells, were at the maximum limit of the world standard. I felt a 'Déjà vu'. I had already lived this, and not from another life, but from some years ago. I am from Torreón Coahuila, a young city in the north of the Mexican Republic. It is overwhelmingly industrial. Due to the over-exploitation of the aquifer, for years the limits of arsenic in the water have been exceeded. Currently this vital liquid is running out and they are already seeing how to make the dam's water drinkable to put a solution to the shortage in this region.

The countryside at risk

Here in Guanajuato something very similar is happening, Eighty percent of the water in our state is destined for the big Agro-companies, and they don't even pay a peso for it. Thanks to that abuse of the aquifer, the water of the entire region, including SMA now contains arsenic and fluoride. Random tests were carried out in the colonias of San Luis Rey, San Antonio, Providencia and Santa Julia, finding that it was already at the top of the recommended limits. Due to this contamination, cases of kidney disease have already been detected in some citizens, as problems with bones and teeth.

Agua Vida as a coalition is working for the conservation of the ecosystem. It seeks to reverse the ecological imbalance in the aquifers that is a consequence of the accelerated growth of SMA. In response to the call on the municipality to improve the water situation, through the citizen consultation on the "Municipal Urban Development and Ecological Planning Program", a positive response from the government is being expected, an ecological action plan.

Also, discussed at the Wednesday press conference was the case of the mine in San Anton. It was assumed that toxic mining is not allowed in this region of Guanajuato. If the permit is granted, the effect on the aquifers of the Independence Basin, (since it is in the lower part) would automatically contaminate the water of the seven surrounding municipalities that supply it, including San Miguel.

Roberto of 'Educación Colaborativa' mentioned curious fact; Guanajuato is the 2nd worst state in Mexico in matters of water scarcity; “It's about to become a place without water.”

I felt a silent chill when I learned about the scarcity and contamination of water in San Miguel. When I lived in Torreón I was very sick. Miraculously I completely recovered after going to live in a cleaner town. I cannot not help thinking, that perhaps it will again be necessary to find another place to live.
At the same time I am hopeful that the government's response will be positive and that forces will join to reverse climate change and the water crisis. We have everything we need for San Miguel to become an example to follow, nationally and internationally.

Facebook: The Collective of the Guardians of the Independence Basin


The countryside at risk

Documento para la ponencia del foro ante la variación y crisis climática en San Miguel de Allende

Coalición en Defensa de la Cuenca de la Independencia


Colette Morya, writer and nomad, is editor of the new Lokkal Community section of San Miguel Sunday.

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