Cinco de Mayo, Mexico
Cinco de Mayo is a silver, gold, zinc, lead and molybdenum mine situated about 190km north of the city of Chihuahua, in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. It is 100% owned by MAG Silver, a Vancouver-based company. It is divided in four major mineralized zones: the upper Manto silver-lead-zinc body, the Pegaso deep discovery, the Pozo Seco high grade molybdenum-gold resource area and the surrounding Cinco de Mayo exploration area[i]. The conflicts that have arisen concern the Manto and Pegaso areas, where the members of the Ejido Benito Juarez have opposed the mine, expressing concern about the heavy use of ground water in this arid region[ii].
The exploration drilling at Cinco de Mayo began in late 2006[iii]. It lead to the discovery of mineralization rich in silver and lead in the Upper Manto and in zinc, copper and gold in the Pegaso zone. In 2009, molybdenum and gold were discovered in the Pozo Seco region, but no conflict arose in this section of the mine, considering that it is private property, as opposed to the Upper Manto and Pegaso zones, which belong to the Ejido Benito Juarez.
As of May 2012, exploration drilling permits in Mexico require a Soil Use Change Permit in order to convert the land from agricultural to industrial use. In 2012, exploration drillings therefore stopped in the Pegaso area while the company tried to obtain the Soil Use Change Permit. To obtain this permit, MAG Silver needed surface access permissions from the Ejido Benito Juarez, which it was negotiating in late 2012. The company had previously bought 41 land rights for $660, 000 from Ejido members, but the purchase was later challenged by members claiming “the 41 rights purchased represented a 41/421 undivided interest in the Ejido owned surface rights, rather than rights to exclusive areas of the property”[iv].
On October 22, 2012, a member of the Ejido, Ismael Solorio Urritia, and his wife Manuela Solis Contreras, both leaders of El Barzon, a group of agrarian activists, were shot dead while they were driving on the highway outside of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc. Rumors spread that MAG Silver was involved in the killing[v]. Activists gathered in front of government buildings in Chihuahua City demanding justice. They affirmed that the murders were the culmination of a campaign against El Barzon, which had been denounced to the Secretary of State one week prior to the killings. The activists denounced some alleged ongoing attacks on Solorio Urrutia and his family. On October 13, Solorio Urrutia and his son had been allegedly beaten by a group of men paid by El Cascabel, a subsidiary of MAG Silver[vi].
The uprising lead to an Ejido assembly on November 17, which MAG accused of having been “illegally constituted”[vii]. The Ejido voted to expel MAG and to establish a 100 year moratorium on mining. Shortly after, the case was brought to court. Other members of the Ejido, supportive of MAG because of the economic benefits it brings, challenged the November 17 meeting on grounds of failure to provide proper notice, fraudulent signatures and irregularities in votes[viii]. MAG was confident that the assembly and the decisions that had been taken would be nullified but in 2013, the Fifth Unified Agrarian Tribunal gave its decision and did not call into question the legitimacy of the November 17 Assembly. The ruling was appealed in front of the Mexican Supreme Court[ix].
Meanwhile, MAG Silver continues to negotiate with members of the Ejido in hopes of reaching a compromise. In 2012, it reiterated its commitment to define a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility Program (CSR). Among the CSR commitments that have already been presented to the community are: “repair to the existing medical clinic and staffing it with a full-time doctor and nurse; improving the infrastructure at the local elementary school; offering scholarships to the regional secondary, high school and college programs; developing micro-business opportunities in the town of Benito Juarez; and a cash component”[x].
-Last updated: January 29, 2015
[i] “Cinco De Mayo.” MAG Silver Corp. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.magsilver.com/s/CincodeMayo.asp.
[ii] “International Solidarity with Families of Murdered Mining Activists Opposed to MAG Silver in Chihuahua, México.” Mining Watch. October 31, 2012. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/international-solidarity-families-murdered-mining-activists-opposed-mag-silver-chihuahua-m-xico.
[iii] Robertson, Ken. “MAG Silver Corporation, Cinco De Mayo Project North-central Chihuahua, Mexico.” Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.dmec.ca/ex07-dvd/E07/Workshop6/6.pdf.
[iv] “Cinco De Mayo.” MAG Silver Corp. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.magsilver.com/s/CincodeMayo.asp.
[v] “MAG Silver to Challenge Illegal Eviction From Cinco De Mayo.” Yahoo Finance. November 20, 2012. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/mag-silver-challenge-illegal-eviction-133000138.html.
[vi] “Murder of Anti-Mining Activists in Mexico a State Crime | Vancouver Media Co-op.” Murder of Anti-Mining Activists in Mexico a State Crime | Vancouver Media Co-op. October 24, 2012. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/13848.
[vii] “Cinco De Mayo.” MAG Silver Corp. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.magsilver.com/s/CincodeMayo.asp.
[viii] “Cinco De Mayo.” MAG Silver Corp. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.magsilver.com/s/CincodeMayo.asp.
[ix] “News Releases.” MAG Silver Corp. February 17, 2014. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.magsilver.com/s/NewsReleases.asp?ReportID=623213.
[x] “Cinco De Mayo.” MAG Silver Corp. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.magsilver.com/s/CincodeMayo.asp.