Silver for the global market, destruction for the Huicholes in Mexico

Huicholes at Wirikuta
5,939 supporters

End of campaign: May 22, 2014

Mining companies are cashing in on a bonanza thanks to record high silver prices. The economic benefits to a Canadian mining company, however, do not justify the destruction of Sierra de Catorce in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi, a site of great cultural and spiritual importance to the Native American Huichol (Wixarika) people. Please sign a letter to the Mexican government to demand and end to this mining project and a moratorium on all mining activities in the area.

Call to action

Mining companies are cashing in on a bonanza thanks to record high silver prices. The economic benefits to a Canadian mining company, however, do not justify the destruction of Sierra de Catorce in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi, a site of great cultural and spiritual importance to the Native American Huichol (Wixarika) people. For them, the Sierra de Catorce is the site where the sun was born and where they have their Sacred Springs.

The home page of the Mining Company "First Majestic Silver Corporation" refers to an "aggressive development- and acquisition plan" focused on Mexico. The Huichol people can confirm this, because 22 of the mining concessions are inside the 6326.58 hectares of their sacred desert "Wirikuta", surrounding the beautiful town of Real de Catorce.

Published plans involve opencast and deep mining in Wirikuta, using poisonous cyanide to separate the silver from the ore. For every gram of gold or silver, one tonne of silver ore have to be crushed and removed and two tonnes of freshwater are used.

The fragile and beautiful Wirikuta desert is not only a sacred Native American site, but also a globally unique ecosystem. The pollution of its rivers and aquifers, its soil and air will affect all inhabitants as well as future generations. It threatens endangered animal and plant species, some of them endemic, such as a large variety of protected cacti species found nowhere else in the world. Eagles, Mexico's national symbol, are amongst the animals threatened by mining.

Every year, the Huichol make a pilgrimage to Wirikuta, to keep alive the "Route of the Sierra Huichol", to ask there God for rain, livelihood and health for the people. The Huichol are one of the Mesoamerican peoples who have preserved their cosmogony, their customs, the ancestral knowledge and their sacred places "from generation to generation over thousands of years", according to their representatives. The mining concessions are seen as causing irreparable damage to this heritage. "This is much more important than any wealth promised by mining activities", according to the Huichol.

Mining is not a new concern in this region. Real de Catorce turned colonial Mexico into one of the world's biggest silver producers before independence. Yet even during the greatest moments of this glory, neither the local population nor the miners benefitted in any way, instead they were forced into slavery-like conditions. The current boom in the silver markets threatens to repeat this disastrous experience for local people and for the environment.

The Huichol have formulated a Statement in Defense of Wirikuta, in which they demand the cancellation of the mining concessions and a moratorium on any mining or quarrying in Real de Catorce. Please sign the letter below, which is an adapted version of the Huichol's resolution and which will be sent to the Mexican authorities.

Read here a translation of the letter into english.

Back­ground

To:
Fernando Toranzo Fernández, Constitutional Governor of San Luis Potosí
Jardín Hidalgo No 11 Planta Alta
C.P. 78200, San Luis Potosí
S.L.P. México.

Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment (SEMARNAT)
Blvd. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines 4209
Jardines en la Montaña
P. 14210 México, D.F.

Bruno Ferrari García de Alba, Secretary of Economy
Alfonso Reyes No. 30 Col. Hipódromo Condesa
C.P. 06140 Delegación Cuauhtémoc, México, D.F.

Lic. Manuel Barrera Guillén, State governments Secretary of Ecology and Environmental Management (SEGAMA)
Venustiano Carranza No. 1630,
C.P. 78250 San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Arq. Luis Nava Calvillo Secretary of Urban Development and Public Works (SEDUVOP)
Cordillera Himalaya No. 295 Garita de Jalisco
C.P. 78299 San Luis Potosí, Mexico


Dear Mr Fernando Toranzo Fernández, Mr Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Mr Bruno Ferrari García de Alba, Mr Manuel Barrera Guillén and Mr Luis Nava Calvillo,

The Huichol or people of the Wixaríka have been making pilgrimages to the Sacred Place of Wirikuta since times immemorial. They regard Wirikuta, in the semi-desert of Real de Catorce, as the place where the Sun was born. Their prayers call for maintaining the life of all living beings, so that their ancient culture Wixaria does not disappear.

 

Mining threatens to contaminate the sacred springs with cyanide and to deplete them because of the large quantities of water required for silver mining. The silver veins lie directly next to the springs. According to the National Water Commission, the groundwater in the area is already overexploited and has a low capacity to recover.

 

The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, has exacerbated the war of extermination against indigenous peoples. Imposed laws, such as the Mining Law, have led to a situation in which the Sacred Places in the desert of Real de Catorce are now subject to 22 different concessions across 6.326 hectares, all of which have been granted to the transnational Canadian mining company First Majestic SilverCorp. Both opencast and deep mining are planned. The polluting cyanide method will be use to separate the silver from the ore.

First Majestic Silver Corporation's mining project violates indigenous peoples' rights, recognised by ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It also breaches numerous other laws, legal standards and policies, such as the Natural Protected Area Management Programme, the General Law on the Prevention and Integrated Management of Hazardous Waste, the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, the Environmental Law of the State of San Luis Potosi and the Law of the Consultation of Indigenous Peoples of the State of San Luis Potosi.

Mining in the concession areas will irreversibly damage 16 population centres of six "ejidos" (indigenous community lands), as well as numerous villages in the surrounding lowlandg. Overall, around 3,500 people will directly suffer by having their freshwater sources contaminated.

In addition to the above,

1. I declare my profound disapproval of the mining project by the transnational First Majestic Silver Corp. in the desert of Real de Catorce, because this sacred place is of immesurable value to all Wixarikan people;

2. I demand the immediate cancellation of the 22 mining concessions held by the transnational First Majestic Silver Corp. and an unlimited moratorium on the issuing of concessions for exploitation or exploration for mining in the desert of Real de Catorcen and surrounding areas;

3. I express my concerns about the contamination of freshwater, the depletion of groundwater across the entire area, the increase in pollution, and the increase in diseases caused by the toxins and chemical residues from mining;

4. I demand that the Mexican State immediately implements development strategies which are in harmony with the natural environment and the livelihoods of the residents of Wirikuta;

5. I call on the City Council of the Municipality of Real de Catorce not to issue municipal building-or land use-permits, because the residents in the municipality do not want the mine.

6. I support the recourse to national and international laws and acts of peaceful civil resistance required to stop the mining project.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Letter

Fernando Toranzo Fernández, Gobernador constitucional de San Luis Potosí
Jardín Hidalgo No 11 Planta Alta
C.P. 78200, San Luis Potosí
S.L.P. México.

Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Secretario de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)
Blvd. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines 4209
Jardines en la Montaña
P. 14210 México, D.F.

Bruno Ferrari García de Alba, Secretario de Economía
Alfonso Reyes No. 30 Col. Hipódromo Condesa
C.P. 06140 Delegación Cuauhtémoc, México, D.F.

Lic. Manuel Barrera Guillén, Secretario de Gestión Ambiental de Gobierno del Estado (SEGAMA) Venustiano Carranza No. 1630,
C.P. 78250 San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Arq. Luis Nava Calvillo Secretario de Desarrollo Urbano Vivienda y Obras Públicas (SEDUVOP) Cordillera Himalaya No. 295 Garita de Jalisco
C.P. 78299 San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Estimados Sres. Autoridades:

El Pueblo Wixarika o Huichol peregrina desde tiempos inmemoriales al lugar sagrado de Wirikuta, recreando una larga ruta que ya recorrieron sus antepasados, hasta el lugar donde nació el sol en el semi-desierto de Real de Catorce. Sus rezos piden que la vida se mantenga para todos los seres vivientes, para que la antigua cultura Wixarika no desaparezca.

Los manantiales sagrados corren grave riesgo de contaminación por cianuro y desecamiento por las grandes cantidades de agua que usa la industria minera de plata, ya que las venas de plata se encuentran junto a los mismos. De acuerdo a la Comisión Nacional del Agua, el acuífero se encuentra sobreexplotado y su capacidad de recuperación es muy baja.

El Tratado de Libre Comercio de America del Norte TLCAN, ha agudizado la guerra de exterminio contra los pueblos indígenas. Leyes impuestas como la de Minería han llevado a que los lugares sagrados en el desierto de Real de Catorce sean hoy objeto de 22 concesiones en 6,326 hectáreas otorgadas a la trasnacional minera canadiense First Majestic Silver. Tanto minería subterránea como a cielo abierto están planificadas. Se utilizará el método contaminante de lixiviación con cianuro.

El proyecto minero de First Majestic Silver viola los derechos indígenas reconocidos en el convenio 169 de la OIT y la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas; y numerosos otros Programas, Leyes y Normas ( Programa de Manejo del Área Natural Protegida; Ley General para la Prevención y Gestión integral de los Residuos Peligrosos; Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y Protección al Ambiente, Ley Ambiental del Estado de San Luis Potosí; Ley de Consulta a Pueblos Indígenas del estado de San Luis Potosí ).

El daño afectará de manera irreversible a 16 centros de población de 6 Ejidos dentro de la superficie concesionada, así como a numerosas localidades del bajío que sufrirán los efectos negativos sobre las fuentes de agua, sumando unas 3500 personas afectadas.

De acuerdo a las consideraciones anteriores:

1. Manifiesto mi profundo rechazo al proyecto minero de la trasnacional First Majestic Silver en el desierto de Real de Catorce, pues los lugares sagrados son un patrimonio de un valor incuantificable para toda la descendencia Wixarika.

2. Exijo la cancelación inmediata de las 22 concesiones mineras en poder de la trasnacional First Majestic Silver y una moratoria indefinida para que no se expidan nuevos permisos de explotación o exploración en el desierto de Real de Catorce ni en ningún lugar circunvecino.

3. Comunico mi fundada preocupación sobre la contaminación y desecamiento del agua que beben, del incremento de contaminación y enfermedades debido a los venenos y residuos químicos de la minería.

4. Exijo al Estado Mexicano que de manera inmediata implemente estrategias para la mejora de vida de los habitantes de Wirikuta, armónicas con el medio ambiente.

5. Pido a las autoridades municipales del H. Ayuntamiento de Real de Catorce que no expida permisos municipales de construcción o de uso de suelo pues los habitantes del municipio no desean la mina.

6. Apoyo el uso de de recursos jurídicos nacionales e internacionales así como acciones de resistencia civil y pacífica necesarias para detener el proyecto minero.

En defensa de Wirikuta: ¡El gobierno debe cumplir las leyes en defensa de los pueblos indígenas!

A la espera de su respuesta, atentamente,