Sonorans Protest Against Mining Company After Sulfuric Acid Spill

By Kendal Blust
Published: Friday, July 19, 2019 - 10:10am
Updated: Friday, July 19, 2019 - 10:11am

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Protesters ask for Grupo México
Kendal Blust/KJZZ
Protesters ask for Grupo México's concession to be withdrawn during a demonstration in Hermosillo, Sonora, on July 17, 2019.

Mexico’s largest mining company has come under fire for causing environmental damage after it spilled sulfuric acid into the Sea of Cortez last week. Now protesters are calling on the Mexican government to oust the mining company.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Grupo México’s office in the Sonoran capital Hermosillo on Wednesday. They’re demanding the Mexican government revoke the company’s mining concessions.

“In the short term, as soon as possible, withing weeks, we want the government of Mexico to withdraw Grupo México’s concessions,” said Alejandro Valenzuela. He’s a 33-year-old teacher in Hermosillo who helped organize the protest.

The protest came a week after the mining company spilled 3,000 liters of sulfuric acid into the Sea of Cortez at the Port of Guaymas, Sonora, on July 9. Researchers have said the damage was minimal. But Valenzuela calls it the final straw.

“Now’s the moment when citizens have to put a stop to this environmental damage,” he said. “It’s not about what happened in Guaymas. It’s about (the company’s) entire black history.”

Kendal Blust/KJZZ
Protesters take to the street outside the Grupo México's office in Hermosillo, Sonora, on July 17, 2019.

He said Sonora still hasn’t recovered from another Grupo México disaster five years ago.

In August 2014, the company’s Buenvista copper mine spilled 10 million gallons of copper sulfate acid solution into the Bananuchi and Sonora rivers. It’s considered among the worst environmental disasters in Mexican history.

Mexico’s environmental agency SEMARNAT said this week that Grupo México is being investigated for 22 cases of environmental damage in Mexico since 1998.

Grupo México did not respond to requests for comment.

The company is among the world’s largest copper producers, with Asarco, a U.S. subsidiary, based in Tucson.

Protesters say they will gather again on Friday evening outside government buildings in Sonora. Another protest is also planned in Mexico City Friday afternoon.

Alejandro Valenzuela
Kendal Blust/KJZZ
Alejandro Valenzuela (left) holds up a poster at the protests against Grupo México in Hermosillo, Sonora, on July 17, 2019.
Grupo Mexico protest
Kendal Blust/KJZZ
Protesters hold up signs outside the Grupo México office in Hermosillo, Sonora, on July 17, 2019.
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