6 Years After Rio Sonora Mining Spill, Contamination Continues

By Kendal Blust
Published: Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - 2:51pm
Updated: Thursday, August 6, 2020 - 7:21am

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Rio Sonora
Kendal Blust/KJZZ
The Rio Sonora flows through the town of Baviácora, Sonora, on July 30, 2019.

Damage from the Aug. 6, 2014, spill at Grupo México’s Buenavista copper mine still hasn’t been fixed, according to Mexico’s environmental ministry, SEMARNAT.

In a statement Wednesday, SEMARNAT soil tested areas affected by the spill still shows signs of contamination, and that compensation and remediation from Grupo México has been inadequate.

Residents of communities downstream from the mine, however, say neither the mining company nor the government has followed through with promises to address the continued environmental, economic and health consequences of the disaster on communities along the Rio Sonora.

Victor Manuel Toledo
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Mexico's Environmental Secretary Victor Manuel Toledo at a meeting about the Rio Sonora region on Dec. 18, 2019.

"There hasn't been any progress on anything we've been promised," said Jose Manuel Lopez, a lifelong resident of the Sonora River Valley and a member for the Sonora River Valley Committees, which have been pushing for disaster relief for six years now.

To mark the sixth anniversary of the spill, and to work toward justice remediation and their right not to experience the same kind of castrophy again, the Sonora River Valley Committees are making six demands of the Mexican government: a guarantee of clean, sufficient water; adequate health care; a reactivation of the regional economy; an end to preferential treatment of the mine over local communities; community participation in decisions about compensation and remediation and the cancellation of a new tailings dam at the Buenavista mine.

"These are the same things we've been asking for since the beginning." Lopez said, adding that during the pandemic, access to clean water and health services is more important than ever.

"The health crisis has just made everything worse," he said. "And many people are already sick here because of the effects of the contamination."

In its statement Wednesday, the environmental ministry said it is still committed to following through with its promises and set new deadlines for measures it said were postponed because of the pandemic.

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