In the near term, perhaps the greatest threat to Loreto’s sustainable future is the prospect of a large-scale mining operation being sited here. Nearly 200,000 acres in the municipality are now under mining concession (although no exploitation permits have yet been applied for).
Specialized mining exploration companies from Australia and Canada have been aggregating mining concessions in the most promising areas. Azure Minerals reported to its shareholders that “Surface sampling was very successful for copper and gold. Stage 2 exploration, comprising detailed surface mapping and sampling, has recently been completed, with results awaited.” We have developed separate documents that provide additional details.
Mining concessions, unfortunately, overlap and abut the San Juan Londo watershed, which provides nearly all of the drinking water for Loreto. If a mine were to be permitted, mining-related caustics leaching into the aquifer, or being flushed into the Park during a flooding event or failed holding pond dam, could be catastrophic. Mining operations could pollute the air, drinking water, watershed, view-shed, family-oriented social sector, and Park ecosystems.
Eco-Alianza has monitored this potentially devastating threat for several years, and was instrumental in working with the municipal government to enact one of México’s first POELs, a local ordinance that strictly limits mining activities in the municipality. The legislation was passed nearly unanimously, with minimal dissent.
Although it is not possible to outlaw mining (under Mexican Federal law), the 400- page ordinance is designed to make the establishment of a large-scale mining operation cost prohibitive if not impossible. This municipal ordinance is untested in court and the international mining companies involved are well funded. Accordingly, continued vigilance and preparation are called for. Although a legal challenge is not imminent, environmental attorneys from CEMDA and DAN think it is probable.
We are expanding our Loreto Watershed Campaign as part of an overall strategy to defend Loreto’s ground water and aquifers, and protect the watershed basins against toxic economic activities, including mining. Scientists from both of our “sister” universities are available to update hydrology studies and provide well-researched scientific benchmarks that could serve to refute claims of “no impact” by any future mining industry environmental impact statements.
Our Watershed Protection Campaign has three core elements:
1. Prepare the municipal planning department to correctly interpret and enforce the Plan de Ordenamiento Ecológico Local (POEL) and the Urban Development Plan. The POEL is very specific, dividing the municipality into 94 environmental management units (UGAs) and 184 sub-units, with awide variety of regulations. The Urban Development Plan for the main development corridor of themunicipality includes additional, separate regulations. Our work will use GIS technology to prepare aguide for municipal employees to interpret the POEL when a mining company or developer appliesfor permits. Training workshops will prepare the planning department to assess permit applicationsand interpret the regulations appropriately. Additional workshops will be offered to developers andcompanies interested in proposing projects, encouraging them to strictly follow existing regulationswhen in the planning phase, before submitting plans.
2. Environmental attorneys from CEMDA and DAN have suggested a proactive legal approach toassist and prepare the citizens and the municipality of Loreto to defend the POEL and its intent incourt. We will recruit and engage a team of legal talent and expert witnesses to assess and completeall necessary background work — providing the municipality with a “turnkey” strategy to defendingthe POEL and its ramifications. The municipality’s finances currently would not accommodate thisimportant, proactive legal preparation.
3. To counter industry-slanted, pro-mining propaganda, we will compile and prepare fact- and science-based assessments of the impact of mining projects on host communities. Our water conservation and water testing programs already support a well-informed citizenry, so this project will take our efforts a step further. It will encourage grassroots citizen action by Loretanos who support the POEL and watershed conservation.
Copies of supporting signed agreements available upon request at firstname.lastname@example.org
A. Sister Park Agreement between Mexico and the U.S.
B. Letter of Support from the University of Baja California Sur
C. Agreement between CONANP and Eco-Alianza
D. Agreement between Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto and Eco-Alianza
E. MOU Between University of California and Eco-Alianza