Ixtaca On Halt Due to Detected COVID-19 CasesBy Antonio Trujillo | Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:29
Canada-based Almaden Minerals is halting drilling operations at the Ixtaca gold-silver project in Puebla due to an unusually high rise in COVID-19 cases among its workers.
The Ixtaca gold-silver project in the Sierra Norte region of Puebla is the company’s foremost and “vanguard” projects, according to ESG criteria. Discovered in 2010, the project has had a long history of skirmishes with the federal government, mainly due to environmental regulations and permits with adjacent communities, as well as long-established ejidos. Almaden is the sole proprietor of the project adopting a long-overdue human rights policy to both uphold their company values and regularize treatment and negotiations with locals.
“As the Ixtaca project advances, so does its potential to impact human rights both directly and indirectly. This policy reflects the importance of these matters to Almaden, and reiterates the priority we place on human rights when it comes to project design and operation,” said the company some time ago.
Almaden had just restarted operations at Ixtaca in March following a permit legal battle. The COVID-19 cases detected by the company’s protocols affected only local staff, “none of the drilling or core logging and processing teams have tested positive for the virus,” announced the company. Quarantine measures have been put in place and local health authorities are being contacted to deal with the matter.
COVID-19, though, is not the only pressing issue for Almaden; for instance, MBN’s 2021 edition of the Mexico Mining Forum featured Almaden Minerals’ branch in Mexico called Minera Gorrión, as well as its vice president Daniel Santamaría. Mr. Santamaría’s participation at the forum dealt with the project’s issues and complications with permits and regulatory bodies. Ixtaca had its Environmental Impact Statement (MIA) denied by SEMARNAT and also an amparo was put into place by the ejidos and their owners with respect to the concession. Almaden changed its model to avoid including the ejidos in operations. “Even though this concerns an environmental permit, the issue we need to address is one with the community. Inspiring confidence in the operation from the community is key,” said Mr. Santamaría.
Through the adopted human rights policy, Almaden also hopes to renew its social license, “[A]t Almaden, we firmly believe that permanent social licenses do not really exist. They must be earned and nurtured every single day, working together with local communities, government institutions, media and other relevant stakeholders,” the company stated.
Infrastructure built for the duration of the project will be left behind in benefit of the community, per company announcement, where it also stated that no wildlife nor archaeological sites are being or will be damaged. Furthermore, Santamaría concluded by saying that Almaden will “amplify its efforts to spread the benefits of Ixtaca to local communities.” For now, the company is preparing a new MIA.