The San José Mine of Minera Cuzcatlán, a subsidiary of Fortuna Silver, is at risk of being closed after its environmental permit expired last month and it does not appear that the government will approve its extension anytime soon. Currently, the mine can continue to operate due to a court order. However, the permit is only temporary, for which its future remains uncertain.
On Oct. 23, the company's main environmental impact permit (MIA) expired. The permit was granted for a 12-year period ending in 2021, for which Minera Cuzcatlán pushed for a 10-year extension in May 2021. However, SEMARNAT denied the permit, saying there is a pending evaluation on the regulation of the mine's infrastructure in addition to an indigenous consultation.
The mine has also four other environmental impact authorizations that will expire in 2022, 2025, 2026 and 2029. The company said that the 10-year extension was requested in a timely manner and despite that it is a standard process, its approval has been denied. SEMARNAT emphasized that its approval will depend mainly on the consultation of nearby indigenous Zapotec communities. However, it has not provided information on how and when it will be, even though the project has run out of time.
For months, habitants of San Jose del Progreso in Oaxaca have asked SEMARNAT authorities to not close the mine. They argue that without the mine, more than 2,000 families could potentially be left without their main source of income. However, there are also opponents of the project who say it affects the environment and the health of its citizens. Minera Cuzcatlán has stated the mine has been the recurrent victim of false news and a campaign of contempt, especially after heavy rains caused tailings sediments to reach the El Coyote creek. Despite CONAGUA declaring that the stream's water is metal-free and a remediation plan was not necessary, the company continues to be criticized.
The municipal president of San José del Progreso, Amador Jaime Vásquez Gómez, stressed that the company is socially and environmentally responsible, for which “a respectful collaborative relationship has been maintained, and has allowed us to carry out programs and actions for the benefit of more than 8,000 community residents.” State authorities and Country Director of Compañía Minera Cuzcatlán, Luiz Camargo, has invited SEMARNAT authorities, President López Obrador and any one else who might have any doubts about the company's operations to visit the mine and see how it works and its impact on the region with the aim of finding an immediate solution.