Mining Policy: The Why and How of the Mining Law Reform
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Mining Policy: The Why and How of the Mining Law Reform

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Sofía Garduño By Sofía Garduño | Journalist & Industry Analyst - Wed, 07/05/2023 - 10:13

The reform of Mexico's Mining Law represents a significant advance in the regulation of mining activities, seeking to safeguard human rights and preserve the environment. The incorporated changes reflect a more inclusive approach, considering social impacts, promoting the participation of indigenous peoples and Afro-Mexican communities and encouraging equitable distribution of economic benefits.

"The objective of implementing the framework outlined in the 2030 Agenda is to eradicate poverty," says Martin Rafael González, General Director of Mining Development, Ministry of Economy. 

The Mining and Regional Development, as well as the Second Legislative Studies committees of the Senate, approved without changes the bill that reforms the Mining Law, resulting in substantial changes to the regulation of mining activities in Mexico. This reform has modified a total of 45 articles, with the addition of 15 new provisions and the removal of four previous ones. The reform also includes a chapter that focuses on notifications and another that addresses mining-related offenses, explains González.

The reform is guided by core values, including the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, the preservation of the environment and the guarantee of the right to health and access to water resources. 

The main changes in the Mining Law focus on addressing the social impacts caused by mining activities, including those that occur during exploration and exploitation of mineral resources. Moreover, the reform promotes equitable distribution of the resources generated by the mining industry, ensuring that economic benefits are fairly shared at the national level.

The reform also mandates a prior consultation with indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples and communities. The consultation must be free, informed, culturally appropriate and conducted in good faith. This measure guarantees their participation in decisions affecting their territories and rights, recognizing their importance and valuing their perspectives. 

“The reform embodies the essence of three international legal instruments, namely the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” says González. 

The length of mining concessions has also been modified from 50 to 30 years, with the possibility of two extensions of 25 years each, subject to participation in the corresponding processes. This aims to encourage greater competition and participation in the mining sector.

The reform also establishes stricter measures in terms of worker safety, explains González. It includes the appointment of an engineer responsible for compliance with safety regulations, while reducing the deadline for reporting accidents. It also considers the suspension of operations in case of non-compliance with safety regulations. Failure to adhere to safety standards protecting workers is also classified as a criminal offense.

Environmental protection is a crucial component of the Mining Law reform. Mining concessions are now conditioned upon water availability. Moreover, concession holders are obliged to design a mine closure plan that ensures the proper restoration of affected areas. “While not groundbreaking, from a social standpoint, this plan is being proposed for the first time,” says González.

The reforms also included the modification of other laws, including the National Water Law, the General Law on Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection and the General Law on the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste. These changes aim to strengthen the protection of human rights and the environment within the context of mining activities.

Opposition to the Mining Reform has intensified in recent months. Legislators have filed an action of unconstitutionality to suspend the Mining Law, as they claim it violates the congressional process. Meanwhile, several mining companies have filed judicial appeals against it. First Majestic Silver became the first company to obtain a provisional injunction against the Mining Law Reform. The provisional suspension is the first of many legal disputes expected from other mining companies affected by the reform.

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