The State of Mexico is one of the main suppliers of rock material for Mexico City, Hidalgo, Puebla and Queretaro. Nonetheless, the government reported that over 44 percent of the quarries operating in the state are working outside of the law, compromising the safety of workers and the environment.
According to the General Directorate of Regulation and Environmental Impact of the State of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment (SMA), there are 101 mines in the state. Of these, two extract metals and 99 extract rock. Together, these mines employ over 4,500 people. Nonetheless, it is believed that there are 80 additional stone mines that operate illicitly, and most of them started operations in response to federal infrastructure projects.
According to Nicolás Mendoza, Director of Regulation and Environmental Impact, SMA, over the years stone mines operated unlawfully. For example, during the development of the New Mexico City International Airport (NAICM), there was a boom of mines in the State of Mexico’s east. “There was great interest from individuals to extract stone material due to the increasing demand for such products. Those that were identified as operating or whose permits expired were reported to the States Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection (PROPAEM) to start legal proceedings and if this is the case, they are charged,” said Mendoza.
However, industry insiders argue that this is not a problem exclusive to previous administrations: during the construction of the Felipe Angeles International Airport (AIFA), many rock mines began their illegal operations to supply sand, rocks and gravel. These mines did not pay taxes, nor did they provide social security to workers or comply with legislation regarding the opening and closure of operations, said Vicente Barranco, President, Regional Chamber of the Sand Industry (CRIA).
The extraction of metals is federally regulated by the Mining Law and the General Law for Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection. Consequently, companies need to report their total extraction. In addition, metal mining companies are supervised by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS)
The quarry companies are regulated by state authorities. In the case of the State of Mexico, it is mainly regulated by the local Ministry of Environment, which asks them to operate in a designated area for mining use and file for an Environmental Impact Assessment (MIA). Unlike metal mining companies, stone material mining companies do not have to report their exact production but simply report their estimated reserves and the quantity of material they intend to extract annually.