Image credits: Compañía Minera Cuzcatlán
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News Article

PROFEPA Clears Cuzcatlán of Water Pollution Allegations

By Alejandro Ehrenberg | Mon, 08/03/2020 - 16:55

Compañía Minera Cuzcatlán, a subsidiary of Fortuna Silver Mines, reported that Mexico’s Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) has cleared the company of any responsibility regarding alleged damage to two stormwater pools located 400m from the San Jose mining unit in Oaxaca.

PROFEPA conducted an inspection on July 30 in response to the concerns of the Magdalena Ocotlan community. According to PROFEPA’s report, the inspection’s aim was to physically verify and to document that the company is complying with its environmental obligations, as well as to validate whether it has caused adverse and measurable loss, change, impairment, affectation or modification to the environment. “The company has not caused infiltrations, discharges or spills of hazardous materials or waste that could impact the outside of the mining company,” concluded the environmental authority.

"We were always certain that we were not connected to the potential affectation of the pools. Our high environmental standards comply with national and international regulations. We would immediately recognize any environmental incident," said Luiz Camargo, Country Manager of Compañía Minera Cuzcatlán. “However, the accusations were not minor. We hope that PROFEPA’s opinion confirms our innocence and gives peace of mind to the community. We have an open-door communication policy to address doubts or concerns,” added Camargo.

Companía Minera Cuzcatlán stated that PROFEPA inspected the company's facilities, with special emphasis on the mineral beneficiation plant, which uses a flotation process, and on the tailings facilities, located in an aquifer basin different from that of the pools. PROFEPA reported that the plant and tailings facilities are operating perfectly. The environmental authority verified that the company has not done anything that could have caused alterations in the color and composition of the water in the rain collection ponds, which is used for animal consumption and irrigation of agricultural areas.

It is relevant to mention that Compañía Minera Cuzcatlán is a frontrunner in Mexico with respect to tailings management. Its tailings are inert and classified by environmental authorities as non-toxic. In an interview with Mexico Business News, Camargo explained that the company’s tailings management begins with the way the company processes ore to ensure that the tailings are as nontoxic possible. “We use two reagents: a collector that floats with the ore and a foaming agent that is degraded in the process, making our watered-tailings chemical-free. Instead of disposing our industrial waste in a tailings dam, we use a dry stack method,” he said.

There are two main reasons for choosing a dry method. The first has to do with guaranteeing the viability of the company’s zero-water-discharge cycle. The second reason is related to the large environmental impact of tailings dams: “Dry stacking implies disposing of our filtered tailings in a space covered by a geomembrane to prevent any filtrations through rain into the soil. We filter the tailings to recover their water, then put them in the dry stack and flatten them,” explained Camargo. “While this is a significantly costlier process compared to a tailings dam, the environmental return on investment pays for itself by far,” he concluded.

Alejandro Ehrenberg Alejandro Ehrenberg Journalist and Industry Analyst