SEMARNAT: “Mining Permits Never Stopped, They Only Got Stricter”By Paloma Duran | Mon, 09/20/2021 - 15:47
Mexican authorities have said that although the granting of mining concessions has stopped, permits however have not. The process has become more difficult as the pandemic delayed several projects and there are now higher standards that mining companies must meet to ensure that their projects do not harm the environment and communities.
The pandemic has increased the backlog for environmental assessments, and as a consequence has delayed several mining projects. However, SEMARNAT claims it never stopped granting permits to projects that are environmentally responsible , said Tonatiuh Herrera, Deputy Minister of the Environment. “We need to have strict evaluations. The environmental and safety requirements must be met in their entirety, without discussion,” Herrera said.
Mining companies have argued that since the start of the López Obrador's administration the mining sector has faced major regulatory delays, mainly due to budget cuts in SEMARNAT, this is pushing companies to seek other countries to invest in that have easier regulatory frameworks.
In May, María Luisa Albores, SEMARNAT Minister, announced that open-pit mining was prohibited by order of President López Obrador. However, Herrera explained that open pits have not been banned, but are being further evaluated due to their impact on local communities and water resources.
According to Herrera, mining companies are concerned about Mexican government regulations because in past administrations they would only meet minimum requirements. "They gave almost everything automatic authorizations." Herrera insists the government wants mining companies to continue operating but with higher standards. In addition, he said s the administration recently approved many environmental impact statements.
Although the government has repeatedly stated that no new concessions will be granted, dozens of MIAs are being evaluated. Additionally, SEMARNAT is currently developing a new digital permitting process, which would speed up the process. "The paralysis of the permitting that people are talking about does not exist," said Herrera.
Currently, 18 large mining projects representing an investment of US$2.8 billion are stalled because their permits, which include 8 MIAs and 10 land use authorizations, which have not been authorized by SEMARNAT.
Albores recently said that more than 500 mining projects are stalled due to their cases being reviewed. However, there is disparity in the information since the Ministry of Economy said that there are more than 750 projects that are paralyzed.
Herrera explained it is up to SEMANRNAT to fix the backlog of evaluations, but emphasized that it is the miner´s responsibility to present responsible projects. Miners must not only comply with environmental regulations, but also consult with communities before starting their projects. “My last recommendation is: do not look for shortcuts. Comply with all social and environmental obligations.”