Almaden Minerals has provided an update regarding the cancellation of its Ixtaca concessions following the final decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) on the case. The court ruled in favor of the company, reversing the decision to cancel its two concessions and forcing the mining authorities to carry out a proper Indigenous consultation process. Almaden said that although the company has not yet been formally notified of the SCJN's final decision, it hopes to be informed soon.
Almaden explained that based on the review by Mexican experts, the SCJN applied international law and jurisprudence and defined that the Mexican authorities need to carry out indigenous consultations. The SCJN has also provided details of how the Mexican authorities must carry out these consultations. Since such processes were lacking, claims against the mining company have increased.
Almaden explained that the SCJN's decision shows that the company adhered to the current Mexican legal framework, meaning it did not forsake its legal responsibilities. Therefore, Almaden's mining rights remain protected, whereas the Mexican authorities will need to comply with the new requirements.
In addition, Almaden stressed that the company has no interest in owning mining rights that supersede the land-owning rights of Indigenous communities. The company highlighted it hopes to work with the government and local communities to make it easier for Mexican authorities to carry out their responsibilities in issuing concession. Currently, there is no date set to carry out the indigenous consultation.
In February, the SCJN cancelled two concessions granted to Almaden Minerals after the Ministry of Economy failed to carry a consultation with the Tecoltemi ejido, which possesses territory located in the concession’s land. The Tecoltemi case dates back to 2015, when the community felt pressed by a fear of losing water needed to cultivate their lands, as the mining project would require over 5 million liters of water per day. This is a significant amount for a community that suffers from severe drought, reported Animal Político.
The community sought to cancel the concessions using the argument that the government did not consult the land owners before granting the concession. The Mexican Constitution and other international treaties protect the rights of Indigenous communities and ratified the need to consult them about potentially invasive projects.
According to the Supreme Court's draft, it ordered the Ministry of Economy to declare Almaden's mining concessions ineffective, but to enforce their validity until the ministry complies with its obligation to consult the Indigenous communities. The case caused controversy, as experts feared that the cancellation of Almaden’s concessions would create a dangerous precedent for the Mexican mining sector, one that could result in the interruption of more projects and inspire more international lawsuits against the Mexican government. In addition, miners and experts argued that SCJN’s cancellation was unfair because mining companies were held responsible for the lack of governmental action.