Image credits: Ivan Bandura
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News Article

UN Urges Grupo México to Repair Damage Caused at Cananea

By Paloma Duran | Tue, 08/10/2021 - 09:06

The High Commissioner’s Office for Human Rights of the United Nations has demanded that Grupo México accredit comprehensive compensation to the victims of the Buenavista Cobre mine spill and implement concrete actions to rehabilitate the ecological damage caused in Sonora.

The Commissioner has demanded that Grupo México accelerate and strengthen its compensation process for the people affected by the spill, in addition to cleaning and rehabilitating the ecosystems near the Sonoro and Bacanuchi rivers that were highly affected.

Jesús Peña Palacios, Adjunct UN-HR Representative in Mexico, said that mining companies have a responsibility to respect human rights and care for the environment, regardless of whether governments are willing or able to enforce the law. “Companies must ensure due diligence in their processes and correct their mistakes. (…) It is essential to achieve adequate reparation and ensure non-repetition to effectively guarantee the rights of the victims.”

Peña emphasized that with the new government in Sonora it is important to remember the responsibility of the State, which includes ensuring measures so that all affected communities participate and are respected in accordance with international standards.

On Aug. 6, seven years ago, Grupo México's Buenavista del Cobre mine reported a spill that sent 40,000m3 of acidified copper sulfate to the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers, affecting 22,000 people in seven municipalities that no longer had potable water. Many essential activities such as agriculture, livestock, mining, tourism and handicrafts were severely affected, while others ceased to exist.

In 2020, the government announced that the aquifers that provide water in Cananea still contained dangerous amounts of toxic metals. As a result, the government set Oct. 4, 2021 as the deadline to elaborate an official diagnosis. For the diagnosis, the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection will provide evidence of contamination, while SEMARNAT will monitor mining operations and water quality. In addition, authorities said they will reestablish the Sonora River Trust and review existing concessions.

In 2014, Grupo México created a fund of US$106 million to remedy the environmental and health damages caused by the mine spill. However, it closed after less than 1 percent of the total amount had been used, and therefore no tangible changes were achieved, El Informador reported. Among the fund's achievements are the drilling of 18 new wells and the installation of 9 of the 36 water treatment plants that were promised. Grupo México has argued that its Buenavista mine has been a development engine for Sonora, especially Cananea. It has also reaffirmed its commitment to the well-being of the environment and its communities.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
UN, Mining.com, El Informador, Grupo México
Photo by:   Ivan Bandura
Paloma Duran Paloma Duran Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst