While we strongly welcome the unanimous passage of the mining reform package in the Senate, we note that the reforms originally proposed in the President’s Water Initiative have been removed.
The approved Legislation represents a great advance: At last mining will not be considered as a preferential activity; the right of indigenous peoples to consultation is codified; the communities and individuals whose lands will be mined will receive 5% of the profits generated; mining concessionaires would have to present a financial vehicle to cover potential social or environmental damage.
However, water lost in this round not only because it was the aspect that mattered most to the mining interests, but also because the institution in charge of its defense, the National Water Commission, refused to defend it.
After emptying the process of elaboration by the Secretariats of the Economy and the Environment of the reforms presented by the President, the Conagua coordinated on its own with the mega-mining interests to prepare a new version to be presented in the Chamber of Deputies.
In the middle of the water and environmental crisis, the mega-mining sector obtained water concessions for 30 years, which takes us beyond 2053, these will allow toxic mining continues to mock weakened inspection capabilities and sanction of Conagua and Profepa.
They also managed to take advantage of “farming waters,” vast amounts of water that come out when they cut the veins of the aquifers to extract minerals, without availability, without concession and without limit.
They managed to free themselves from any cap on the percentage of water from an aquifer that could be concessioned by a mining company. The hundreds of tailings dams will continue to occupy federal channels, each one a toxic bag ready to burst with time or with some “atypical” rain.
The approved version replaced the effective measures regarding water with empty articles: it repeats the already established obligation to only grant available volumes, maintaining the exception for working water.
It requires mining companies to recycle 60% of the water used at their “facility,” a term that only refers to offices, restrooms, and dining rooms. Announces that The mining companies will not affect the human right to water, but without concrete measures in this regard.
It is no coincidence that the value of the shares of Grupo México and Peñoles rose as soon as this new version of the Initiative was published.
The role of Conagua, as the Presidential Initiative to sacrifice water has intervened in the reform package, shows once again that it is a an institution that continues to be permeated by networks at the service of big interests. In the case of mining, it is the technical area, specifically groundwater, which is in charge of guaranteeing the “availability” for the mining companies.
Coincidentally, these days this area is updating NOM 011 on availability in a way that will allow them to continue handling concessionable volumes. By basing the NOM on cabinet work and not on field information (by themselves they have 66 piezometric stations to cover 653 aquifers), the groundwater area will be able to continue “adjusting” the availabilities according to mode.
Let’s take the case of the Cedros Aquifer as an example. There when the Goldcorp mining company (now Newmont) found a new vein of gold, the Conagua groundwater area published in the DOF the mining company’s own study where an additional recharge of 44 million m3/year was “discovered” in full Zacatecan semi-desert, the entirety of which was concessioned to the mining company.
Today Newmont controls 84% of the water in this aquifer, and the communities around it have had to migrate due to the drying up of their wells.
It is noteworthy that the Conagua not only did not defend our waters against the pressures of mega-mining, but it has been submerged in a national paralysis for more than 20 days.
The hack on April 13 was preventable and inexplicable, and has been more destructive than the fire at the Central Offices in March 2019. Now that, under the 4T, corruption is no longer an official mandate but rather proliferates by its own inertia, hiding under the popularity of President, the National Water Commission is imploding.
Therefore, the profound question arises: Who will defend our water?
For 11 years the Constitution has mandated that the Congress of the Union issue a General Water Law that would provide the basis for an institutional framework focused on human rights and not on the large water markets.
Lacking this, the defenders of water continue to be ignored and mistreated by the Conagua, as well as harassed and even assassinated by the interests that monopolize and poison the vital liquid.
For this reason, a massive repudiation was raised against the exclusion of water from the reform package. Knowing that it would not jeopardize its approval, the more than 136,000 signatures asking Senators to respect the water protection measures of the original Initiative were a necessary act of warning against the risk that it implies for our Nation to continue postponing the effective defense of our waters.