Water and life are much more worth than gold.
Alamos Gold has two mines in Mexico‘s Sonora region: El Chanate (very close to the US border) and Mulatos (in Sahuaripa, east of Hermosillo). El Chanate suffered a major cyanide spill in 2016 and Mulatos suffered a landslide in December 2018 in which workers died.
The landslide had been predicted since 2014. There was even a complaint to the National Commission on Human Rights for insufficient action to prevent it. Such accidents now occur so often that they became the rule rather than the exception.
In Miacatlán, Morelos, there has been an ongoing fight against the company Alamos Gold in defence of the territory and the archaeology of Xochicalco, a pre-Hispanic monument. While the claims in Sonora are focused on the reparation and compensation for the damages caused, people in Morelos are fighting against new mining activities.
On August 1, 2016, a meeting of the Morelense Movement against open cast mining, held in Miacatlán, was followed with a march through the main streets. Banners included slogans such as: “We want beans, we want corn, we want the mining company out of the country”, and “No to mining, yes to life”.
Two years after, once the presidential elections of July 2018 had been held and Lopez Obrador was to become president, again the members of the Morelense Movement against the Open Pit Mining Concessions initiated another protest under the name “Life and the Defence of the Territory”.
The campaigners demand that elected federal and state authorities and municipal officials cancel mining concessions. This petition against Alamos Gold is still ongoing and depends on approval by authorities.
Alamos Gold’s already infamous case in Turkey has recently (in July and August 2019) taken on another dimension: Alamos Gold proceeded with planning activities of open-pit gold mining projects using cyanide on Mount Ida. The struggle against mining projects in this area has been going on for over ten years and local opposition managed to stop the project in 2013.
The attempt to reopen exploitation activities has triggered the mobilisation of 10,000 people, uniting environmentalists, local and rural people and supporters of the opposition to Erdogan.
Cutting down thousands of trees to prepare the ground for mining in July 2019 prompted the outbreak of protests.
In response, environmental activists set up a camp and tens of thousands of people marched through the mountain in protest. This environmental protest in western Turkey - supported by the opposition - has shaken the country's politics, with strong accusations against the government allowing damage to nature for a foreign company to profit.
The Kirazli mine, in the western Turkish province of Canakkale, south of the Dardanelles, had been acquired by the Canadian company in 2010 for around $ 90 million. Çanakkale includes the peninsula called Gallipoli (in European languages), the site of a battle in World War in the attempt by the Allied powers to weaken the Ottoman empire. Canakkale and Gallipoli are names that imply a call for resistance, this time against a foreign company and without weapons of war.
Aside from the excessive logging, environmental activists also denounce that the company will use cyanide to leach gold. Cyanide used for mining is toxic to soils and water resources.
The mine is close to the Kazdagi National Park, a wooded area that includes Mount Ida, 1,774 meters high, with rivers and water reserves which could be severely affected. The political opposition to Erdogan is against mining.
The mayor of the provincial capital of Çanakkale, Ülgür Gökhan, who belongs to the Social Democratic Party opposing Erdogan, criticizes the mining concession, while the mayor of Istanbul, also in opposition, met with the Canadian ambassador to discuss the case, thereby displeasing the Erdogan government.
Water and life
It is not only in Turkey and in Mexico where the pressure of public opinion on local authorities should be forcing Alamos Gold into a corner.
The Canadian public should be much more aware of what Canadian mining companies do abroad, particularly Alamos Gold.
If a triangular movement could arise with mutual visits and support between activists in Turkey, Mexico and Canada, the respective governments could take action more easily.
The new Minister for the Environment in Mexico, ethno-ecologist Victor Toledo, is certainly not in favour of open cast gold mining with cyanide. Perhaps he needs a little push from abroad.
Stopping Alamos Gold concessions in Mexico would become big news in Turkey. There is a chance to stop Alamos Gold and set an example to other Canadian mining companies. Water and life are much more worth than gold.
Joan Martinez Alier is an eminent and award wining professor in ecological economy and a globally recognised specialist on environmental justice. Martinez-Alier works at ICTA-UAB, Barcelona. He wrote this contribution in his capacity as the coordinator of the European Research Council funded EnvJustice Project, which manages the Atlas of Environmental Justice.
Originally published in Spanish by Joan Martinez-Alier in La Jornada de Oriente (Mexico).