Mexico copper mine spill pollutes water supplies 40 km from U.S. border

Mexico copper mine spill pollutes water supplies 40 km from U.S. border

Spill (aerial taken Sunday). Credit: Twitter | @Noti_SONORA

Close to 40,000 cubic meters of wastewater from a copper mine in northern Mexico have spilled into rivers, forcing authorities to restrict water supply to urban areas, including Sonora state's capital of Hermosillo, which has a population of about 800,000 people.

The toxic leak, reports El Proceso (in Spanish), came from Grupo Mexico’s (BMV:GMEXICOB) Buenavista copper mine, located only about 40 km from the U.S. border, and contaminated the Bacanuchi River, a tributary of the Sonora River.

The spill affected seven different municipalities, turning the 420-kilometer-long waterway orange, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Mexico copper mine spill pollutes water supplies 40 km from U.S. border

The spill affected seven different municipalities, turning the 420-kilometer-long waterway orange. Credit: Twitter | @betoeliasm

The country’s National Water Commission (PROFEPA) said it was monitoring chemicals water quality at multiple points along the Sonora river and has ordered the company to stop any further environmental damage.

Mexico copper mine spill pollutes water supplies 40 km from U.S. border

Buenavista copper mine. (Image from archives)

“In addition to ordering the implementation of a total remediation plan, PROFEPA initiated proceedings against Buenavista del Cobre to determine possible sanctions,” the agency said (in Spanish).

Top mining state

Sonora is home to more than a quarter of Mexico's mining industry and leads in gold, copper and graphite production.

Mexico's federal government recently opened up the country's vital energy sectors such as electricity generation and oil production to private companies.

In 2009 an American subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, Asarco, paid the U.S. government a record $1.79 billion to settle hazardous waste pollution in 19 states.