Mexico’s environment secretary Juan Jose Guerra Abud has confirmed that Grupo Mexico (BMV:GMEXICOB) gave false information about a massive toxic spill at its Buenavista mine, located just about 40 km from the U.S. border.
In a press release on Aug. 12 (in Spanish), the company claimed the caused of the accident was an “unusual rainfall” and that it proceeded to build a retaining wall to prevent the 40,000 cubic meters (10 million gallons) spill from spreading as soon as it detected the toxic leak.
“That was totally false,” Guerra Abud was quoted as saying, noting there were no rains on a scale that could have caused the disaster. In fact, he added, there was zero precipitation on Aug. 6, the day the spill was detected.
Carlos Arias, director of civil defence for the northern state of Sonora, said last week that residents detected the sulphuric acid leak downstream the next day, at which point the mine operators hadn’t notified state authorities.
The National Water Commission (PROFEPA) found concentrations of arsenic and some metals that exceeded levels permitted in the waters of Sonora, which prompted it to order a shut-off of water use from the dam until its safety can be ensured.
The agency said the fine for the spill could reach up to $3 million, or 40 million Mexican pesos.
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.