Mexico mulls reviving plans for nature reserve in mining district

Peñasquito gold-silver mine in Mexico. (Image courtesy of Newmont Mining.)

Mexico may soon bring back plans to create a nature reserve in Zacatecas, the country’s top silver producing state, after local authorities asked the federal government to approve a 2014 decree protecting wildlife.

The proposal, once scrapped after strong mining industry opposition, called for a semi-arid desert biosphere reserve covering 2.58Mha across eight municipalities of Zacatecas.

The plan, reintroduced at the Zacatecas congress in August, would see Mazapil municipality in the north of the state declared a protected natural area (PNA).

Mines in Mazapil include Newmont’s (NYSE: NEM) Peñasquito mine, one of Mexico’s biggest gold, silver, lead and zinc producers, and Minera Frisco’s (BMV: MFRISCOA-1) Tayahua copper-zinc asset.

Newmont and Frisco are also engaged in exploration through a joint venture agreement in Mazapil valley.

Orla Mining is another miner active in the area with its Camino Rojo gold project, while Fresnillo (LON: FRES) holds concessions to the north of the property.

State congresswoman Alma Dávila told local paper La Jornada that the move didn’t seek to ban mining but to increase regulation, controls and environmental regulation.

“The first biosphere reserve in Zacatecas is part of the commitment of the Mexican government to comply with clean development mechanisms, contained in the Kyoto treaty, for a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions,” she told the paper. 

Halt to new concessions

The motion claims than rather than contributing to the wellbeing of residents, Mazapil’s mineral wealth has become a source of conflict. It also argues that mining operations have impacted the environment and properties.

The authors of the proposal are also calling the government to not approve any new mining concessions.

Industry actors have warned that setting a protected natural area in Zacatecas would have negative economic impacts for the country.

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