By César Angulo* and the editorial team

The announcement on October 24th that the large open-pit mining project known as Los Cardones was withdrawing its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which had been submitted to SEMARNAT, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat, was greeted as a civic victory by the organizations Niparajá, Agua Vale Más Que Oro, Medio Ambiente y Sociedad (MAS) and el Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), (the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights).

These organizations celebrated the announcement as an achievement for civil society in regard to environmental protection, care and conservation, pointing out that there have been diverse voices expressing rejection of the project’s exploitation of precious metals.

Among those involved were: the Sustainable Development Advisory Council of Baja California Sur; Exequiel Ezcurra, President of the Advisory Council for Natural Protected Areas; the College of Physicians of B.C.S.; the government of B.C.S., represented by Andrés de los Ríos, Secretary of Economic Promotion and Development; the Advisory Council of the Sierra de La Laguna Natural Protected Area; the environmentalist Jean Michelle Cousteau; the international lawyer’s network Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (E-LAW); members of Mexico’s Green Party; Arturo de La Rosa Escalante, Federal Representative for B.C.S.; Jesús Quiñones Gómez, director of  the Sierra de La Laguna Biosphere Reserve; and the more than 1300 signatories  to the petition submitted to Juan Elvira Quesada, head of SEMARNAT.

Los Cardones has thrown in the towel, meaning, we have won the battle, but not the war,” said Ariel Ruiz Castillos, president of Agua Vale Más Que el Oro.
“The rejection of this toxic project has been resounding. Southern Baja Californians have demonstrated that we don’t want this type of project taking precedence over the natural resources of a place that has been declared a protected area and as such should be conserved,” he added.

The Los Cardones mining project was to be developed with foreign investment in the Sierra de La Laguna Biosphere Reserve, the principal source of water in the region.

This would inevitably release some 73,900 tons of arsenic during the milling process, which would have remained exposed to the weather in perpetuity.  Considering the constant rain in the filtration zone, it would have permanently contaminated the aquifers, as has occurred in the area of San Antonio and Los Planes where there is currently a high rate of cancer as a result of toxic mining.

“It is the third time that the same project has been presented under different names and owners: first Paredones Amarillos, then Concordia and finally Los Cardones,” stated Agustín Bravo Gaxiola, regional coordinator of CEMDA northwest.

“What will the next name be? If they resubmit an EIS and continue violating the rules of the protected area, threatening the health of future generations, it will be rejected.  Mining yes, but responsibly,” he stated.

The mining company Los Cardones aims to use cyanide extraction to obtain 40 tons of gold in 10 years, processing 11 tons of material daily from two open pit mines with a 297 acre tailings dam.

“It had been obvious that Calderón’s SEMARNAT would not approve the project with so many serious shortcomings” Juan Ángel Trasviña, president of MAS said.
“Now they say they intend to submit it to Peña Nieto’s administration in order to restart the approval process.  With this, they’re just proving that they are betting on the politicians currently in charge , and are not interested in following the law or avoiding damage to the natural resources of southern Baja Californians.”

The development of the project is planned for the same area of the rejected mines Paredones Amarillos and Concordia in the community of Todos Santos and includes a desalination plant with a capacity of 24,600 cubic feet per day and a 26 mile aqueduct to the project zone.

Meredith de la Garza, executive director of Niparajá commented, “Today it is the toxic mining projects of Los Cardones and La Pitalla; tomorrow it will be some other project or they will just change the names”.

In addition, “It is up to of the state and La Paz city governments to listen to the thousands of southern Baja Californian voices, to support sustainable tourism and to stop toxic mining once and for all by means of an environmental law for the zone”.

*Founder and director,

Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness
Baja California Sur
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Activistas de Greenpeace manifiestanMember of Colectivo Pericú protest the Los Cardones mining project in the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve. (Photo: courtesy of Colectivo Pericú))
Citizens triumph, avoid advance of
Los Cardones Mine
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