State of Sonora Toxic Spill a Turning Point for Mexico's Environmental Movement?
Brianna Lee - IBTimes
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September 30, 2014

Residents fear longterm damage from Mexican mine's toxic spill (CCTV)

Anger continues to simmer in Mexico nearly two months after the country underwent what many have acknowledged to be its worst mining-related disaster in history. But the incident may also mark a critical juncture for environmental reform in Mexico, which has remained stalled for several years.

Local and federal officials are now gearing up to bolster environmental regulations after the Buenavista mine in Mexico’s northwest Sonora state – one of the world’s largest copper mines -- leaked around 10 million gallons of acid and heavy metals into the nearby Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers on Aug. 6. An estimated 22,000 people in seven surrounding municipalities faced the threat of a contaminated water supply; more than 80 schools closed for a week for fear that children would come into contact with toxic chemicals; and farmers and cattle ranchers along the river have lost huge revenue.

The accident remained front-page news throughout Mexico not just for the severity of the toll on Sonora residents, but also for widespread outcry against Grupo Mexico, the conglomerate that owns and operates the Buenavista mine. Local authorities slammed Grupo Mexico for reporting the incident almost 24 hours after the spill first began, at which point local residents had already detected a 40 mile (70 kilometer) orange streak running through the Sonora River.

The conglomerate also initially blamed heavy rains for causing the spill, which government authorities vehemently denied. “There were no heavy rains those days,” Mexico’s minister of environment, Juan Jose Guerra Abud, told the Wall Street Journal. Eventually, Grupo Mexico acknowledged that defective sealing on pipes in the mine was a factor in the spill.

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