Editor’s Note; It is important to understand the difference between a reform and a revolution in any political movement. A reform aims to tweak some aspects of the system to make it more equitable, fair and just. A revolution, on the other hand, changes the overall structure of the system. DGR, as a radical environmental and a radical feminist organization, believes that reforms are not enough in a system that is inherently rooted in oppression and injustice. We believe that a revolution is necessary to remove that deep rooted structural violence. However, we also understand that a revolution requires political organizing at a much larger scale. While we are working on building that political movement, the natural world is being destroyed. Till then, something needs to be done to protect the pieces of natural world that we have left, no matter how small. That is where reforms contribute. We understand the perseverance and diligence it takes to bring about any reform and appreciate those who are working on it. Below is the story of such a movement. Though originally designed to be much more protective of nature and indigenous people, the mining laws in Mexico were modified to be much less than that by the time they were passed. The US is still ruled by the Mining Law of 1872.
By Maxwell Radwin/Mongabay
- Reforms to Mexico’s mining law limit harmful practices by extractive industries and improve protections for the environment and Indigenous peoples. But they’re also a far cry from the change activists had been hoping for.
- Under the new reform, Indigenous communities will receive 5% of a mining operation’s profits. The maximum lifespan of mining concessions is also reduced from 100 years to 80.
- Concessions will no longer be granted in areas with water shortages or in protected areas. Currently, there are 1,671 mining concessions in 70 protected areas in Mexico, spreading across 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of preserved land.
MEXICO CITY — A major reform approved by congress last week is supposed to limit harmful practices by the mining industry and improve protections for the environment and Indigenous peoples. But some parts of the reform faced strong resistance from pro-business interests, resulting in a watered-down version that some environmentalists said doesn’t go far enough.
The reform, originally introduced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the end of March, was designed to make it harder for private companies to obtain mining concessions without accounting for impacts on surrounding ecosystems and local communities.
It establishes free and prior consent as a requirement for mining concessions, meaning that companies must meet with residents to discuss the impacts of their projects before receiving permits. It also requires companies to restore the land once a mine closes.
But some of the most impactful components of the proposal were negotiated down. Payment to Indigenous communities living near mining operations was originally supposed to be 10% of mining profits but lawmakers reduced it to 5%.
There was also debate about the length of mining concessions, which the previous version of the law set at up to 100 years. Although the original reform proposal wanted to limit it to just 30 years, effectively preventing the companies from shaping entire regions for the long term, lawmakers ultimately settled on 80 years.
“These topics were suppressed or modified without justification and under pressure from the business interests that are responsible for social and environmental devastation,” Colectiva Cambiémosla Ya and Alliance for Free Determination and Autonomy, two mining activist groups, said in a statement ahead of the senate vote.
Deputy Ignacio Mier Velazco, from the state of Puebla — who explained that the reforms were changed to avoid risking investment and economic development — said he was confident the version that was passed would still improve oversight of the industry. Many activists in the region agreed, telling Mongabay the reforms were a victory that allowed for some positive change and a way forward for the continued fight against mining.
Mexico’s mining industry has experienced rapid growth since 1992, when the original mining law was passed. The country has become a top exporter of silver, zinc and other important minerals. In the 1980s, less than 1% of Mexican territory was under a mining concession. Now, it’s a little more than 8%, according to the president’s reform proposal.