La Trinidad aka San Jose, Mexico
La Trinidad mine in Oaxaca, Mexico, has been a source of conflict for the past three years for community members of San José del Progreso. Fortuna Silver, a Canadian mining company, became involved in the project in 2005 and opened the mine for commercial production in 2011 . The physical conflict began in early 2009 and has escalated since then. The main issues of the mine that concern community members are chemical contamination of water sources, overall lack of water, and the lack of consultation rights. The community members themselves are divided in their support for the mine, and other social actors, including local municipal government officials and priests have been involved in the conflict as well. The intensity of the conflict in the past two years has caused four deaths including two municipal officials and two opposition members.
One of the overriding generated by the La Trinidad mine is the divide that it has caused in the community. There had already been internal social conflicts, but a spokesperson for the opposition, Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez (murdered in March, 2012), stated that the community issues have worsened since the mine’s arrived. He states that the community is completely divided over this issue; it has reached a point in which there are two separate taxi stands in the middle of San José del Progreso, one for the supporters and one for the opposition .
The conflict began on March 16th, 2009 when community members blocked the entrance to the mine until May 6th. Citizens protested because they stated that the mine was using mass amounts of water, while San José del Progreso already had suffered droughts and lack of water in the past. The community also feared that the mine was contaminating the water source with cyanide, which would in turn adversely affect the health of community members and cattle . Community members reported that at least twenty heads of cattle died in the few months leading up to the blockade . The blockade was broken up on May 6th with police intervention. One source states that the police raided homes, used tear gas and dogs, and beat people. At least 28 protesters were arrested .
The conflict escalated on June 19th, 2010, when the mayor of San José del Progreso, Venancio Oscar Martinez Rivera and the counselor of health, Felix Misael Hernández, were shot and killed. A group of mine opponents were returning to San José del Progreso after a political rally, where they were met on the road by government officials and mine supporters . The confrontation escalated until the two officials were killed. Ten people were detained in response to these deaths, although most were let go shortly after. One of these detained was Padre Martín Octavio García Ortiz, a local priest who was active in opposition to the mine. On the same day, but separate from the confrontation, Padre Martín was kidnapped and badly beaten. There have been conflicting reports on this incident, but he states that he had no part in the deaths, and that he is the victim of violence, not the perpetrator .
There have been a series of protests and demonstrations since the deaths, and violence occurred again on January 18th, 2012 whcn Bernardo Méndez Vásquez was shot and killed during a protest. The protest was in response to the proposal for a new pipeline, which community members believed would take water from their community and transfer it to the mine . The president of Fortuna Silver denies the company’s involvement in the pipeline and takes no blame for the subsequent murder due to the pipeline protest . Gabriel Martínez Vásquez was charged with the death.
Violence occurred once more on March 15th, when a prominent spokesman for the mine opposition, Bernando Vásquez Sánchez, was killed by two unknown individuals around midnight . On May 8th, 2012, citizens began a blockade of the mine to protest the lack of government action in the murder of Vásquez Sánchez.
Bibliography:NACLA Report on the Americas story: “Blood on the Silver: The High Cost of Mining Concessions in Oaxaca” November 12, 2012.