The Peñasquito mine in Mazapil, Zacatecas is the largest gold mine in Latin America, and one of the most lucrative in the world . However, Mazapil is historically a very poor mining town, and has never prospered very much. When Gold Corp arrived to Mazapil in 2007, the residents of the area tried to reach an agreement with the company that would lead to economic and social development for the surrounding ejidos. Gold Corp’s initial plan promised development for the affected ejidos, including more job opportunities for residents, new community projects and buildings, and greater incomes for families due to rented land.
Today, residents feel as though they were deceived and taken advantage of in 2007 when they signed the initial contract with Gold Corp. Many members of the ejidos state that representatives of the mine, aided by municipal authorities, pressured the community members into agreeing to the contract without fully understanding it . The Peñasquito mine has had many negative effects on the surrounding communities that residents were not aware of when Gold Corp first proposed the contract. The main issues with the mine are Gold Corp’s failure to follow through on its promise to hire locals, environmental contamination, health issues related to the mining activity, the extremely low price that Gold Corp pays to rent land that they use for mining, and the reality that the land used for mining related activities will never be able to be cultivated .
Another concern for community members is over water scarcity and contamination. The ejido of Mazapil is an agriculturally based community, so clean and accessible water is an extremely important resource for the people in Mazapil. Thus, community members are very concerned that cyanide used in the mining process is seeping into their water sources. The mine has also raised concerns of availability. In 2009 the mine used three times the amount of water that Gold Corp had originally agreed upon. It is estimated that the mine uses the same amount of water in an hour that a family uses in 25 years .
Health issues have also allegedly arisen since the arrival of the mine. Members of an Las Palmas ejido, have complained about the affects of the smell of dirty water from the mine. They have also reported that children in the ejido have experienced health problems due to their “closeness” to the open-pit mine . Additionally, there have been several cases of respiratory issues since the arrival of the mine , and the potential use of uranium in mining process has also raised health concerns .
Though the Peñasquito mine has been employs many people, 3,633 people as of April 2010 , workers complain that their salaries are too low and that Gold Corp refuses to pay them overtime and monthly bonuses . Local community members are also upset with Gold Corp because they state that the prosperous mining company does not pay the ejidos adequate rent for the land it uses. The conflict over rent and other issues surrounding the mine led to five major protests between 2009 and 2011 . These protests finally paid off in part in April 2011, when The Tribunal Unitario Agrario de Zacatecas ordered Gold Corp to pay the residents of El Vergel 130 million pesos as further compensation for rented land. Gold Corp had originally paid the community 5 million pesos to rent their land .
Community members of affected ejidos do not want the mine to leave their land, but they continue to fight for fairer payment, less environmental damage, no water contamination, and no health risks.