San José del Progreso, Oaxaca. In the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca one person was killed and another injured during a confrontation between mining opponents and police on January 18th. The middle aged farmer and a woman in her twenties, both indigenous Zapotecs, were among a group of villagers trying to block the path of an excavator working for the Canadian Mining Company Fortuna Silver. Bernardo Méndez and Abigail Vasquez were shot by local police and plainclothes gunmen working for the Vancouver-based mining company. San José del Progreso, located 50 km south of Oaxaca City, has been a flash point for violence since an alliance of local environmentalists and farmers occupied the gold and silver mine in early 2009.
Despite widespread resistance and an ongoing conflict that already claimed the lives of two people in summer 2010, Fortuna Silver began commercial operation of the mine last September. As the installations are located in an arid valley, smooth operation is heavily dependent on water access to process the ore. The contamination of the scarce resource is among the main concerns of the mining opponents, many of whom grow vegetables for a living and rely on clean water for irrigation. The inhabitants of Magdalena Ocotlán, a village adjacent to the mine that hosted a nationwide environmentalist convention in 2010, have so far successfully prevented the construction of a sewage duct leading to the ore-processing installations. Fortuna Silver has since tried to get water access at all cost, recently settling for a deal with San José’s pro-mining camp. The scheme allows the mine to tap into a newly built well on village lands to keep its operations going throughout the dry season. It was at the building-site of the new water duct that Bernardo Méndez was killed. He and his neighbors had gathered to stop the machine digging a trench because it had damaged their own fresh water access.
Mining operations in Oaxaca are backed both by the new governor Gabino Cué and the ousted Party of Institutionalized Revolution (PRI) which still enjoys widespread support in the countryside. Contrary to the precepts of international law, the indigenous population of the region was never consulted about the mining project. The recent violence has prompted various social organizations in Oaxaca, among them an influential teachers’ union, to demand the end of mining operations.
Disclosure: Long FVI.to (and that's not going to change on this news)