Mexico rejects seabed mine over environmental concerns

A loggerhead turtle captured on camera in NOAA's Aquarius. Credit: NOAA.

A loggerhead turtle captured on camera in NOAA’s Aquarius. Credit: NOAA.

Mexico protects loggerhead turtles from the Don Diego mine

AIDA | April 25, 2016

AIDA celebrates the Mexico government’s decision to deny the environmental authorization of a marine phosphate mine proposed for Ulloa Bay, Baja California Sur. They found the measures the operating company presented to safeguard sea turtles are based on inconsistent information.

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) placed the protection of the loggerhead turtle, a threatened species, above the economic benefit of the Don Diego marine phosphate mine, proposed for Ulloa Bay in Baja California Sur. The environmental authority denied the authorization of the project proposed by Exploraciones Oceánicas after finding that the measures presented by the company for protecting loggerheads are based on inconsistent information.

The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) applauds SEMARNAT’s decision, which states that the economic benefits of the project “cannot prevail over the protection of the natural resources of Ulloa Bay,” especially when some of those, like the loggerhead turtle (Caretta Caretta), “are threatened species subject to strict standards of protection.”

According to the Secretariat, it’s not easy to harmonize the safeguarding of sea turtle populations with an activity “that adds to existing anthropogenic pressure (resulting from human activity) in the area and increases the risk of extinction of the species, which is internationally recognized” (pg. 232 of SEMARNAT’s decision).

AIDA presented arguments to SEMARNAT about the international obligations that Mexico would breach upon authorizing the project, as well as the insufficient information with which the company evaluated the environmental impact of the mine on marine ecosystems, and on which mitigation measures were based.

According to the Secretariat, Exploraciones Oceánicas proposed a program for the monitoring of sea turtles that could better be described as one of “rescue,” which is not based on quantitative data of the loggerhead habitat. In addition, the company did not present prevention and mitigation measures to guarantee the availability of sufficient food, and its model for restoration of the seabed—which it seeks to dredge to extract phosphate—does not take into account the particular characteristics of Ulloa Bay (pgs. 225 and 226).

SEMARNAT relied upon international standards to deny Don Diego’s environmental authorization. They drew upon Mexico’s obligations to protect its marine environment and to use the best possible scientific information in the protection of sea turtles, contained, respectively, in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (CONVEMAR) and the Inter- American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (CIT).

3 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact

3 responses to “Mexico rejects seabed mine over environmental concerns

  1. David lambu

    PNG and other South Pacific Countries should consider Mexico’s decision on seabed mining and follow suit.

    No amount of economic benefit would replace the beauty and the long lasting benefits that would be enjoyed by a nation and its people by using natural marine environment.

    People of Bougainville in PNG are continuously suffering from the pollution of their river-systems where, they are not able to drink, cook, swim, fish or even boating. It is because the water from the rivers and the river beds and the embankments are so contaminated to an extent where the water system and its waters are not being useful for anything. It has also destroyed the marine life and the wild animals who uses the water for their survival.

    In the case of Bougainville, BCL and the PNG Government and have gone out of Bougainville in 1989 with tonnes of Gold and copper leaving the landowners and the Bougainvillians to suffer indefinitely. The legacy that the BCL appears to have left in Bougainville is nothing better than water pollution and destruction of the environment at large.

    The simple people of the Pacific Region should not rush in to enter into agreements with Foreigners who are here to exploit our natural resources in the pretext of economic development. We are not in a position to technically and systematically consider the pros and cons of any proposed projects that would affect our land and marine environments.

    The people of PNG and the Pacific should learn from the experiences of mining pollution of river-systems in Bougainville and OK Tedi which is continuously affecting the livelihood of the people and the marine life and the general Eco-system along the riversides.

    Please save our natural environment for our children and generations yet to come.

    We should all salute Mexico for making the right decision by saying “NO” to seabed mining.

  2. nhate

    Land based mining has never been environmentally friendly, what makes Nautilus Minerals think it will be different under the sea? We know more about the outer space than what is beneath our oceans. Nautilus Minerals and the PNG government know well the people of PNG are against this project in Solowara 1. Hope some common sense prevail over the uncertainty of its effects. Mexico, an industrialised nation has led the way so why can’t PNG follow suit?

  3. Pingback: Are Nautilus plans for experimental seabed mining dead in the water? | Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

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