Mexico’s Environmental Secretary has estimated that the fine for the Buenavista copper mine spill could reach $3 million.
RENO (MINEWEB) – Mexico’s federal environmental protection regulator, Profepa, has filed criminal charges with the Federal Attorney General’s Office against Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista del Cobre and Minera Mexico over a leakage caused by defects in newly constructed leaching ponds, which contaminated two rivers and left thousands of people without drinking water.
Two days after the Mount Polley tailings dam breach in British Columbia, 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution from Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista mine spilled into the Bacanuchi River and, subsequently, the Sonora River in northern Sonora State.
Initially, Grupo Mexico blamed unseasonal rains for causing the acid solution to spill from a dam now under construction for a new leaching plant in the mining operation. The company said it would pay for all the damage from the accident.
Arturo Rodriguez, chief of industrial inspection for the Attorney General for Environmental Protection, suggested mine operators should have been able to detect the leak before such a large amount of drainage had leaked into the rivers.
However, Mexico’s Environmental Secretary Juan Jose Guerra Abud told a local radio station Tuesday Grupo Mexico’s claim that excessive rain caused the overflow was “totally false” because there was no rain on August 6th, the day the spill is believed to have occurred.
Cesar Lagarda, northwestern division chief for Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua), said in a news conference that Grupo Mexico deliberately hid the failure of the tailings facility. He observed that regulators have discovered high levels of arsenic, cadium, aluminum, iron, manganese, nickel, and copper near the town of Baviacora.
Conagua has restricted water use in the communities of Arizpe, San Felipe de Jesus, Aconchi, Ures, Banamichi and Bivacire. Lime has been added to the Sonora River in an effort to neutralize the acidity.
Livestock and people have been discouraged from drinking well water within 1,500 feet of the Bacanuchi and Sonora Rivers.
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