The Bernalejo, in the heart of the sacred territory of Wirikuta

RECENT TECHNICAL INFORMATION ON THE Wirikuta CASE

The Tamatsima Wahaa Front for the Defense of Wirikuta reiterates once again that Wirikuta is not confined to specific sites where the Wixarika people deliver their offerings, but Wirikuta is the full collection of stones, springs, cactus, snakes, scenery, etc., comprised in a continuous stretch of land over 140,000 hectares (almost 350,000 acres)..

Although there are decrees to ensure the environmental protection of the area  (ANNEX 1), Wirikuta deserves an exemplary protection that embraces the ecosystem as a whole, and we demand the State to fulfill its responsibility and maintain a fair economy that respects the fundamental human rights of the people who live here. In the Wixárika (Huichol) people’s cosmic vision, the balance of the universe depends on the balance of this land.

PROJECT UNIVERSO (2011), THE NEW THREAT TO WIRIKUTA

Although so far the defense of Wirikuta has focused on the Canadian company First Majestic Silver Corp. (ANNEX 2), different media have published information about exploration drilling has been started by the company Revolution Resources, for a so- called Project Universo, carried out in the Wirikuta sacred zone and its area of influence, particularly around ??the Santa Gertrudis Dam.

Canadian West Timmins Mining Company is the buyer of mining concessions in the lowlands area of ?? Wirikuta. West Timmins was purchased by Lake Shore Gold in 2009, and in turn Lake Shore Gold established an agreement with the Revolution Resources Corp… The agreement’s main objective was announced by IBTimes on http://bit.ly/w4ndYj on 14 December 2011 (FAO Report 2012). And that corporate precedent strengthens the huge mining project called Project Universo.

While First Majestic concessions surpass the figure of 6 000 hectares (almost 15 000 acres), the Project Universe is bound to exploit mineral resources on 59 678 hectares (near 147 500 acres) within the protected area, which is nothing less than 42.56% of the Protected Natural Area of Wirikuta.

Mining at Santa Gertrudis Dam, municipality of Charcas, San Luis Potosi State.

In fact, the archives of the Directorate General of Mines of the Ministry of Economy keeps records of  numerous mining claims, each one covered by a separate Title of Concession (Annex 3). Hurriedly new companies have emerged that seek to exploit minerals existing not only in the Sierra de Catorce, but all over the lowlands.

In the municipality of Charcas, in Ejido Santa Gertrudis, exploration drilling is being conducted, a usual operation prior to the exploitation stages. The geological conditions of the projected mining areas that are now being explored are of high mineralization. This kind of deposits make possible mega mining projects that usually involve the method of open pit mining, which would probably use a processing method of cyanide leaching.

At the current stage of exploration, drilling has been done in the area of ??the First Extension of Ejido Santa Gertrudis Dam, at the town of Charcas, where a “survey of historic production in the Navarro area, located at the Cinco Estrellas mine” was conducted, as well as at Esquivel and La Perdida mines, among other areas that feature high concentration of minerals, mainly gold and silver (ANNEX 4).

This area borders the southwestern limits of the Wirikuta Ecological Reserve, and according to testimonies collected by the National Human Rights Commission, the exploration being carried out has excavated up to 3,000 feet deep. This poses a threat to the aquifer Venegas-Catorce, a fundamental piece of Wirikuta, which would be directly affected in its water system, its flora and fauna.

Given these facts, four administrative proceedings against this mine were started, though who is actually doing the exploration work is not the Canadian mining company, but a mining contractor called Golondrina S. de R.L. de CV.

Reportedly, nine drillings have been done to this date at three mining sites in Charcas and Santo Domingo, not yet having done boreholes in the municipality of Catorce, though some places have been marked with stakes at the sites of Divisadero, the New Tank of Ranchito de Coronados, Las Animas and Dolores Tank, all of these in the heart of Wirikuta.

Mining pressure in the sacred site of El Bernalejo in Ejido Las Margaritas

In recent months, Revolution Resources Corp. representatives have launched a campaign trying to earn the approval of the Ejido Assemblies in the region to begin mining operations, a campaign that has completely failed.

In that sense, we who form the FDWTW, reiterate our commitment to the inhabitants of Wirikuta, understanding that there can be no justice for Wirikuta without acknowledging the need for an urgent economic recovery in this region. But we also know that the way to obtain it is not the operation of destructive projects like those approved by the Mexican State by imposing mega mining projects following an extractive model that no longer works.

Ejido Las Margaritas is the site of El Bernalejo, one of the holiest places of Wirikuta, home of the elder brother Ka+yumari, the Deer. There the Wixárika people collect the sacred plant of hícuri. In this sacred spot, where the altar of Ka+yumaritsie lies, four mining concessions have been granted. (ANNEX 5).

While concessions granted in El Bernalejo are in the heart of Wirikuta, they now belong to the Project Universo, a huge exploitation area granted by the government and whose limits include almost half of the Reserve and the area where the traditional pilgrimage route of Wirikuta is followed.

As in the case of boreholes in the Santa Gertrudis Dam, which pose a risk to the aquifers, the ones planned to be performed at Las Margaritas also threaten the local water cycle patterns on which water wells depend (ANNEX 6).

Agribusiness, Impunity

Agribusiness firms still operate with impunity due to the government’s failure to enforce the closure imposed by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (PROFEPA) to the companies that have violated it. Closure was ordered to stop the continuous illegal destruction of biodiversity areas unique in the world, ignoring all the requirements that Mexican laws provide to lessen environmental impact.

Moreover, significant gaps in the laws allow them to manipulate the weather and inhibit the rain by spraying chemicals in the sky with rockets and planes. These malpractices have further increased the economic plight of the settlers, because there is no possible economic survival without rain (ANNEX 7).

Socio-political and economic status at Wirikuta

The drought in Mexico has had especially terrible effects on the peasant villages of the highlands of San Luis Potosí State. Nowadays this area is damaged by this phenomenon, which is closely related to the collapse of the ecological balance in the world, a product of wild industrialization processes.

Specifically in the Wirikuta area, drought was particularly aggravated by the action of agribusinesses that “undo” the rain by detonating rockets with chemicals and the release of these chemicals from aircraft or rockets, taking advantage of legal gaps in the issue of weather manipulation.

The fatal consequences of the drought are reinforced by a disastrous weather season, the pressure from powerful agricultural interests seeking territorial control of Wirikuta, and by decades-long governmental neglect.

This way our sacred desert has been turned into an economically devastated area, leaving  hunger as a means that mining companies and agribusiness use as an infallible weapon to gain the support of the local population, that are bound to choose between emigration, suffering of an unprecedented food shortage , or having to dispose of their land and their life in exchange for a promise of employment (which will certainly mean the loss of water and health).

If carried out, the existing plans to impose these mega projects in this sacred land would devastate the Sierra de Catorce, which is the matrix of the Wixárika social fabric. Also destroyed would be the biodiversity-rich areas in the Bajio or lowlands, place of pilgrimage for the Wixárika people where they collect their jícuri sacred plant and where their elder brother Ka+yumari lives(Appendix 8).

An inclusive development strategy should be the correct approach, one that doesn’t place the ambition of powerful groups above the welfare of the peoples of the desert and the identity of an ancient culture that firmly believes that life and balance in the universe depend on the care of Wirikuta and on the lighting of its candles.

The launch in December 2011 of Project Universe covering 42% of Wirikuta, after more than a year of complaints and demonstrations by the Wixárika People evidences that the government is totally deaf to the demands of Wixárika people and to extensive sectors of domestic and foreign representatives of civil society.

And it also shows the decision to prevail at any cost with a worldview where everything is for sale, including the identity of one of the most important indigenous cultures worldwide.