Mexico: Construction of a new tailings dam

In September 2018, the Special Rapporteur addressed a letter to the National Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico (OL MEX 10/2018) which was in the crucial stages of deciding on Case No. 365/2018. This case concerns the construction of a new tailings dam by the company Buenavista del Cobre, S.A. de C.V, in Cananea, Sonora. The case raised a number of procedural and substantive issues relating to the obligations of the Mexican Government under international human rights law.

The right to meaningful community participation

One serious concern was that the communities that could be affected by the tailing dam have the right to meaningful participation and consultation before authorization is given for construction of the tailings dam. Based on information received, there appeared to be grave deficiencies in public participation around this project. More precisely, the Plaintiffs claimed that there was no public participation before the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) granted authorization to construct the tailings dam.

The Court thereafter delivered a ruling which upholds the right of the residents of Bacánuchi affected by the tailings dam to participate in the environmental decisions that affect them. The Court ordered the Mexican environmental and natural resources authority (SEMARNAT) to organize a public informative meeting with the affected communities regarding the tailings dam.

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