Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rio Sonora Ecological Disaster Update

At the time of the last post, the entire Rio Sonora valley had just been affected by a chemical spill at the Grupo Mexico copper mine in Cananea. Since that time, there have been meetings reviewing the disaster and many accusations and counter-accusations about who did and did not do this or that. There have also been many news reports about the possible consequences for the mine, what is needed for the clean-up of the river, and what the future holds for the communities along the river. The information changes daily, and meaningful action seems a long way off. The only thing that is clear at this point is is that there is no clarity.

This will be a guest post, authored by Tom Matthews, co-owner of Los Arcos de Sonora Hotel in Banámichi. Tom and his wife Lynn are forming a non-profit organization to assist the people of the Rio Sonora  in gaining compensation for their losses and for the clean-up of the river.

Here's Tom:

On August 6th, a process pond at Groupo Mexico's Buenavista copper mine in Cananea, Sonora Mexico failed and dumped millions of gallons of heavy metal laced sulfuric acid into the Rio Bacanuchi and the Rio Sonora. The mine is just 25 miles south of the US border and in the past has also destroyed the San Pedro River flowing into Arizona. This recent spill has cut off municipal drinking water for 22,000 residents along the Rio Sonora (it is still off), has destroyed the dairy industry and farming, has killed wild life and has impacted all other aspects of life along the 180 plus miles of prime riparian habitat. 
Life after the spill in Banámichi (Photos courtesy of Los Arcos de Sonora Hotel)

After five weeks, people are still forced to use buckets to move water from the street to their homes. The most basic things have become more difficult. Washing clothes with buckets, trying to keep the evaporative cooler running in 105 degree heat, juggling large bottles of drinking water to get a drink or cook breakfast make things harder and more time consuming versus just turning on the tap the way people did before the spill. Bathing babies in a bucket makes a cute photo but it is difficult for someone who has worked all day. Older folks are having an especially hard time. People are afraid. They don't know if the water they use for washing is healthy, they don't know if the kid's pajamas have been washed in toxin-laced water and they don't know if their crops and animals will be poisoned and unfit to eat or to sell.

We are up against big money and their political influence at all levels. We are in the process of creating an organization to force Groupo Mexico to clean the river and compensate those affected. We are also demanding that the huge tailings pond at the mine, unlined and leaking, be fixed immediately with lined, secondary containment ponds in place. We are also demanding that the government regulators inspect and require adherence on the part of the mine to Mexican and international laws and best practices. 

At this time, we are looking for seed money to get our organization started and to be incorporated in both Mexico and in the US. We need money to begin our campaign, and to pay for phones and the travel expenses for US experts whom we have asked for help. Your donations will shine light on the problems at the Groupo Mexico mine in Cananea and send a message to every potential polluter in Mexico there is no more “business as usual. 

For more details on the spill, google  'Sonora river acid spill.' 

To make a contribution to the effort, go to

On behalf of the people of the Rio Sonora, thanks to all of you for your interest, your good wishes, and your contributions.