The season has just changed in Eugene, Oregon from 80s and sunny to 50s and rainy, and it appeared to happen overnight.  Gone are the languid, long summer nights and perfect camping weather.  The changes that our partners in Baja California are experiencing have a similar “overnight” quality to them, but the backdrop is much more profound.

Mining companies are bringing more pressure to Baja California, with new mine proposals appearing as the price of gold and other metals rises in global markets.  Water quality and water quantity are key concerns with mining in Baja California.  Mines invariably cause contamination of nearby water sources; in the desert and dry pine forest habitats that dominate the Baja California Peninsula, these water sources are absolutely critical to the people and other species who live there.

Against this backdrop, my colleague Liz Mitchell and I traveled to La Paz, Mexico to present at a workshop on mining hosted by our partners at the Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN).  Members of ELAW partner organization Centro Mexicano del Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), and other Mexican NGOs Niparajá, Agua Vale Mas Que Oro, Pro Natura, and Medio Ambiente y Sociedad attended the workshop, which provided information about the impacts and implications of mining in the region and provided the opportunity for group members to discuss concerns and raise questions.  Mining projects are not new to this region – two years ago many of the same groups joined together to stop an open pit gold mine known as La Concordia, which was backed by U.S.-based Vista Gold.  Now Vista Gold is proposing to construct the same mine under a different name – Los Cardones – and other mining plans are increasing in size and number.

The workshop was an enormous success: the participants were knowledgeable and organized, and benefited from the information DAN and ELAW provided.  It is such a privilege to work with communities and professionals around the world engaged in the most critical struggles over clean air, water, and soil.  Liz and I, and the rest of the ELAW team, look forward to collaborating with DAN and other partners as the pressures to develop, mine, dredge, and deforest continue to increase in the spectacular Baja California Peninsula.

Heidi Weiskel
ELAW Staff Scientist