operation oaxaca: status quos.

san josé del progreso. (006)

Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez
7 min readJan 21, 2024

this is carlos.

now, i told you my story.

and some about the chemistry of the mangoes.

and a detail or two about the production of mangoes.

^it’s to let you know that there’s a lot of raw material for us to use.

the real challenge will be getting those mango peels lol.

but now, what about other places?

it can’t just be one village.

tell you what.

i’ll inculde a location from mexico and the united states occasionally on this series.

this is more to document progress. but sure.

let’s begin with san josé del progreso, oaxaca, méxico.


into the blue.

at la cuaresma (name of the mine), all the water is deposited in a mine tailings pond, where there are heavy metals.

fortuna silver mines (primary mine) uses 1500 cubic meters of water daily.

it is extracted from three sources:

  1. treatment plant in ocotlán de morelos
  2. the atoyac river
  3. water from the laborio in the region

the mine is already 800–900 meters deep.

those 1500 cubic meters of sediments leaked affecting the zapotec communities (indigenous group of oaxaca):

  1. magdalena, ocotlán
  2. san matías chilazoa
  3. san felipe apóstol
  4. la barda paso de pierda
  5. san pedro apóstol

all the waste that the mine no longer needs, goes to la presa del jales.

and the water well of cuzcatlan is about 300 meters from la presa de jales.

that well is where the villager’s water comes from.

these metals and chemicals are covered by a membrane, or plastic.

but the membrane has a life span of approximately 50–60 years.

when the membrane can no longer be used, it will flow into the river and contaminate the villages around the mine.

we got 12 years to find a solution.

fortuna silver mines is a mine that contains silver ores, typically.

and of the silver ores, heavy metals were found to be in excess of their allowable limits:

  • iron: 1845%
  • aluminum: 955%
  • thallium: 300%
  • lead: 167%

thallium is an ingredient that comes from the cement used by the mine.

the most common diseases that are already seen are:

  1. intestinal diseases
  2. hepatitis diarrhea
  3. skin allergies
  4. oral and dental diseases

there are also environmental affections.

in the air, you can smell and feel the scent of sulfur.

that sulfur dust, which is in the water…

it comes from a storage problem from a mine that is located around san josé del progreso.

until the year 2022, there’s 425 mining concessions in oaxaca.

297 of 425 mines have active activity.

the desired metals are:

  • gold
  • silver
  • iron
  • zinc

in 2011, commercial production started in september 2011 with 1000 tons per day.

with strategic investment over the years, the company increased the plant’s capacity to 3000 tons per day in mid-2016.

in 2022, the mine produced 5.8 million ounces of silver and 34,124 ounces of gold.

san josé del progreso (sjdp) is the third poorest municipality in oaxaca.

in sjdp, 6579 people out of 8059 live in municipal marginalization (2020).

skin infections such as spots, and sore eyes, are probably from water pollution or dust in the air, but no one is certain about that.

people who work for the sjdp mine, some of them joined because of the fear of remaining poor all their lives.

this has also caused family separation and the breakdown of the most basic socialization processes in the territory, for example:

they built in the village:

  • another church
  • new market (flea market)
  • cab company to get to the mine

the family base is breaking down to the core.

the mine is destroying the nuclear family.

to further amplify the poverty in sjdp,

97% of 6822 people in sjdp lack basic housing services.

and the mine took advantage of that and started offering jobs to “help” the population to free themselves economically.

all the problems come from the origin of the social conflict of who is for and against mining.

and the government’s actions only did the one thing that mining wants:

convince the population that mining brings benefits.

furthermore, the arguments do not coincide with the figures reported by the “secretaría de desarollo social” (sedesol).

respiratory illnesses have increased from the mine in the neighboring town of maguey del largo, sjdp.

there is also a fear among the villagers that those who oppose the mining project will be denied consultation or medicine.

someone working in the mine earns more than in other sectors.

4800–6000 pesos a month (50–70 usd)
maximum will be 7500 pesos per month

fortuna silver mines in 2010, dumped 3000 liters of mine waste daily in a soak pit, and in 2014 obtained a permit to dump 50,000 liters daily in the atoyac river without taking precautions.

sjdp currently uses rainwater harvesting systems as an alternative water method.

previously, people used to bathe in the atoyac river, and now it is contaminated with heavy metals dumped by fortuna silver mines.

the mining.

there are two types of mines used at sjdp.

  • subway mines
  • open pit mines

subway: exploration for ores takes place below the surface of the earth.

open pit: involves dynamiting the surface rock; entire mountains are blasted into rock and then crushed to powder.

in the open pit, to extract the desired minerals, this pulverized rock is mixed with a chemical soup of reagents.

these reagents include:

  • cyanide
  • mercury
  • sulfuric acid

for the open pit process:

enormous amounts of water and electrical energy are used.

open pit mines are expanded until the ore is exhausted.

when the ore is no longer available, they are used as embankments for the deposit of solid waste.

if the water inflow is not controlled, the mine pit becomes a poisonous lake.

exploration phase, step #1:

the region is investigated by an exploration company that uses maps and geological surveys published by the government to locate a mineral deposit.

and if they like, they systematically take rock tests to define the types of mineral concentrations present and determine if separation of the metals is economically viable.

exploration phase, step #2:

if they are ready to excavate the ground, a feasibility study is conducted to determine the costs associated with mining and processing the ores.

engineers decide whether the mine will be open pit or subway shafts and drifts.

lawyers meet the legal requirements such as permission to purchase land, and from the surrounding communities.

and that’s when they clear the way for the mine and exploitation of drinking water from rivers.

production phase, step #3:

this includes processes such as:

  • dynamiting
  • rock and ore excavation
  • transportation to mills located close to the mine
  • primary crushing

crushing is when the ore is broken to remove the precious metals.

using a lot of water and chemicals, the ore is separated from the rest of the crushed rock using a technique called fluting.

the mixture is agitated in a tunnel, creating chemical-coated bubbles that attract the desired minerals and precious metals.

the desired minerals float to the surface and are removed.

the remainder sinks to the bottom of the machine tunnel.

some questions i have.

of those chemicals (e.g. cyanide), are there any alternatives that exist?

what alternatives to the mine (or solutions) have been proposed by the citizens of sjdp?

is a solution for water filtration even necessary? what if the solution to this ordeal was to get everyone to raise their income level, and they could buy for themselves more bottled water, pay for a higher water bill, or perhaps buy land to move (idealistic)?

images tell the story.

© 2024–2100 by Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez. All Rights Reserved.