What Is a Sacred Mountain Worth?
Vancouver mining company accused of ‘War of Extermination’ against Mexico’s Huichol.
A Vancouver-based company, First Majestic Silver Corp, has ignited fierce controversy over plans to mine silver from a mountain considered by an indigenous nation to be the birthplace of the sun.
The Huichol called the Canadian mining project an “unlawful imposition” and part of a “a deepening war of extermination against our native peoples” in an October 2010 manifesto entitled Declaration in Defense of Wirikuta.
Nearly 70 per cent of First Majestic’s mining rights fall within the Wirikuta Reserve, an area designated a Natural Sacred Site in 2001 by the state of San Luis de Potosí.
The Huichol believe a god appeared here in the form of a deer. With his antlers he first raised the sun into the heavens. So each year the Huichol trek across 800 kilometres of arid wilderness to their sacred summit Leunar. There they eat a sacred cactus and pray “that our ancient culture does not disappear. . . and the candles of life that give meaning to our identity are renewed.”
The 6,327 hectares covered by First Majestic’s mining rights contain an estimated $1.325 billion worth of silver.
As world views collide over the value of silver versus the sacred, the developing conflict is reminiscent of the hit movie Avatar.
First Majestic’s mining claims overlap the Huichol’s sacred mountain as well as the only underground water source in the Sierra de Catorce. The aquifer feeds 16 villages and an ecosystem recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as among the three most biodiverse deserts in the world.
“It’s too early to comment on specifics [of the dispute],” said First Majestic’s investment relations director Todd Anthony, when asked about the firestorm of controversy surrounding the proposed mine. “But we see nothing that could prevent the Real de Catorce mine from becoming fully operational.” Follow the link to continue reading...