By THE PULSE NEWS MEXICO STAFF
With official authorization from the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), three private companies are currently extracting tons of volcanic rock in the Balzapote ejido, within the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve in Veracruz, to take it to the Yucatan Peninsula and be used in the construction of the Tren Maya tourist train, one of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pet megaprojects. .
In November 2020, the Semarnat authorized the extraction of 7 million cubic meters of volcanic rock through permit number 30VE2020ID107.
The federal agency approved the extraction despite the fact that in 2014 the same secretariat had denied a similar request from a company that sought to mine the rock to use it in the expansion of the Veracruz seaport.
Environmentalists working in that area of southern Veracruz have warned that the potential damage to the biosphere zone is incalculable.
Those same environmentalists were instrumental in the Semarnat denying mining permits for the area in 2014.
Eduardo Álvarez Ríos, a member of the Association of Environmental Defenders of Los Tuxtlas (Dematac), said that this time the group was unable to halt the mining project because the companies simply began the extraction without being noticed.
Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve covers 155,000 hectares and protects 565 species of birds (40 percent are migratory birds from North America), 139 species of mammals, 166 species of amphibians and reptiles, 109 fish and 1,117 species of insects.
“One of the hills that the miners are exploiting still protected a lot of jungle and virgin forest, with a lot of fauna and howler monkeys,” Álvarez Ríos said.
In addition, he explained, the hills serve as a barrier to lessen the damage from natural disasters such as cyclones and hurricanes, so by leaving the area unprotected, people living on the coast could suffer serious damage.
Veracruz Attorney for Environmental Protection (PMA) Sergio Rodríguez confirmed that the rock is being sent to Progreso, Yucatán, to be used in the Tren Maya construction.
He said that of three companies carrying out mining, one has been temporarily suspended for refusing to sign an agreement to compensate for environmental damage.