jueves, 24 de octubre de 2013

The Sonoran Gold Rush

By Edgar Piña

They are not those men herding a burrito carrying a pick and a shovel. They drive big four wheel trucks and run fast in cities, towns, ranchos, and collective lands here named “ejidos”.

You don’t see them in the town´s general store purchasing food and tools. Instead they are at government offices activating bureaucratic processes or in the banks transferring monies. 

You can not see them in the bars drinking whisky and playing cards, but now you see them in the best in town restaurants, and when the dark comes down in entertainment places. 

As in many other countries of Latin America and Africa, a XXI century gold rush is taking place now in Sonora State, a Mexican province located in this country´s north western territory. Exactly as in other gold rushes, the Sonoran locals take advantage of the boom and find jobs, sell goods and services, and share the proud speech of politicians about the wealthy mining industry of the province.

In effect, the Sonoran Governor and his aides, while they are before the TV camera and microphones, look exactly as might have seen the aboriginal chieftains when the Spanish conquerors traded with them glass beads for gold nuggets. 

The today’s government officials and politicians, like their ancestors in power, take pride in saying that more than two hundred foreign companies are investing in Sonoran territory and that the province is national number one in gold and other metals production. 

In the gold rushes of California, Australia, and Canada, during the last half of the XIX century, the recovered precious metals oiled the local economies and vigorously boosted the powerful capitalism of those times.

The contemporary gold rushes invigorate the nowadays untouchable global financial corporations, which know very well that gold, silver, platinum, and other rare minerals, are the best insurance against monetary crisis and economic turmoil.

The reality is thousands of acres contaminated by chemical residuals; rivers, lakes and lands spoiled; hundreds of animal and plants species threatened by pollution and destruction of their habitats.

When the mineral deposits are exhausted the exploited lands look like apocalyptic scenes and the local residents have no option but to emigrate because no productive activity is possible now where farmlands, ranches or human settlements were before. 

Somebody told me one time that here in Mexico the mining companies have no options but to adapt their practices to the very relaxed local regulations in the field of environment protection, workers security, and labor benefits, to mention a few.

If they insist in complying with laws and standards the same way as in their own countries, the projects never will run. Reasons? They say is more profitable for government officials and inspectors to issue permission and concessions for the companies when these launch a bid under the table.

If the mineral resources belong to Mexicans, what is exactly what we are waiting for creating the companies, investing capitals, and mobilize labor and technology?. According to Sonoran empresarios mentality, mining industry is unreachable for them. Is technologically operationally, and managerially complicated. The results are in the long term, and the markets are very dynamic, so, better leave that to foreigners. 

Nothing new under the mining sun in Mexico. Northamerican and Asian investors take home the valuable precious minerals and pay with paper. They create wealth for their countries and leave contaminated soil pits in Sonoran territory. They bribe politicians and government employees and these have a deceiving and optimistic speech for the rest of us. 

It is the XXI century Sonoran Gold Rush.

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