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Investigaciones geográficas

versão On-line ISSN 2448-7279versão impressa ISSN 0188-4611


TOSCANA APARICIO, Alejandra  e  HERNANDEZ CANALES, Pedro de Jesús. Socio-Environmental Risk Management. The case of the Buenavista Copper Mine in Cananea. Invest. Geog [online]. 2017, n.93. ISSN 2448-7279.

In August 2014, a 40 thousand squaremeter acidified copper sulphate spill took place at the Buenavista del Cobre mine, which belongs to Grupo México, located in Cananea, Sonora. It flowed down the Tinajas stream, as well as the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers to El Molinito dam, which supplies water to Hermosillo City. The spill brought about the worst socio-environmental disaster linked to the mining industry in the nation’s history. It took its toll on the health and economy of the municipalities of Cananea, Ures, Baviácora, Aconchi, San Felipe de Jesús, Huépac, Banámichi and Arizpe, including the ecosystems in the basin of Sonora River.

According to the nearby residents of the basin, the three levels of government and the Buenavista del Cobre mine disregarded the disaster. The primary remedial action, taken by Grupo México, was the creation of a trust to compensate the damages of affected people, and to clean up the river. Nevertheless, the local population found this solution to be inappropriate and insufficient. Thus, a united front against Grupo México was formed, which brought together those affected by the spill and other social actors to protest publicly against the damages caused by the Buenavista del Cobre mine. It is relevant to highlight that the facility of one of the hydraulic power stations, which supplies the mining company with water, was taken over. At the same time, the Basin Committees of Sonora River engaged in a legal battle against the Buenavista del Cobre mine due to the violation of the human right to a healthy environment.

The text addresses the anthropogenic hazard-disaster process management implemented since the toxic spill of the Buevanista del Cobre mine. The mining industry is a widespread activity on national territory, but the hazards derived from it receive little attention by the three levels of government in spite of the fact that Mexico regulates the civil and environmental protection policies, which protects of the local population, its goods and the ecosystems. The chemical and technological hazard process management raises some problems, for these two policies are dissociated from each other. They do not share any goals, strategies or action plans; therefore, a greater interconnection between the two is necessary, as well as among the levels of the government, the companies and the residents so as to manage the chemical and technological hazards and to avoid disasters. Both policies must be implemented into development schemes at the local, state and national levels in order to reach a consistency between the development model and the protection of the local population, its goods and the ecosystems, since disasters of this kind are a consequence of the model of economic growth.

The disaster under consideration, called “ecocide” due to its consequences, demonstrates that civil and environmental protection policies are reactive rather than preventive. Preventive actions under government oversight are scarce; especially when it comes to hazards derived from the activity of large, important and influential companies at a local, regional and even national level. That is the case of the Buenavista del Cobre mine, which did not comply with any of the requirements established by civil protection or environmental law at the time of the spill. This is relevant because hazard management seeks to control the future unintended consequences derived from anthropogenic activities. Thus, actions must be taken before one of these consequences emerges.

The hazard-disaster processes have an unavoidable spatial dimension. Therefore, they must be taken into account in development plans especially at the municipal level since that is the level of administrative political organization of the territory where contingencies are put into place, and where the impacts and consequences of the disasters are experienced. Building upon this study, it is noticeable that the civil protection policy tends to omit the anthropogenic hazards, and the preventive tasks regarding them are left in the hands of the same companies responsible for creating them, without any strict monitoring. Over time, the company has fueled a great amount of environmental damage, and has socialized with the residents of the municipality of Cananea and the basin of Sonora River, while the profits have been privatized.

The disaster caused major damages to the local population and ecosystems. Therefore, this should constitute an opportunity for the three levels of government and the secretariats involved to redefine hazard management guidelines in order to lead to mitigation and a guaranteed compensation of damages when natural disasters should happen.

Palavras-chave : riesgo; desastre; mina de cobre Buenavista; Cananea.

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