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Sonorans Protest Against Mining Company After Sulfuric Acid Spill

Mexico’s largest mining company has come under fire for causing environmental damage after it spilled sulfuric acid into the Sea of Cortez last week. Now protesters are calling on the Mexican government to oust the mining company.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Grupo México’s office in the Sonoran capital Hermosillo on Wednesday. They’re demanding the Mexican government revoke the company’s mining concessions.

“In the short term, as soon as possible, withing weeks, we want the government of Mexico to withdraw Grupo México’s concessions,” said Alejandro Valenzuela. He’s a 33-year-old teacher in Hermosillo who helped organize the protest.

The protest came a week after the mining company spilled 3,000 liters of sulfuric acid into the Sea of Cortezat the Port of Guaymas, Sonora, on July 9. Researchers have said the damage was minimal. But Valenzuela calls it the final straw.

“Now’s the moment when citizens have to put a stop to this environmental damage,” he said. “It’s not about what happened in Guaymas. It’s about (the company’s) entire black history.”

He said Sonora still hasn’t recovered from another Grupo México disaster five years ago.

In August 2014, the company’s Buenvista copper mine spilled 10 million gallons of copper sulfate acid solution into the Bananuchi and Sonora rivers. It’s considered among the worst environmental disasters in Mexican history.

Mexico’s environmental agency SEMARNAT said this week that Grupo México is being investigated for 22 cases of environmental damagein Mexico since 1998.

Grupo México did not respond to requests for comment.

The company is among the world’s largest copper producers, with Asarco, a U.S. subsidiary, based in Tucson.

Protesters say they will gather again on Friday evening outside government buildings in Sonora. Another protest is also planned in Mexico City Friday afternoon.

Kendal Blust, an Arizona native, reports from KJZZ’s bureau in Hermosillo, Sonora, focusing on business and economic relationships between Arizona and northern Mexico.Prior to joining KJZZ, Kendal worked at the Nogales International, reporting on border and immigration issues, local government, education and business. While working on her master’s degree at University of Arizona School of Journalism, she did stints with the Arizona Daily Star and the Tico Times in Costa Rica, and completed a thesis project about women art activists in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands.In her pre-journalist life, Kendal was a teacher, first helping Spanish high school students learn English, then heading to Tucson to teach fourth grade.When she’s not in the newsroom, Kendal enjoys getting outside for a hike or a swim, catching a good movie, hanging out with family and friends, and eating great food.