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Grupo México Facility Temporarily Closed After Sulfuric Acid Spill

Grupo México closure
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Mexico's environmental protection prosecutor (PROFEPA) partially and temporarily closed Grupo México's facilities in the Port of Guaymas.

Mexico’s largest mining company, Grupo México, has come under fire in recent weeks for  spilling 3,000 liters of sulfuric acid into the Sea of Cortez on July 9. Now, the company’s facilities at the port of Guaymas, Sonora, have been partially and temporarily closed.

Mexico’s environmental protection prosecutor (PROFEPA) said in a  news release Saturday that it ordered the closure because Grupo México did not have proper environmental impact permits for its activities.

According to the press release, all of the company’s “operations and activities related to the storage and maritime transportation of sulfuric acid” are being temporarily shut down as a safety measure. A few other construction-related operations will remain active.

Some Sonorans, however, say closing this site is insufficient.

“The government needs to take drastic measures against Grupo Mexico. The most drastic that they can,” said local organizer Rosa María O’Leary. “They need to act with more force against this business that has generated so much disaster in Sonora, and in Mexico and around the world.”

O’Leary said closing the Guaymas facility will have little impact on the large company.  She and others hope to see the company stripped of its mining concessions, not only because of the recent acid spill, but because of a history of environmental damage.

Last week, Mexico's environmental agency (SEMARNAT) announced that it was  investigating 22 cases of environmental damage against Grupo México. That includes one of the worst environmental disasters in Mexico's history. Five years ago, in August 2014, Grupo México’s Buenavista copper mine spilled 10 million gallons of copper sulfate acid solution into the Bananuchi and Sonora rivers. 

Grupo México did not respond to request for comment, but has said the acid spill was minor.

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

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.