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El Barzon vs. MagSilver (Cascabel), Chihuahua, Mexico

Ismael Solorio Urrutia and Manuela Solís Contreras were killed because of their opposition to water grabbing and mining (by Canadian company Mag Silver), in Chihuahua.


This is a triangular conflict between an ejido, the organization El Barzon and Mag Silver, a Canadian mining company. Since 2006 the Canadian mining company illegally acquired land use rights of the common territory of the ejido Benito Juárez. It was a illegal action, because the company did not obtain permission of the ejido assembly as is established by law. On two occasions the assembly denied permission to carry out exploration for mining. Inhabitants of ejido indicate that another major problem is with the organization El Barzón: It has conflicts with people of the same community. So much so that, in October 2012, the Chihuahua government was forced to send state police elements to ejido Benito Juárez to provide security for the population. There were problems for the operation of the Mina El Cascabel and the illegal extraction of water from a Mennonite community near conflict area. The insecurity continued, so much so that in November 2012, two activists were killed defending the River watershed del Carmen against Minera El Cascabel. In 2013, El Barzon reported: Irritados por los recientes triunfos y denuncias de El Barzón en contra de diversas acciones del Gobierno del Estado, éste manipula la administración de la justicia para criminalizar la protesta social y cobrar venganza de uno de los pocos contrapesos que existen al autoritarismo prevaleciente en Chihuahua.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:El Barzon vs. MagSilver (Cascabel), Chihuahua, Mexico
State or province:Chihuahua
Location of conflict:Buenaventura
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Silver
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Since 2006 the Canadian mining Mag Silver company acquired land use rights of the commons of the ejido Benito Juárez, Buenaventura, Chihuahua. The company has other properties in Mexico, and is still trying to regain access to Benito Juárez. The assembly of ejidatario of November 2012 decided "por unanimidad exigir la salida de la minera El Cascabel, filial de la canadiense Mag Silver, en un plazo de 48 horas y para negarle todo permiso de exploración o explotación en las tierras ejidales cuando menos durante 100 años." [1].

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:22,380
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Minera El Cascabel
MagSilver from Canada
Relevant government actors:Main government actors: México´s government/ Secretaría de medio ambiente y recursos naturales (SEMARNAT)/ Secretaría de Economía (SE)/ Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA). Secondary actors: Servicio Geológico Mexicano
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:El Barzon (a debtors movement of business and farming interests in Mexico, sometimes anti-mining)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Property damage/arson
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The government and mining repression has been strong. Two activists have been reported dead.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y Protección al Ambiente, LEGEPA, 2005 /Ley inversión extranjera, 2001/ Ley Minera, 2006 / Reglamento de la Ley de Inversión Extranjera, 1998 / The North American Free Trade Agreement, TLC, 1994/ Article 27 of Mexican Constitution

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Caídos en las nuevas luchas: Ismael y Manuelita, por Víctor M. Quintana S.
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[1] Victor Quintana, Benito Juárez defiende a la nación, La Jornada, 23 nov. 2012 (descripción de asamblea de ejidatarios: "unanimidad para exigir la salida de la minera El Cascabel, filial de la canadiense Mag Silver, en un plazo de 48 horas y para negarle todo permiso de exploración o explotación en las tierras ejidales cuando menos durante 100 años."
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Respuesta a las calumnias de la mina canadiense Mag Silver de Chihuahua. 20 NOVIEMBRE, 2014, por Movimiento 4 M.
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Mining activists killed in Mexico. October 26th, 2012
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Condena por el asesinato de Ismael Solorio Urrutia y su esposa Manuela Martha Solís, por Movimiento 4 M.
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The double assassination on October 22, 2012 of the leader of Barzon movement, Ismael Solorio Urrutia, and of his wife Manuela Martha Solis Contreras is causing outrage in the Chihuahuan society.
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Meta information
Contributor:Research Group of Mining Landscapes in Mexico, Center for Research in Environmental Geography, National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, Morelia´s campus.& Joan Martinez Alier
Last update22/01/2017
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