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Protests and legal action against Fracking, Coahuila, Mexico


Mexico has the sixth largest reserve of recoverable shale gas in the world, estimated at 600 trillion cubic feet. It also is suspected to have the 8th largest recoverable shale oil reserve of up to 13 billion barrels (2). An energy reform undertaken in 2013 now allows for private investment in Mexico’s oil and gas reserves. Mexican environmentalists and even some politicians have openly expressed anti-fracking sentiment, with concerns centred on depletion of already-scarce water, aquifer contamination, use of toxic chemicals, toxic waste, and earthquakes (2, 3).

There exists a great deal of concern surrounding fracking in Mexico’s shale gas basins due to the high levels of overlap with water-stressed regions, including the over-exploited Gulf Coastal Plain Aquifer, threats to natural protected areas, and high levels of seismic activity in shale gas areas under production that some experts warn is due to fracking activities there (1, 3). The Mexican Alliance Against Fracking formed in 2013, and brought together a broad range of groups in opposition to fracking in Mexico (1).

In Coahuila foreign and national companies hope to drill up to 10,000 fracking wells in the regions of Carbonífera and Cinco Manatiales. Each well will require between 9-29 million litres of water (4). A state advisory council on sustainable development in the state has claimed that some exploratory fracking wells in Mexico are operating without the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). There are six wells in particular in northern Coahuila, which seem to have been drilled in different locations than those approved by the permits. The EIA also only approved conventional drilling which does not allow for fracking. Fundar, the Mexican Center for Analysis and Research, claims that the Mexican Environmental Ministry’s approval is needed for any and all hydrocarbon projects. The Pemex-controlled wells cited in Coahuila do not have an EIA. Two organizations, the Alliance Against Fracking and the environmental litigation organization CEMDA, have begun the process of taking legal action against these wells due to the claimed lack of permission granted (1).

Activists in Coahuila have also mobilized against the dispossession of land by foreign and national companies that plan to drill more than 10 thousand wells for fracking. They have expressed disapproval of Mexico’s energy reform laws. In October, activists in Saltillo demanded that the Coahuila state government suspend all activities related to fracking (6). Then, in early November 2014 in Saltillo, members of ‘Coahuilenses contra el Fracking’ (Coahuilians against fracking) protested in front of the Autonomous University of Coahuila where the first Energy Expo forum was taking place and where federal and state authorities were present along with the hydrocarbon extraction private sector. Those from San Buenaventura denounced the dispossession of their land by GPA Energy for their exploratory gas projects.

The protestors blocked part of the federal highway 57 (México-Saltillo) for an hour (4). Ex-federal deputy Gerardo Fernández Noroña also called for mobilization against fracking, claiming that it exacerbates poverty and inequality. He pointed out that the ex-director of Pemex spent time in jail for acts of corruption in Coahuila (5).

Currently, many anti-fracking forces are now pushing for Congress to pass a moratorium or ban of fracking in the country (2).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Protests and legal action against Fracking, Coahuila, Mexico
State or province:Coahuila
Location of conflict:Semarnat & Northern Coahuila
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Land acquisition conflicts
Shale gas fracking
Specific commodities:Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

-10,000 fracking wells planned to be drilled

-each well requires 9-29 million litres of water

-at least 750 different kinds of chemicals used throughout fracking process

Type of populationUnknown
Affected Population:1-3,000,000
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:PEMEX from Mexico
Lewis Energy Group from United States of America - Texan-based company working in collaboration with Pemex
Relevant government actors:PRD political party has made anti-fracking statements;
Coahuila state government;
National government;
the 'Morena' party
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua;
Asosciación de Usuarios del Agua
PRD political party has made anti-fracking statements

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:Activists are calling for a moratorium or outright ban on fracking by Mexico's National Congress and Coahuila's state government.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Fracking in Coahuila is largely still in exploratory stages with only exploratory wells drilled so far, however these wells lack the necessary EIA, which signals a current disregard for environmental care at this stage.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Mexico Energy Reform (December 21, 2013)

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

Coahuila Bloquean Carretera Contra el Fracking--Article in Spanish about an anti-fracking highway blockade in Coahuila

Llama a la Resistencia-Spanish language article regarding ex-federal deputy's critiques of current government policies

Fracking Fights Loom Large in Mexico-article

Saltillo Activists Call for Suspension of Fracking Activities in Mexico's Coahuila State

La Contaminación por fracking, hasta en películas y documentales de Hollywood-article in Spanish about proposed fracking activities in Mexico and the dangers associated with them, with comparisons drawn to fracking depicted in U.S. documentaries.

Fracking Frenzy: How the fracking industry is threatening the planet? (Article on fracking activities in the global south)

Meta information

Contributor:Lena Weber, Lund University Human Ecology Department
Last update18/08/2019



Coahuila activists block highway as part of anti-fracking protest