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Resistance to fracking in Chihuahua, Mexico


With an estimated 600 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas and 13 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, Mexico is one of six countries that account for almost two-thirds of recoverable shale gas in the world, and Chihuahua is one of four northern states with accessible reserves. (2) (1) Pemex began the exploration process for shale gas production in Chihuahua and elsewhere as of 2010, and with the recent constitutional reforms in Mexico that ended Pemex’s 75-year monopology, foreign companies have begun to invest in gas and oil exploration and production in Mexico, as well. (1) (3) As of February of 2014 Pemex had drilled 29 wells in Chihuahua, and officials have claimed that more than 18 trillion cubic meters were found in initial exploration. Studies undertaken on the potential of fracking in the region took in $230 million in investments and are expected to be published early in 2015. (4) Cesar Duarte, Governor of Chihuahua, supports fracking and claims that the money it brings in will help support economic and social development in the state.

Duarte has been meeting with European investors, businessmen at a conference in Washington D.C., and Pemex in his attempts to bring in more investment in fracking in Chihuahua. (2) However, many prominent figures in Chihuahua have come out against fracking. A former sectional president of Samalayuca, Chihuahua, Javier Melendez has called for the desert environment to be treated differently when it comes to fracking, since natural resources, especially water, are in such a delicate state. He believes an increased strain on water that fracking would cause would prove catastrophic. Martha Beatriz Cordova, a Chihuahuan Congresswamn, has also openly opposed fracking. (2) Popular resistance is taking place, as well. In April, hundreds of Chihuahuan small-scale farmers listed fracking as one of their main grievances in the Chamizal Proclamation during a blockade of the Bridge of Americas linking Ciudad Juarez with El Paso (2). Then, in June, the Chihuahua Citizen Alliance against Fracking formed in Chihuahua City. The alliance includes NGOs, students, and militants for leftwing and rightwing political parties alike, and is supported by Chihuahua Senator Javier Corral, member of the National Action Party (PAN).

Corral argues that fracking will not employ many local people and that the country should focus on adopting alternate energy choices. (2) Aaron Velasco, a professor who studies Geological Sciences with expertise in earthquakes and volcanoes, recently collaborated with counterparts at UACJ—the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez—to conduct a study on seismic activity in Chihuahua. One of the collaborating academics, professor Oscar Dena Ornelas, says that more environmental studies should be undertaken in order to better understand how fracking might affect the local ecology. (1) Another Mexican geologist named Dr. Luca Ferrari Pedraglio argues that shale gas wells have very short lives, which can promote ‘irregular business practices’ in a climate where regulation is limited. There is a fear that fracking could be a lucrative opportunity for organized crime groups to increase their profits on a scale that dwarfs those currently coming in through the drug trade. This could mean that regions being fracked could face heightened militarization by the Mexican army and private security firms. This is especially of concern in Chihuahua, as the state is in so-called ‘Zeta Territory’ controlled by the Zeta organized crime group who frequently profit off of theft and distribution of diesel and gasoline. (2)

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Resistance to fracking in Chihuahua, Mexico
State or province:Chihuahua
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
Shale gas fracking
Specific commodities:Land
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

-29 exploratory wells initially drilled as of Feb. 2014 by Pemex

-230 million dollars invested in exploratory studies

-600 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas in Chihuahua and neighbouring states

-13 billion barrels of shale oil

-18 trillion cubic meters found in Pemex's initial exploration

Level of Investment:230,000,000+
Affected Population:809,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2010
Company names or state enterprises:PEMEX from Mexico
Chevron from United States of America
Shell Oil Company from United States of America
Halliburton from United States of America
Schlumberger from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Government of Chihuahua, National Action Party (PAN), Comisión de Ecología y Medio Ambiente en el Congreso local
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Alianza Mexicana Contra el Fracking

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, 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
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..), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsrisk of kidnapping, extortion, etc. due to control of Zeta organized crime group in region
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsrisk of creation of 'boom and bust' economy; risk of displacement, loss of livelihood, etc. due to increased stress on already scarce local water supplies


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
increase in academic studies highlighting negative impacts of fracking
Development of alternatives:-Alianza Mexicana Contra el Fracking has called for a ban on fracking
-Academics have called for further studies on the ecological impacts of fracking in northern Mexico
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Fracking in Chihuahua is still in the exploratory phase, though wells have been drilled. Resistance is ongoing.

Sources & Materials

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

Uso de agua en la extracción de gas de lutitas en el noreste de México: Retos de regulación ambiental

JL Manzanares Rivera - Estudios sociales (Hermosillo, Son.), 2014

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Document called “Impacto social y ambiental del fracking” published by No Fracking Mexico, coordinated by Benjamín Robles Montoya

Alianza Mexicana Contra el Fracking webpage

Chihuahua: fractura socioeconómica en la zona del fracking (Spanish-language article)

La fracturación hidráulica es nociva para la salud: “Chihuahua vs fracking”, Sept 2014

La Jornada, Crean ciudadanos, partidos de izquierda y PAN alianza contra el 'fracking' en Chihuahua

Pagina Facebook Chihuahua vs Fracking

1. Fracking May be Coming to the Chihuahua Border, Mexican Officials Say

2. Fracking Fights Loom Large in Mexico

3. Qué daños causara el fracking en méxico? (What harm will fracking cause in Mexico?-Spanish language article)

4. Oil and gas play under way near Ojinaga

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video published by Alianza Mexicana Contra el Fracking

Other documents

Map of fracking potential in Mexico from Alianza Mexican Contra el Fracking

Chihuahua vs fracking Uno de los volantes en contra del fracking en Chihuahua. Fuente:

Meta information

Contributor:Lena Weber, Lund University Human Ecology Department
Last update15/03/2018



Chihuahua vs fracking

Uno de los volantes en contra del fracking en Chihuahua. Fuente: