Scorpion Bay Threatened by Phosphate Mining

The waves at Scorpion Bay are world class. From 2 feet to double overhead, you would be hard pressed to find points as good as these. The abundant wildlife of the surrounding waters also supports tourism, fisheries, and provide an invaluable study area for marine sciences.

Original post on, Phosphate Mining Threatens Scorpion Bay, Mexico

A deep ocean phosphate mining project has been proposed for the waters offshore of Scorpion Bay in Baja Sur, Mexico.  The grand scope of the project would have grave impacts to the ocean ecosystems located right next to some of Baja’s most seductive points.

Exploraciones Oceánicas, S. de R. L. de C.V. has submitted its Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the project called “Don Diego.”  The mining permits allow for phosphate exploration off the coast of Mexico in the Bahía de Ulloa, between Abreojos and San Lázaro.  Phosphate is exploited for its value as an agricultural ammendment and is used in large scale applications in the USA and around the world.  The project proposes using marine dredges to a) dredge phosphatic sand from the ocean floor and b) prepare it for transport using a desalination barge.  The work area is located 12 miles from the nearest point to the coast and adjacent to the fishing area called San Juanico.  If allowed, the scope of work entails dredge operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 50 years.

Authorities close to the project claim that their EIS has been vetted and approved by multiple NGO’s in Mexico, although none have been found yet who can verify this claim.  The proposed mining site is located in an area of ocean long studied by scientists for the abundance of marine mammals that inhabit the area.  It holds no less than 5 species of sea turtle, all listed as endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species, as well as the Red Crabs, the main food source for Olive Ridley and Loggerhead turtles. The region is also considered a hot spot for Black Marlin, Swordfish, and Blue Whales.

Researches have been studying the health and mortality rates of sea turtles in this area due to industry for years.  2 of the 5 species of turtle found here are listed as endangered on the IUCN red list of Threatened species. Adding more threats to their already questionable future cannot aid in our ability to understand or protect their long term health.

What Can You Do?

José Carlos Cota Osuna, delegate for the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) has stated that a public information meeting for the Don Diego marine mining project, will be held on November 5th in the auditorium of the Valley of Santo Domingo Local Agricultural Association, in the city of Constitucion.  This meeting was previously scheduled for the 31st of October, but was unexpectedly changed.  Unfortunately, this practice is common and those interested in opposing the project are advised to stay aware and ready for news of this meeting as it could be changed yet again.  

Any and all guests are welcome, tourists, locals, and part time residents without discrimination.  Both vocal and written comment will be heard and accepted.  Anyone able to attend the meeting is strongly encouraged to go and take their neighbors with them.  The governmental body, SEMARNAT, who decides whether this project is approved or delayed/cancelled will be present. Written comment must be submitted with technical documentation supporting all project scope objections.

Odyssey Marine Exploration, a US based company behind the project, has engaged J.P. Morgan as its financial advisor to help it evaluate options to best maximize the value of the project including alternatives for financing the project, potential partnerships or other strategic options.  Two contacts with JP Morgan in charge of partnering and funding for this project are listed below:

-Rodney Merritt Miller, Managing Director in JP Morgan’s Mergers and Acquisitions Group

-Jeffrey Price, Managing Director of their Chemical and Fertilizers Group in New York

To contact them, call 212-270-6000 and ask for them by name, the operator will connect you and you will most likely have to leave a message.  When speaking to them on the phone or leaving messages, reference the Don Diego Phosphate Mining project in Bahía Ulloa in Baja Sur.  Please do not threation or insult these individuals or JP Morgan.  Simply leave a message stating why this ill conceived project is a risk to the reputation of JP Morgan and their supporters.

What Is Really At Risk?

The threat of this project goes well beyond the waves of Scorpion Bay.  Projects of this nature and scope are few and far between for comparison.  Two similar projects that were previously proposed in New Zealand and Namibia were met with public outcry.  The environmental impacts are not completely understood and thus present significant reason for caution and concern if the project is granted. Whales, turtles, and benthic and pelagic flora and fauna all face real risks to their health, as do the industries they support like tourism and fishing.

While the waves of Scorpion Bay could be negatively affected by changes in water quality and sand flow, the threats to species biodiversity, foraging habitat, and fishing industry are just as real and grave. The livelihood of coastal communities along the Baja Sur coast depend on these eco-systems for survival, as do the international fisheries industries of Mexico.

Save The Waves will continue to monitor this situation and provide avenues for action as soon as they become available.