Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed to modify Article 27 to prohibit open-pit mining, as part of a range of constitutional reforms presented before parliament, citing concerns for excessive environmental damage. 

The proposal, announced early in February 2024, calls for bans on open-pit mining concessions and activities relating to the exploration, exploitation, benefit or use of minerals, metals or metalloids using the open-pit method. 

“It is clear that open-pit mining transgresses human rights by affecting the right to a healthy environment and good health. The most significant effects are evident in the communities and towns near project areas, placing them in a situation of vulnerability and inequality,” Obrador’s proposal states. 

Communities that struggle with water shortages could also be supplied with water that was hitherto used in open-pit mining, according to Obrador. 

Underground mining, however, is not covered by the proposals. 

As many of Mexico’s oldest and largest mines are open-pit operations, the government is likely to face hostility from big industry players following this move. Of the 250 mines hosted by the nation, 97 are open-pit projects, mostly located in Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Sonora and San Luis Potosí.  

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Key producers include Fresnillo, Newmont, Grupo Mexico and Industrias Peñoles. 

Since assuming power in 2018, Obrador’s administration has not granted any new open-pit mining concessions through de facto mechanisms, without the backing of any specific law. 

Douglas Coleman, general director of the Mexican Mining Center, said: “His policy of not granting new mining concessions has crippled mining exploration in Mexico and has caused the biggest negative impact on the industry. The effects of this decision will be felt for years to come.” 

The recent move risks disturbing investors who have already experienced an uncertain investment environment after senators spoke of reforms that shortened mining concessions from 50 to 30 years and tightened water extraction permits in May 2023.