Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
Mining as a Development Factor in The Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca:
an Ethical Evaluation1
Mario Enrique Fuente* and David Barkin**
Date received: February 27, 2012. Date accepted: August 1, 2012

The Mexican government has justified granting mining concessions in indigenous territories as a strategy to promote development. This action, based on the theory of general competitive balance, ignores the ethical and environmental costs and implications. Given these limits, the article explores heterodox analytic fields and a concrete case: the Zapotec community in Sierra de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico, in the context mining concessions that have been granted in their territory. This research seeks to define the ethical debate on development and sustainability in territorial and political terms.

Keywords: mining, ethics, sustainability, communality, Oaxaca.

The debate surrounding the value of the mining industry (and the granting of concessions) as a motor of development in Mexico and Latin America has vastly grown in the last two decades. This issue is one of the paradigmatic symbols of the dispute regarding nation-building projects. This conflict clearly highlights the clash of very different theoretical and epistemic perspectives on the meaning of development, progress, democracy, justice and in particular, sustainability.

Many public policy actions are implicitly centered on the dominant paradigm of neoclassical economic theory, based on the axioms of the general theory of competitive balance (Ortiz, 1998; Nadal, 2011). In this sense, many Latin American states and investors have a vision of development that is imbued with rational economics and influenced by modern Americanized Western institutions (Echeverría, 2008). The idea of “competitive advantage” is part of this, especially during the current phase of neoliberalism (Martínez-Alier, 2004). This economist vision of development has been reproduced and legitimized by academia, which in turn orients public policies, and vice versa.

Given this approach, this article explores other heterodox perspectives. In this research, the fields of environmental economics and political ecology, as well as the concrete community practices of the Zapotec community of Capulálpam de Méndez, in the Sierra de Juárez in Oaxaca, Mexico, provide the analytical references and theoretical and epistemic links of great interest. This text will recognize the relevance of ethical postures derived from the rationality of communities that live in territories with high mining potential, especially those populations related to Mesoamerican culture.2 This framework will allow us to define the debate regarding the direction of development and sustainability in epistemic, territorial and political terms from an ethical angle.

1 The work reported in this article is part of a research program supported by the European Commission Program fp7, “Environmental Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Our part is related to “Local Solutions for Environmental Justice,” which provides resources for our participation and for community researchers to carry out their research and analysis.

* Researcher and Director of the Environmental Studies Institute of the Universidad de la Sierra in Juárez, Mexico. E-mail: fuente@juppa.unsij.edu.mx

** Professor-Researcher at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Xochimilco, Mexico. E-mail: barkin@correo.xoc.uam.mx

2 It is not a coincidence that mining concessions have been concentrated in indigenous communities, and that these peoples have historically been expelled from the most fertile agricultural land due to colonial expansion that relegated them to the most inhospitable zones of Latin America.

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 48, Number 191, October-December 2017 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Nov 13th, 2017.
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