Moroccan villagers protest against silver mine
Mount Alebban, 5000 feet high in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, has been occupied by villagers for over 2 years now, in protest against the Imiter Mettalurgic Mining Company (a company whose principal owner was said to be the king of Morocco).
In the summer of 2011 villagers from the municipality of Imider, with 6,000 inhabitants, joined together in solidarity to protest the mining company’s expropriation of precious water supplies, as well as the pollution that results from the mining.
The occupation of the hill was set off after students who were used to getting seasonal jobs were turned down. That led the other villagers — even those with jobs — to show solidarity and move to block the mine’s production abilities. One of the main demands of the villagers is that 75 percent of the jobs at the mine be allocated to their municipality.
Residents of Imider climbed Mount Alebban and closed a water valve, cutting off the water supply to the mine.
Company officials say their processing capacity dropped 40 percent in 2012 and 30 percent in 2013, after the villagers cut off one source of their water. These days, they use another source in an effort to make up the loss.
It was reported that villagers have accused the company of causing environmental damage that has lead to “the spread of disease, livestock fatalities and desertification”. Bou Tahar, a local farmer, was quoted saying “In the 1990s, I used to have trees, fruits, oil, almonds, but they died after the mine began taking the water. Since we cut the flow in 2011, our wells are starting to fill up again.”
Farid Hamdaoui, a manager at the mine stated: “we are very careful, and we don’t pollute the water or the land around the mine. We recycle 62 percent of the water we use, and we have authorization from the state to pump the water we use.”
Gavin Hilson, a mining and business specialist at the University of Surrey Business School, commented on the situation in Imider “If you’re operating in a place like that with quite a few people living in the community, it would be suicidal to exhaust the place from its water supply or to reach a point where villagers become agitated over the consumption of water...It is always challenging to operate in dry environments. There are issues with water, with waste disposal and community development because it all revolves around water.”
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