Amparos Filed by Indigenous Communities Against Mining Concessions in Mexico: Implications for a Shift in Ecological Law

Carla Sbert Carlsson

Abstract

Four indigenous communities in Mexico have initiated amparos seeking constitutional protection against mining concessions that have allegedly violated their constitutional rights. In addition to their significant implications for indigenous rights in Mexico, these amparos are part of a growing reaction against laws that prioritize mining interests over community land uses and ecological values. This article explores the relationship of these cases with a new legal paradigm that is emerging in response to the inability of environmental law to adequately address the deepening ecological crisis: ecological law. From an ecological law perspective, these amparos are of interest because of the possibility for courts to give priority to indigenous values ascribing spiritual, ecological and relational meanings to the land and its resources, over economic interests seeking to exploit the land and resources for commercial gain without regard to ecological limits. The article introduces a “lens of ecological law” conceived to understand the nature of the required shift from the current law to ecological law, and then examines the amparo filed by the community of San Miguel del Progreso–Júba Wajíín from this standpoint. The analysis shows that the provisions of the Mining Law challenged by the amparo pose serious obstacles for ecological law (prioritizing mining over any other land use), and it points to certain synergies between indigenous rights and ecological law. While the SCJN did not examine the merits of the amparo because the concessions had been withdrawn, the amparo offers insights into the challenges facing a shift away from the current legal paradigm.

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