Residents of Askaoun, Morocco, have demanded that a Canadian mining company leave the land alone.
Rabat – Residents of Askaoun, a small village near Marrakech in southwestern Morocco, have demanded that officials grant the locals property titles of the area. The request is a response to the disturbances that a Canadian mining company, Maya Gold and Silver, is causing.
In 2014, Maya Gold and Silver began working on a nearby mine named Zgounder. The project has created job opportunities and brought the anticipation of the industry to the quiet village.
About five years later, however, the townspeople have increasingly grown dissatisfied with the mining company, suggesting the company is no longer welcome.
Central in their complaint is that the Zgounder project has caused undesirable living conditions, including excess noise pollution and interference with irrigation systems. Locals of Askaoun link the company’s activities to water shortages. Residents also say that the project has generated chemical waste.
The people, who do not have a deed to the land but have owned it unofficially for decades, are also claiming that the company is operating without their consent and that their property is being exploited. Residents demanded that Maya Gold and Silver help ease access to water and assist development efforts in the town as compensation.
On June 6, 2018, the local authorities agreed to provide residents with property titles as quickly as possible. Parliament members from the Justice and Development Party (PJD) laid out the Askaoun residents’ concerns in a letter to the Ministry of Energy and Mines. It reads, “This land has always belonged to the residents of the village, long before there were any official registers.”
Maya Gold and Silver disputed that the land is collective land, belonging to no one. General director Noureddine Mokadem also said the company is “within its rights” as it used the water source.
The company said, “The water we are using for silver extraction comes from Ouarzazate, near the High Atlas mountains. Local authorities diverted the water in the 1980s so that it could be used in mining operations. When the silver extraction stopped for several years, people got used to using the water to irrigate their fields and water livestock. But now that we’re exploiting the mine again, we have to use the water that was brought here specifically for the mine.”
As for the chemical waste, the ministry said in a 2018 letter that most of the silver mining used a method called flotation, which separates materials while “reduc[ing] the environmental impact that past mining operations may have had.” The letter also stated that Maya Gold and Silver’s operations had actually been approved in 2014.