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Risk: For Whom? Representations of Mining Activity by Different Social Actors in the Molango Manganese District of Hidalgo, Mexico


  • Minerva Catalán-Vázquez,

    1. Departamento de Investigación en Epidemiología Clínica, Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Respiratorias, Distrito Federal, México
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  • Horacio Riojas-Rodríguez,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centro de Investigaciones en Salud Poblacional, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Morelos, México
    • Address correspondence to Horacio Riojas-Rodriguez, Dirección de Salud Ambiental, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Av. Universidad 655, Col. Santa Ma. Ahuacatitlán, CP 62100, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico; tel: +52 777 3293060;

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  • Blanca Estela Pelcastre-Villafuerte

    1. Dirección de Determinantes y Retos de los Sistemas de Salud, Centro de Investigación en Sistemas de Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Morelos, México
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Previous studies have shown high levels of manganese exposure and neurocognitive damage in the population living in the mining zone in Molango, Mexico. One of the objectives of the Intersectoral Group on Environmental Management for the mining district has been to provide public participation in the risk management plan. To achieve this, it is important to know how the different social actors represent the mining activity. The objectives of this study were to characterize the social representations of the mining activity by different social actors. A qualitative design was used based on in-depth interviews of residents, public officials, and a mining company representative. The analysis was conducted according to themes for each group of actors. Essentially, distinct social representations of the different mining activities were identified. Residents viewed mining activities as synonymous with contamination and, therefore, as having affected all areas of their environment, health, and daily life. These activities were seen as a collective risk. The public officials and the mining company held that there was no evidence of harm and saw mining activities as a generator of regional development. Harm to health and the environment were seen as a stance taken by the communities in order to obtain economic benefits from the company. These images of the “other” are shaped by social, political, and cultural factors. They make it difficult for the actors to reach cooperative agreements and thereby affect progress on the risk management plan. Decisionmakers need to take these differences into account when promoting social participation.