Surprise decision on salt project raises questions
Mexico City, Mexico
First came the announcement: The Mexican government and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. have canceled their $180 million project to build a huge salt plant at Laguna San Ignacio, a gray whale breeding ground in Baja California Sur.
Then came the questions: Is this a sign Mexico will give the environment more weight in future development decisions? Or is it simply a political surrender in the face of unusually vigorous and broad-based environmental opposition?
Speculation on both points has abounded since Mexico and Mitsubishi disclosed on March 2 that they were scrapping their project in Laguna San Ignacio, which is part of the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve.
And small wonder. Their joint venture, Exportadora de Sal (Essa)—owned 49% by Mitsubishi and 51% by the Mexican government—had been pushing for the new plant since 1994.
The company already operates a salt plant about 95 miles (150 kms) northwest at Laguna Ojo de Liebre, another gray whale stopping place in the Vizcaino reserve. By building the new facility, Essa would double its output, tapping global demand for salt in the manufacture of products ranging from soy sauce to plastics and glass.