TB

Oct 202014
 

Which of Mexico’s states have the fastest growing economies? The map below, based on INEGI data, shows each state’s percentage change in GDP for the three year period from 31 March 2011 to 31 March 2014.

Change in GDP by state, 2011-2014. Data: INEGI. Credit: Geo-Mexico

Change in GDP by state, 2011-2014. Data: INEGI. Credit: Geo-Mexico

Only one state – Campeche – registered “negative growth” over the period. In Campeche, production from the oil fields that have long been a mainstay of the local economy has been gradually declining.

Besides Campeche, six states grew far slower than the average for Mexico: Durango, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas and Guerrero. Not entirely coincidentally, several of these states are among the poorest in the nation, so their failure to grow as quickly as the average leaves them further behind, increasing the economic inequalities that plague Mexico’s development.

At the other end of the spectrum, the economic growth of six states – Sonora, Chihuahua, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Querétaro – easily outpaced the average for the country. Sonora, Chihuahua, Guanjuato, Querétaro, and to a lesser extent Aguascalientes, all benefited from foreign direct investments and new industries, such as those involved in  the vehicle manufacturing and aeronautical sectors.

The case of Michoacán is something of an anomaly, since that state’s economy is still heavily dependent on primary products such as avocados and iron ore. The positive growth in that state may prove to be mainly due to its negative growth in the preceding three years (2008-2011), which meant that it started the three year period shown on the map at an unusually low level. Perhaps more importantly, given the state’s recent political upheavals and gang-related violence, it is highly unlikely that Michoacán will continue to grow anywhere as quickly over the next three years.

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Oct 182014
 

As a species, monarchs are native to North America, but subsequently island-hopped their way around the world—across the Pacific to Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand, and across the Atlantic to Europe. In parts of Mexico, particularly in the area around Lake Chapala, there is a healthy population of non-migrating monarch butterflies; these butterflies can count on year-round access to milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs. As a result, it is reasonable to conclude that the species itself is in no danger of extinction.

However, what may be “endangered” is the annual migration of Monarch Butterflies to and from Mexico. This annual migration is categorized as an “endangered phenomenon” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Threats to the migration come from climatic change and extremes, as well as from the impacts of human activity. In some years, unusually cold snaps and hailstorms have caused the premature death of millions of butterflies, though, as yet, this has had little if any discernible effect on total monarch numbers. Human activity has greatly reduced the area of the monarchs’ natural overwintering habitats, in both California, for real estate developments, and in Michoacán, due to forest clearance for timber and agriculture. Farming activities in the US have also resulted in the loss of milkweed along the Monarchs’ migratory pathways. This loss may have far more serious consequences on the long-term viability of the annual migration. Without milkweed, the female Monarchs are unable to lay their eggs on a suitable host plant, and the Monarch caterpillars will never acquire their chemical defenses against predation.

The numbers of Monarchs overwintering in Mexico have varied greatly from one year to the next. The graph below, reproduced widely in the press, has been used as evidence that the numbers of migrating Monarchs are in sharp decline. A note of caution is needed, though, since the estimates of numbers used for the graph are based on the area of trees occupied by the butterflies, and not on a direct count (which is clearly impractical!)

Monarch-Trends-1994-2013

The challenge for researchers is to be certain that the density and architecture of trees is similar from one year to the next. If the trees are less densely grouped, for example, one year than the next, in the particular areas occupied by the butterflies, then the area the butterflies need will be correspondingly larger. The lower area in recent years could be at least partially explained by a higher tree density in the overwintering areas, allowing the same number of butterflies to co-exist in closer proximity to each other.

This is not to say that there is not cause for concern. According to the National University (UNAM)’s Environmental Geography Research Center, at current rates of deforestation, the area of overwintering sites for the Monarch butterflies could be reduced by 75% in the next 18 years, leaving just 12,000 ha of suitable habitat. The protected area, established in 2000, covers 560 square kilometers (56,000 ha. or 216 sq. mi) but includes land cleared for pasture, settlement and cultivation. Researcher José López García claims the reserve is losing 3% of its forest each year. He blames clearance and changes of land use more than illegal logging. The rate of forest clearance has been exacerbated by a rapid rise in the population of the El Rosario ejido. El Rosario is the gateway to the most-visited part of the reserve, attracting thousands of tourists annually. The ejido’s population rose by an average of 5.65%/year between 2005 and 2010.

What is Mexico doing about this?

The Mexican conservation strategies for the butterflies are designed to protect their overwintering habitat and provide alternative sources of revenue and employment for local campesinos who depend on the land and forest for their livelihood. After some doubtful years in the early 1980s, there is now a system of formally protected monarch butterfly reserves, and concerted conservation efforts to prevent further destruction of the monarchs’ unique overwintering habitat.

The modest entrance fees to Monarch Butterfly reserves help fund development projects in the local communities. There is a strict code of conduct for tourists to prevent noise, littering and straying from the well-marked paths.

While the new rules have undoubtedly had some success, it is still preferable to visit, if at all possible, during the week and not at the weekend when the reserves are at their crazily busiest.

On a quiet day,pausing to catch your breath in the peace of the forest as you climb the trail, you will then be just as surprised as I first was when you realize that the gentle swishing sound you can hear around you is not the sound of the wind blowing through the tree limbs but the sound caused by millions of tiny wings beating as the butterflies flutter about in the sky.

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Oct 162014
 

Geography is not only about things that can be seen, touched and measured. Many branches of geography consider how people think, how communities make decisions and how nations interact.

At a local scale, one of the characteristics that is often overlooked is sound. We often ignore the soundscapes of places, either because we are “too busy” to listen and take in the local sounds, or because we are “too busy” tuning any distinctive local sounds out while using our cell phones or listening to favorite music.

Soundscapes vary greatly from rural areas to urban areas, and from one region to another; Mexico’s urban soundscapes are among the most distinctive on the planet.

In previous posts, we listened to The distinctive sounds of Mexico’s towns and cities; covered our ears as we analysed Noise pollution in Mexico; and also described the amazing Whistled language of the Chinantec people in Oaxaca.

In this post, we take a look at Chris Watson’s intriguing 2011 album “El Tren Fantasma”:

U.K.-based Chris Watson is a preeminent freelance recordist of wildlife and natural phenomena, whose work has been featured in many BBC programs including David Attenborough’s series, The Life Of Birds. As Watson has remarked, sound recording allows you to put a microphone where you can’t put your ears, to enable you to listen to sounds such as the groaning ice of a moving glacier. His work for the BBC was audio vérité but more recently, including in El Tren Fantasma, Watson has experimented with post production techniques to meld field recordings into a narrative.

The result is strangely compelling, dramatic and in some respects, awesome!

The soundscapes of El Tren Fantasma (the title is identical to that of a 1927 Mexican movie) offer a trip from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Coast of Mexico condensed into little more than an hour.

The first six tracks cover the section of railway best known as the Copper Canyon line, one of the few remaining routes in Mexico with regular passenger service.

El Tren Fantasma has 10 tracks (pun intended):

  1. La Anunciante
  2. Los Mochis
  3. Sierra Tarahumara
  4. El Divisadero
  5. Crucero La Joya
  6. Chihuahua
  7. Aguascalientes
  8. Mexico D.F.
  9. El Tajin; El dia y La noche
  10. Veracruz

If you don’t have time to listen to all 10 tracks, the most interesting, from a geographical point of view, are probably the following:

The trip was nicknamed the ghost train by Watson because there are no longer any passenger trains connecting the two coasts. Several years ago, Watson was the sound recordist for a film crew making a program in the BBC TV series Great Railway Journeys. Even then, part of the line was freight only, but in earlier times, there had been regular scheduled passenger trains across the country.

The promotional material asks potential listeners to, “Take the ghost train from Los Mochis to Veracruz and travel cross country, coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic. Ride the rhythm of the rails on board the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (FNM) and the music of a journey that has now passed into history.”

“In this album, the journey of the ‘ghost train’ is recreated, evoking memories of a recent past, capturing the atmosphere, rhythms and sounds of human life, wildlife and the journey itself along the tracks of one of Mexico’s greatest engineering projects.”

Reviews were almost universally positive.

Several reviewers recognized the connection between the soundscapes of El Tren Fantasma and geography, in some cases also attributing reasons for the decline of passenger train services in Mexico. For example Martin Hoyle, writing in The Financial Times, described how “From desert to rainforest, hummingbirds’ wings to the boom of heat rising from the Copper Canyon, it recalls a beloved passenger train system abandoned by privatisation.”

Pete Naughton in The Daily Telegraph wrote that the sound portrait painted by Watson “jostles with human, animal and mechanical life, filling the room with an atmosphere that is more richly evocative of Central America than any TV travel show I’ve seen. Diesel engines thrum, cicadas chirrup and passengers chatter, sing and argue.”

A reviewer in The Milk Factory (UK) drew attention to the “tremor of excitement as the sound of a diesel engine temporarily swallows the clunking noise of metal on metal and the strident hisses as wheels grind again rails and breaks against wheels”, before adding that, “Watson doesn’t aim to recreate the journey in any consistent chronology. Instead, he gives a taste of what this journey actually was by using nature and wildlife sounds to hint at the landscapes passed on the way.”

Spencer Grady, reviewing El Tren Fantasma for BBCi (UK), wrote that: “While Chris Watson’s previous sets – such as 2003’s critically acclaimed Weather Report – have generally concerned themselves with this planet’s myriad beasts and habitats, this narrative inevitably bears an anthropological mark. Indeed, the first voice we hear doesn’t belong to a cuckoo or coyote, but station announcer Ana Gonzalez Bello putting out one “last call for the ghost train”. It’s an unusually contrived opening gambit, from which point the listener is jettisoned into a collision of screeching breaks, rolling stock rattle and hot hydraulic huff. Over half of El Tren Fantasma’s tracks (pun definitely intended) are given over to locomotive sound – gears shifting, hoots, bells and whistles – climaxing with El Divisadero, where Watson manipulates the monolithic machinations into a surging, phantasmal bellow, like a choir of angels struggling to be heard over the rumbling thrum of running gear.”

For an academic geographer’s perspective on El Tren Fantasma, a good place to start (for those with academic library access) is a recent issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (Vol 39, No 3, 2014). In “El tren fantasma : arcs of sound and the acoustic spaces of landscapes”, George Revill, of the Open University, draws on Chris Watson’s soundwork “El tren fantasma” to consider “how sound participates in the production of the railway corridor as a complex, animate and deeply contoured historically and geographically specific experience of landscape.”

El Tren Fantasma offers an extraordinarily evocative sound summary of a trip across Mexico; what a shame that there are now so few passenger services left on Mexican railways!

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Oct 132014
 

The concept of “virtual water” was developed by Professor J.A. Allan of King’s College (London University) and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Allan used it to support his argument that Middle Eastern countries could save their scarce water resources by relying more on food imports. The idea was sufficiently novel for Allan to be awarded the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize.

In Allan’s words, “The water is said to be virtual because once the wheat is grown, the real water used to grow it is no longer actually contained in the wheat. The concept of virtual water helps us realize how much water is needed to produce different goods and services. In semi-arid and arid areas, knowing the virtual water value of a good or service can be useful towards determining how best to use the scarce water available.”

As one example, producing a single kilogram of wheat requires (on average) around 1.5 cubic meters of water, with the precise volume depending on climatic conditions and farming techniques. The amount of water required to grow or make a product is known as the “water footprint” of the product.

Hoekstra and Chapagain have defined the virtual-water content of a product, commodity, good or service, as “the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced”. The virtual water content is the sum of the water used in the various steps of the production chain.

Additional examples, showing the water footprint of producing one kilogram of:

  • biodiesel from soya –  11.4 cubic meters
  • beef –  15.4 cubic meters
  • butter –  5.5 cubic meters
  • chocolate – 17.0 cubic meters
  • pasta –  1.85 cubic meters
  • sugar (from cane) –  0.2 cubic meters

While the idea of virtual water has attracted some attention, its methodology is contested, and its quantification is not yet sufficiently precise to offer much potential for policy decisions.

Imports and exports of virtual water represent the “hidden” flows of water involved when food and other commodities are traded from one place to another. The map below (from Hoekstra and Mekonnen, 2012) shows the net imports (imports minus exports) of virtual water for different countries for the decade 1996-2005. Note that only the major flows are shown.

water-virtual-tradeIn North America, both the USA and Canada have a significant positive virtual water balance (i.e. they are major exporters of virtual water), whereas Mexico has a significant negative water balance, and is clearly one of the world’s largest importers of virtual water.

As Allan’s original work suggests, this is not necessarily bad news since it may imply that Mexico is currently using less of its own (limited) water resources than it might otherwise have to. In other words, Mexico’s virtual water imports may be delaying the inevitable crunch time when water usage becomes a critical limiting factor in the nation’s development.

Source of map

A.Y. Hoekstra and M.M. Mekonnen. 2012. The water footprint of humanity. Proc. Nat. Academy of Sciences, 109, 3232-7. Map was reproduced in “Spotlight on virtual water” by Stuart N. Lane in Geography, vol 99-1, Spring 2014, 51-3.

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Oct 112014
 

Most monarch butterflies never migrate, but one generation of the North American monarch population undertakes an annual, long distance migration, a journey without parallel in the insect world. Every winter, some one hundred million monarch butterflies fly south into Mexico from the U.S. and Canada. They congregate and spend the winter in a dozen localities high in the temperate pine and fir forests of the states of México and Michoacán.

Where do the Monarchs overwinter?

The exact sites where the butterflies overwinter were only found in the mid 1970s after a search of nearly forty years. Scientists are still unable to explain all the details of this enigmatic annual migration, but their unexpectedly sophisticated navigational ability seems to rely on an incredible innate accuracy in pinpointing their position by using their eyes and antennas to measure the angles of the sun’s rays, compensating for time of day, and ensuring they continue to fly in a southerly direction towards the state boundary separating Michoacán from the State of México.

How fast can they fly?

The tagging of butterflies has proven that they make the 2500 kilometer trip each way at an impressive average speed of 20 km/h, with maximum speeds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph). Monarchs don’t fly at night, partly because they need daylight to navigate and partly because they fly best when sunlight has warmed their wings, like miniature solar panels, raising their body temperatures some 10 to 15 degrees Celsius above ambient air temperatures.

The butterflies are energy-efficient flyers, making regular nectar stops along the way to refuel. One third of their dry body weight is energy-giving fat but far from losing weight on their exhausting journey south, they actually appear to gain it! There are still many mysteries about the monarchs but they certainly provide one of the most amazing natural spectacles to be seen anywhere on earth. Millions of orange butterflies, with black and white-spotted wings, whether flying overhead or, as on cooler days, clinging apparently lifeless to the grey-green fir trees in such numbers that the trees appear to be in blossom, are an absolutely unforgettable sight.

Based on original map design created by Paul Mirocha (paulmirocha.com) for Monarch Watch.

Based on original map design created by Paul Mirocha (paulmirocha.com) for Monarch Watch.

The journey south

In September and October, as temperatures in the U.S. and Canada fall, and food supplies become scarce, the monarchs fly south in small groups. Some of these groups fly only as far as Florida or western California where they spend their winters in milder conditions. But many of the small groups from east of the Continental Divide eventually coalesce and fly much further south, as far as Mexico, arriving en masse in the state of Michoacán towards the end of November.

This migratory group is comprised of as many as 120 million individuals and spends the winter in semi-dormancy, on the pine and oyamel (sacred fir, Abies religiosa) trees found at elevation of about 3050 meters (10,000 feet) along Mexico’s central Volcanic Axis. Until spring comes, in March or April, these butterflies cling to the branches and trunks of the trees, enjoying temperatures between 10 and 16 degrees Celsius, protected from cold northerly winds. Their metabolism slows down in these low temperature, low oxygen conditions and they exhibit movement only on warm, sunny, days.

The generation that flies into Mexico does not mature sexually until the following spring. In February and March, the best months to see them, early spring sunlight begins to penetrate the groves of fir trees, temperatures begin to rise and the forest floor slowly comes alive with new plant growth. The butterflies, having successfully overwintered the worst weather, unfurl their wings and flutter about in search of food and water. As they regain their strength, so they become sexually mature and the mating process starts.

The journey north

After mating, the butterflies begin to leave the reserves, flying back towards the north. Five days later, in northern Mexico and the southern U.S., each female lays two to three hundred eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. They first check (by smell and touch) that no eggs have already been laid there, and then space their eggs in such a way so as to ensure that each larva that hatches two to three days later will have an adequate supply of food. The larvae grow quickly, changing their skins five times before becoming pupae. After a further two weeks, butterflies emerge, and fly northwards. Each generation of monarchs probably acquires a different chemical “blueprint”, based on the exact species of milkweed it eats, giving it the information it needs to know where to fly. Eventually, by April, the northernmost butterflies reach Canada.

No individual butterfly completes the entire 5000 kilometer round trip. Most of those that fly south die soon after mating in spring (with males often dying in the reserves and never starting their homeward trip), while those who head north cannot hope to survive long into the summer, when normal reproductive cycles, each lasting from four to six weeks, are reestablished.

The last generation of each summer, perhaps prompted by shorter days, soon departs on the next wave of mass migration to Mexico. Those from furthest north will cross the Great Lakes on their return in a single day’s flight, an impressive feat in its own right. They have been spotted flying south at heights up to 1500 meters and exploit thermals to gain height and save energy.

Where to see Monarch Butterflies

Several monarch reserves are open to the public each year. Each has its own distinctive character. Two of the most important reserves are close to the town of Angangueo. Sierra Chincua, north of the town, is the site where the first Canadian-tagged monarch was found in the mid 1970s. This is also where I first saw the butterflies, in 1980, while looking for a potential site for geography fieldwork. It was a serendipitous discovery, and led to me being mistaken for a BBC reporter, but that’s another story!

Angangueo. Sketch by Mark Eager; all rights reserved.

Angangueo. Sketch by Mark Eager; all rights reserved.

The most accessible reserve open to the public is El Rosario, south of Angangueo, where there are dozens of souvenir stalls and rustic snack stands—don’t miss sampling the delicious hand-made blue-corn tortillas. The narrow trails in the sanctuary, with information boards at regular intervals, wind steeply several hundred meters uphill, reaching a maximum altitude of 3050 meters. This altitude can cause some shortage of breath and air temperatures are generally low, so be sure to bring a sweater.

El Rosario can be reached from either Angangueo (steeper but more direct approach) or Ocampo. Anyone driving their own vehicle to El Rosario is advised to use the route via San Felipe (on Highway 15) and then Ocampo. From Ocampo any vehicle with adequate ground clearance, including the local taxis, can negotiate the fourteen kilometers to the monarch sanctuary parking lot.

The San Felipe-Ocampo junction on Highway 15 is marked by a line of fruit and soft-drink stalls, many of which in season sell delicious granadas (pomegranates). Also at this junction is an interesting sixteenth century church which, until as recently as 1995, had tombstones in its atrium, unusual in Mexico. Normally, the Spanish buried their dead as far away from the churchyard as possible, presumably to avoid the risk of disease.

Want to read more?

This post is based on chapter 36 of my “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” (link is to Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature), also available as either a Kindle edition or Kobo ebook.

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Oct 092014
 

What will they think of next? Officials in Mexico City have plans to provide the tourist zone of the Xochimilco canals with environmentally friendly boats and barges and to gradually substitute the usual wooden ones, which have very high maintenance costs. The plan was unveiled a few weeks ago by Mauricio León, director of infrastructure, modernization and innovation for the Federal District.

Xochimilco (Wikipedia; creative commons)

Xochimilco (Wikipedia; creative commons)

Apparently, the traditional wooden vessels, known as trajineras, with their colorful arches, formerly used mostly to transport goods but now dedicated almost exclusively to tourism, require “an enormous expense” each year since they need to be renovated annually, in part due to “the deterioration in recent years” of the water quality in the canals. According to León, the water contains high levels of fungi that degrade the wood. (Q. In that case, why not clean the water, and keep the traditional designs made of wood?)

Mexico City officials have already launched a prototype of the new, plastic, ecologically-sound craft, and hope that the owners of the traditional gondola-like non-motorized boats will form a cooperative to gradually replace them. The design of the new “technoecological” vessels was created by scientists at the National University (UNAM) and preserves the typical characteristics that have made it a widely recognized symbol of tourism in Mexico.

The great advantage of the new boats, made of recycled PET plastic (some of it no doubt pulled from the canals), polyethylene and volcanic clay is their greater durability and stability. Proponents claim that since they are made of recycled material, unlike the traditional ones for which 20 trees have to be cut down to make each trajiinera, the new boats are much cheaper, require less maintenance and their durability is much greater, with the potential to last up to 120 years.

There is one slight problem: the cost of the machinery required to make them. Authorities hope to persuade the boatmen to form “a cooperative able to get financing for the machines,” which will require an investment of some 5 million pesos ($380,000).

This is a long-term plan, because even when the machines are installed, they can produce only about three or four boats a week, and there are an estimated 1500 trajineras currently plying the canals in Xochimilco.

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Oct 062014
 

According to press reports such as Buscan dar “nueva cara” a Puerto Arista (in El Economista), there are plans afoot to develop nearby mangrove swamps as part of an ecotourism project. Local architects in the coastal town of Puerto Arista in Chiapas are backing the project to build what might best be called Mangrove Riviera.

The state government has released this 4-min video that summarizes the plan, with models and images of the area:

The initial investment required to get Riviera Manglar “Pakal Ahau” under way is around $120 million. The major advantage, from the state’s point of view, is that it would open up a new region of the state for tourism, cashing in on the area’s natural wealth, especially its mangroves. Proponents argue that the town could easily become a major center for ecotourism and that provided that the project incorporates a high degree of sustainability, and prioritizes the cultural identity of each location, it could be a model for similar projects elsewhere.

The six main places involved in Riviera Manglar “Pakal Ahau” are

  • Puerto Chiapas
  • Zacapulco
  • La Encrucijada
  • Costa Azul
  • Chocahuital
  • El Gancho

The project would extend to a subregion including Bahía Paredón, Boca del Cielo, Playa del Sol, Bahía Marías, El Madresal, Mojarras, Laguna La Joya, Cabeza de Toro, Cerro Bernal, Manglares and Villa Tortuguero.

In time, Puerto Arista could become another “tourist gem” in Chiapas and offer an interesting continuation of the long-standing Ruta Maya.

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Oct 042014
 

Mexico is the world’s largest producer and exporter of avocados. The avocado harvest for the 2013/14 season was close to 1.5 million metric tons, a new record. More than 90% of Mexico’s avocados are grown in the state of Michoacán, where 12% of all agricultural land is currently under avocado orchards.

Avocado-growing states

Avocado-growing states

Mexico produces about 1.5 million metric tons of avocados a year, on 170,000 hectares in 27 states. The principal producing states are Michoacán 1.2 million tons, Jalisco 87,000; State of México 56,000; Nayarit 34,000; Morelos 27,000; Guerrero 14,000.

Avocado exports have risen sharply and, in the first half of 2014, totaled 353,000 metric tons, worth 800 million dollars, 29% higher than for the same period a year earlier. The most important markets for Mexican avocados are the U.S., Japan, Canada, Central America and Europe, but demand for avocados in Asia, especially China, is rising very quickly.  Exports to China rose 724% for the period to 1,260 metric tons, worth 3 million dollars.

Exports to the USA of avocados were worth 651 million dollars, 31% higher than a year ago; exports to Japan reached 62 million dollars, up 29%; and to Canada 41 million dollars, up 33%.

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Oct 022014
 

One of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world, the Buenavista del Cobre mine in Cananea produced over 200,000 metric tons of copper in 2012. The mine, opened in 1899, is located approximately 40 kilometers south of the border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The open-pit mine was estimated to contain 26.874 million metric tons of copper reserve as of December 2012.

This mine was the location of a 2014 toxic spill: Toxic spill in Sonora copper mine causes environmental disaster

mina-cananea

The ore is refined at an on-site concentrator, which has a milling capacity of 77,000 metric tons/day. The concentrate output is transported to the smelter at La Caridad by rail. Also present are an on-site leaching facility and two solvent extraction and electro winning (SX/EW) plants, with an annual production capacity of 55,000 metric tons of copper cathode.

The active, 2-kilometer-diameter Colorada Pit (top right of image below) is recognizable in this astronaut photograph by the concentric steps, or benches, cut around its perimeter (see larger image). These benches allow for access into the pit for extraction of ore and waste materials.

Cananea Mine, Sonora (NASA Earth Observatory, March 2008)

Cananea Copper Mine, Sonora (NASA Earth Observatory, March 2008) Click to enlarge

Water (black) fills the bottom of the pit and several other basins in the surrounding area. The city of Cananea, marked by its street grid, is northeast of the mine workings. A leachate reservoir for removal and evaporation of water pumped from the mine workings is located to the east of the mine (image lower left). The bluish-white color of deposits near the reservoir suggests the high mineral content of the leachate.

sonora-cananea-mina_de_cobre

Text: NASA’s Earth Observatory and The 10 biggest copper mines in the world

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Sep 272014
 

Today Mexico is hosting World Tourism Day, so this seems like a good time to review the state of Mexico’s tourism sector. The official celebrations are being held in the city of Guadalajara.

The decision by The World Tourism Organization that Mexico should host the 2014 World Tourism Day recognizes Mexico’s importance in world tourism. Mexico is the 13th most popular international destination in the world. In 2013, it welcomed 23.7 million international tourists, who spent 13.8 billion dollars in the country. World Tourism Day 2014 highlights tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic benefits, and its importance in community development.

Earlier this year, Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat published a detailed analysis of the Tourism Industry in Mexico in 2013.

The text of the magazine format publication (link above) is in Spanish, but it includes lots of graphs and maps showing tourism’s trends and patterns. The 21 pages of information cover topics from the origin and spending of tourists to cruise ship ports, hotel occupancy, and number of international flights. The publication offers a wide variety of data and an ideal basis for students who want to design and produce infographics about tourism.

And how is tourism doing in 2014?

So far, all the signs are positive. The number of international visitors for the first half of the year was up 19.6% to 14.2 million, compared to the 11.9 million recorded for the first six months of 2013. Spending in the first half of the year was up 17.6% to 8.435 billion dollars.

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