Jul 142016
 

Mexico’s Business Coordination Council (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial, CCE) has launched a publicity drive to counter the disinformation and anti-Mexican rhetoric emerging in U.S. political campaigns. The details of the publicity drive remain unclear.

Juan Pablo Castañón, CCE’s president, says the aim is to emphasize the true strength and importance of good Mexico-U.S. relations. In particular, the NAFTA trade zone accounts for 15% of global trade, 28% of global GDP and 14% of FDI flows. Trade between the three partners has quadrupled since 1993 and exceeded a trillion dollars in 2015, half of which is attributable to U.S.-Mexico trade.

Mexico is the second most important destination for U.S. exports and the main market for exports from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Goods worth 500 million dollars cross the border daily.

According to Castañón, if U.S. politics puts a brake on this trade, more than six million U.S. workers could lose their jobs. Proposed tariffs on imports of flat screens and vehicles would raise prices significantly in the USA. In addition, 80% of avocados and 50% of tomatoes sold in the USA come from Mexico.

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Jul 112016
 

One year on from when we last reported on the desperate plight of Mexico’s “little sea cow”, the endangered vaquita marina, where are we now?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “The vaquita is at the edge of extinction”. The latest population estimate suggests that the number of vaquita in the wild has fallen from about 100 in 2014 to just 60 today, despite a much-publicized ban on fishing in the main area where the little sea cows are found.

As we reported in Mexico’s “little sea cow” on the verge of extinction two years ago, the sea cow’s fate is inextricably tied to fishing for the (also endangered) totoaba, a fish in demand in China for its swim bladder, which is believed to have medicinal properties. Fishermen in Mexico’s Gulf of California (Sea of Cortés) are reported to have been offered more than $4,000 for a single totoaba bladder, which weighs only 500 grams. The price in China is reported to be between $10,000 and $20,000 each.

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

In April 2015, federal authorities imposed a two-year ban on gillnets and expanded the vaquita protection area to cover 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) of the upper Gulf of California . Some 600 gill nets (each of which can be up to # meters long) were seized by the Mexican Navy in 2015 (and 77 individuals detained), and navy personnel claim they are still confiscating nets every day.

The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) is trying to make a difference. Among the options being considered by Mexico’s Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) is assisted breeding, though a vaquita expert, Barbara Taylor of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is quoted in The Guardian as claiming that “We have no idea whether it is feasible to find, capture and maintain vaquitas in captivity much less whether they will reproduce. The uncertainties are large.” The World Wildlife Fund Mexico is currently opposed to such a strategy, given the very low number remaining.

Mexico has had conservation successes in the past, allowing the populations of other marine animals, including the Guadalupe fur seal and the northern elephant seal, to recover.

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Jul 072016
 

Acapulco international airport (ACA), in Guerrero state, currently handles about 800,000 passenger movements each year. The airport is operated by Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro-Norte (GACN), which also manages airports in another 12 cities. With suitable fanfare in 2014, GACN announced plans to replace the terminal building.

Acapulco, Mexico's first major resort. Photograph by Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

Acapulco, Mexico’s first major resort. Photograph by Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

Last month, GACN reiterated it is investing $30.5 million to build a new terminal building for Acapulco capable of handling 1.3 million passengers a year. The group claims that the new terminal, which will be more than 18,000 square meters in area, will have a state-of-the-art design that will reduce the risks associated with natural hazards and provide much greater space for passengers, airlines and all other supporting services. In addition, it will adopt a range of electricity-saving measures, lowering the airport’s regular operating costs.

Now scheduled to be completed by mid-2018, the Acapulco terminal is the most significant single investment that GACN plans to make in the next five years, and comes at a time when city authorities are busy revitalizing the famous resort. An improved public transit system known as Acabús was officially inaugurated in the city in June 2016.

The new terminal will, however, no longer be ready in time for 2017, when Acapulco will once again host Mexico’s massive annual tourism trade fair, the Tianguis Turístico.

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Jul 042016
 

A recent Bloomberg analysis highlights Mexico’s “Clean Energy Revolution”. The analysis of Mexico’s electricity sector finds that total energy demand will rise 72% over the next 25 years, from 305,000 GWh in 2015 to 512,000 GWh in 2040, while installed capacity will triple, to around 247 GW.

Fossil fuels are currently the source of 78% of the electricity generated in Mexico, but renewable energy (including hydro-power) will account for 69% by 2040.

According to Bloomberg, the costs of producing wind and solar energy will become fully competitive with electricity from natural gas power stations by 2025.

The report concludes that the renewable energy sector in Mexico represents an enormous investment opportunity, worth up to $186 billion between now and 2040.

The federal government is increasing its investments in research and development of renewable energy sources each year, up to $310 million in 2020, to build more “energy innovation centers” (Cemies). The five existing Cemies focus on geothermal, solar, wind, bioenergy and ocean energy respectively. Two new Cemies will investigate the use of intelligent networks and carbon capture alternatives.

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Jun 302016
 

Pemex has concluded a round of upgrades to its refineries which means that all fuels made in Mexico are now “clean” (ultra-low-sulfur). Pemex refineries produce 420,000 barrels of vehicle fuels a day, but national demand is for 800,000 barrels a day.

pemex

Imported fuels, which come mainly from refineries in Texas, already meet ultra-low-sulfur standards. The state oil giant has invested 1.7 billion dollars in modifying its six refineries to produce only ultra-low-sulfur fuels.

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Jun 272016
 

Despite some recent setbacks to hotel projects planned for the Caribbean side of Mexico, hotel building continues to gather pace elsewhere in the country, seemingly regardless of the long-term advantages and ecological value of retaining an undisturbed, or minimally-disturbed, coastline

In April, at Mexico’s major tourism trade fair, the Tianguis Turistico, in Guadalajara, authorities announced the go-ahead for Costa Canuva, a $1.8 billion tourism project in the state of Nayarit. The project is a joint venture between the federal tourism development agency, Fonatur, and Portuguese construction firm Mota Engil.

Costa Canuva is in the municipality of Compostela, and is situated about 65 km (40 mi) north of Puerto Vallarta international airport and will be under three hours driving time from Guadalajara once the new Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta road is completed.

Costa-Canuva

The 255 hectares (630 acres) of beach, estuary and mountains involved in Costa Canuva has 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) of beachfront, and was designated by Fonatur several years ago as the site for a purpose-built resort. The original version of the project, which never got off the ground, was known as Costa Capomo.

The revamped project, Costa Canuva, will add five hotels and more than 2,500 homes to this stretch of coast known as Riviera Nayarit. The first phase, expected to take three years and create more than 2,000 direct jobs, includes a luxury Fairmont Hotel, residential areas, and a golf course designed jointly by golf supertars Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa.

The master plan for the project includes a beachfront village with 2,500 residential units, more than 20 kilometers of cycling tracks designed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and an adventure park featuring canopy rides and ziplines.

The centerpiece Fairmont hotel will have 250 guestrooms and suites, more than 22,000 square feet of meeting and event space, six restaurants and bars, an expansive outdoor swimming pool and a massive spa, as well as a center for children and young adults.

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Jun 232016
 

At the Mexico-China Forum for Cooperation in Mexico City in May 2016, authorities from China’s Guangdong Province met with Mexican officials and discussed plans to invest in Mexico’s recently-established Special Economic Zones.

special-economic-zones

These zones offer tax benefits and support services to investors in order to generate new sources of employment in southern Mexico (Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacán, Veracruz and Tabasco).

Trade between Guangdong Province and Mexico was worth $10.4 billion last year, 25% of the two countries’ total trade. Chinese firms are considering projects related to aerospace, vehicles, electronics and energy, which could add $480 million in foreign direct investment. In support of closer ties between Mexico and China, China Southern Airlines plans direct flights between Guangdong and Mexico starting next year, which would serve business travelers and also boost tourism.

Jun 202016
 

Mexico is the world’s leading producer of silver and has occupied top spot for several years. Mexico’s output of silver rose 2.0% in 2015 to 5,372 metric tons (189.5 million ounces). Mexico is responsible for 21% of global production, followed by Peru (15%), China (12%) and Australia and Russia (each 6%). About 70% of silver produced in Mexico is exported, the remainder is sold on the domestic market.

Global silver production fell slightly in 2015 due to decreased output from Canada, Australia and China. World demand for silver in 2015 reached a record 33,170 tons (1,170 million ounces), due to surges in three manufacturing sectors: jewelry, ingots and coins, and photo-voltaic solar panels.

The increased output in Mexico came from expansions in the Saucito and Saucito II mines, operated by Fresnillo, and the El Cubo mine, managed by Canadian firm, Endeavour Silver. A similar increase in production is predicted this year, given the on-going expansion of the San José mine, owned by Canada-based Fortuna Silver Mines.

Zacatecas is Mexico’s leading silver producing state (46.5% of total; see map), well ahead of Chihuahua (16.6%), Durango (11.3%) and Sonora (6.9%).

Silver production in Mexico, 2011. Data: INEGI. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico

Silver production in Mexico, 2011. Data: INEGI. Credit: Tony Burton/Geo-Mexico

In Zacatecas, silver mining is especially important in the municipalities of Fresnillo (24% of total national silver production) and Mazapil (15%) as well as Chalchihuites and Sombrerete (3% each). The main silver mining municipality in Chihuahua is Santa Bárbara (3% of national total). In Durango, San Dimas and Guanaceví are each responsible for about 3% of national production, while the leading municipality for silver in Sonora is Nacozari de García (1%).

The legacy of silver

The importance of silver mining in colonial New Spain can not be over-emphasized. For instance, during colonial times nearly one third of all the silver mined in the world came from the Guanajuato region!

Even today, the cities and landscapes of many parts of central and northern Mexico reveal the historical significance of silver mining. The legacies of silver mining include not only the opulent colonial buildings in numerous major cities such as Zacatecas and Guanajuato, as well as innumerable smaller towns, but also the deforestation of huge swathes of countryside.

The landscape of states like San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas and Guanajuato was forever changed by the frenzied exploitation of their woodlands. Silver mines needed wooden ladders and pit props. The smelting of silver ore required vast quantities of firewood. Barren tracts of upland testify to the success of those early silver mines. Mining played a crucial role in the pattern of settlement and communications of most of northern Mexico. The need to transfer valuable silver bullion safely from mine to mint required the construction of faster and shorter routes (see, for example, El Camino Real or Royal Road, the spine of the colonial road system in New Spain), helping to focus the pattern of road and rail communications on a limited number of major cities.

Once workable ores ran out, smaller mining communities fell into obscurity and many became ghost towns. Some of these settlements, such as Real de Catorce and Angangueo, have enjoyed a new lease of life in recent years due to tourism.

The main town associated with silver and tourism is Taxco, the center of silversmiths and silver working in Mexico.

Mining towns described briefly previously on Geo-Mexico.com include:

Note: This is a 2016 update of a post first published in 2013.

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Jun 162016
 

On 21 June, the public transit system known as ACAbús will finally officially begin operations in the resort city of Acapulco in Guerrero. ACAbús began trial operations on 31 May, following several years of delays.

acabus

The service employs 135 Dina buses of various kinds, all equipped with state-of-the-art technology to reduce emissions, save fuel and will substitute 366 old, less efficient vehicles to the benefit of both locals and tourists.

The system represents an investment of around $140 million, roughly two-thirds for highway and transit stop refurbishment and one-third for operating equipment (vehicles and travel card machines).

ACAbús connects the resort’s many tourism attractions and facilities. The main central axis (map) is a 16-km (10 mile) long route from Las Cruces along Avenida Cuauhtémoc to Caleta, with 18 stops along the way. This portion will be confined solely to rapid transit articulated buses.

Map of ACAbús network; click forlarger pdf map

Map of ACAbús network; click for larger pdf map

Four trunk routes supplement this central axis, each with a limited number of stops. The ones of interest to most tourists will be Routes 4 and 5, which run along the main Costera Miguel Alemán highway. A series of shorter feeder routes provides easy access from most parts of the city to the nearest trunk route.

Passengers are required to obtain a pre-paid card in order to use the system. Most journeys, including connecting service, will cost $10 pesos (less than 60 cents U.S.).

The number of different bus routes in Acapulco has been reduced from about 220 to 120, but travel times should be greatly improved. Authorities claim that the system should cut regular traffic by about 25%, and that everyone will benefit as it means that older vehicles have been removed from the roads with a decrease in total emissions.

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Jun 132016
 

Mexico’s national electrical system serves about 97% of all Mexicans. In recent years electrical generation has not been able to keep pace with demand for electricity, which is increasing at about 6% to 7% per year. Attempts to increase private sector investment in energy as a means to keep up with surging demand have met opposition in the Mexican Congress. Under current law, private investors may generate electricity but transmission and distribution are restricted to the Federal Electricity Commission.

Mexico's major power stations. Fig 16-2 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

Mexico’s major power stations. Fig 16-2 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

About 30% of Mexico’s total installed electricity generating capacity of 60,000 MW comes from conventional power plants burning oil. Natural gas-fueled power plants account for about 35%, while coal plants contribute about 9%. Altogether, fossil fuel burning facilities account for almost three-quarters of Mexico’s generating capacity.

Many of Mexico’s newer power plants are highly efficient, gas-fired, combined cycle plants which integrate gas and steam turbines. On a per megawatt basis, they are relatively economical to build. Their major disadvantage (equally true for conventional thermo-electric power stations) is that their emissions contribute to air pollution (particularly sulfur dioxide) and global warming. About 25% of Mexico’s annual emissions of carbon dioxide are due to electricity generation.

Hydroelectric power has been important since the early part of the twentieth century. Currently about 22% of the electricity generating capacity is from hydroelectric plants. The largest hydroelectric plants are on the Grijalva River in Chiapas. Other rivers providing significant hydropower are the Balsas, Santiago, Fuerte, Papaloapan and Moctezuma.

Mexico has one nuclear power plant at Laguna Verde in Veracruz, which provides about 2.6% of the nation’s generating capacity. No additional nuclear plants are planned.

Mexico has the world’s second largest geothermal electrical potential, after Indonesia. This resource might be more important in the future but at present it accounts for less than 2.4% of Mexico’s electricity capacity.

The region of Mexico with most potential for wind power is the low-lying and flat Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico where annual wind speeds, at a height of 30m (100 ft) above the ground (the height of modern windmills), average more than 30 kph (19 mph). Despite the success of the windfarms already operating in La Venta (Oaxaca) and Guerrero Negro (Baja California Sur), wind power is responsible for less than 0.05% of all electricity. The government hopes to boost wind power capacity significantly within the next five to ten years.

Most solar power interest is focused not on large scale plants but on small-scale photovoltaic (PV) systems providing electricity in remote rural areas. About 3 million people (3% of the population) live in small or remote settlements not yet connected to the national electricity grid. More than 60,000 PV systems have been installed nationwide, benefiting 250,000 rural inhabitants.

This is an excerpt from chapter 16 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy (Print or ebook) today!

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