Salt Plant Near Whale Habitat Nixed
Bowing to pressure from environmental groups, Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi and the Mexican government announced yesterday they
are scrapping plans to build a salt works near a gray whale breeding area in
Baja California (New York Times).
Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo said the parties had decided to cancel the $120 million project in Laguna San Ignacio because it would "modify the landscape by the lagoon," even though a two-year environmental impact study had said the plant would pose no danger to the whales. The facility would have abutted a UN World Biosphere Reserve (Jose de Cordoba, Wall Street Journal). It would have employed 216 people (Chicago Tribune) and been the largest such salt factory in the world (Reuters/PlanetArk).
Environmentalists elated the decision is "a stunning victory to environmentalists." Jacob Scherr of the Natural Resources Defense Council: "This is a victory not just for the lagoon, but for the planet, and it's a triumph of an empowered citizenry over one of the world's most powerful companies" (John Anderson, Washington Post). Environmental groups worried the project would have harmed one of the last pristine gray whale breeding areas in the world (Susan Ferriss, Cox News Service/Seattle Post-Intelligencer), and that it would have "poisoned" habitat for sea lions, black sea turtles and prong-horned antelope (Peter Greste, BBC News online).
Besides environmentalists, the "ferocious" effort to stop the plant drew support from "international nature groups, famed writers such as Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago, actors such as Pierce Brosnan and social activists such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.." (Sheridan/Smith, Los Angeles Times).
Mitsubishi official James Brumm: "There was a lot of public pressure, and we certainly felt the brunt of that. Although there was no real basis for their fears, we were not able to convince the general public that this was an
environmentally sound project" (Ricardo Sandoval, San Jose Mercury News).