Top Ten Reasons Why the Don Diego Phosphate Project Should be Approved

A group of unscrupulous NGO’s has aggressively spread misinformation about the proposed Don Diego phosphate dredging operation.  Traditional media outlets republish this misinformation without any attempt at objectivity, so the general population in Mexico does not have access to accurate information about Don Diego.  To set the public record straight we have compiled a list of facts about the project that will dispel some of the incorrect information in the public domain.


  1. Don Diego will produce a net benefit for the environment. Don Diego requires the removal and processing of no overburden.  The removal and processing of overburden is one of the most environmentally harmful aspects of terrestrial phosphate mining.  Because Don Diego phosphate will supplant phosphate from terrestrial mines, it will have a net beneficial impact on the environment. A recent study from NGO, Earth Economics, concludes that seabed mining can carry social and environmental costs 75-90 percent lower than terrestrial mining projects.                                                                                                                                                                            –
  2. Don Diego can save thousands of lives and improve life for millions. Food poverty is a large scale problem in Mexico.  Over 53 million Mexicans live in poverty and have difficulty meeting basic nutritional needs.  Sadly, approximately 8,500 citizens die each year from malnutrition – especially widespread amongst children.  Don Diego can help make food more abundant and affordable to Mexican citizens by providing low cost fertilizer.  Mexico regularly fertilizes only six of its 24 million arable hectares due to the high price of imported fertilizers, greatly reducing its agricultural productivity.  Adding an inexpensive, local, sustainable source of phosphate will make food more affordable and accessible to ordinary Mexican citizens.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              –
  3. Don Diego will bring significant wealth and jobs to BCS and to Mexico. Royalties from the project could provide more than one hundred million pesos annually to local economies and to the Mexican central government.  Don Diego will help make Mexico a strategic hub for a new fertilizer industry, creating hundreds or even thousands of jobs.  It will also help the country’s balance of payments and help reduce its overreliance on food imports.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    –
  4. Don Diego introduces zero chemicals or other foreign material to the ocean. It involves a simple mechanical process of vacuuming phosphate sands, filtering them, and redepositing sand and shell on the sea bottom by way of a vertical pipe.                                                                                                                                                                             –
  5. The dredging process used in Don Diego’s proposed operation is a relatively gentle and benign form of mineral extraction, and has been practiced for fifty years all over the world with relatively minor environmental impact (including over 220 projects in Mexico). The process, its impacts and risks, are well known and well documented with over $50 million being spent on dozens of government-sponsored and private studies over decades.  The studies demonstrate that impacts can be minimal when practiced in non-sensitive environments.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              –
  6. Don Diego occupies a barren stretch of ocean floor. Scientists believe that the lack of sea life in the area is likely due to the high concentrations of phosphate on the sea floor.  Ironically, the seafloor may become more hospitable to new life following the removal of much of the phosphate by the dredge.  The new topography introduced by the operation may also be more supportive of organisms.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   –
  7. Unlike terrestrial mining, Don Diego won’t contaminate fresh water supplies or contaminate important fresh water sources, it won’t lead to soil erosion or retard soil formation, people won’t be displaced by Don Diego’s activity, no roads will need to be built, no post-mining infrastructure will need to be maintained or monitored, no power plants or electric distribution systems constructed. In addition, Don Diego is very small relative to mines with the same production profile, and will produce much less waste rock.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  –
  8. Don Diego will make Mexico a highly strategic trading partner to the rest of the western hemisphere. North and South America are in great need of additional phosphate reserves.  North America supplies this crucial and strategic commodity predominantly from Florida, but these reserves are in sensitive wetlands and have been heavily mined already so that reserves may be depleted in as few as ten years.  As the dominant supplier of phosphate, Mexico has the opportunity to establish itself as a global hub for trading and processing fertilizer products.                                                                                                                                                                                            –
  9. Don Diego won’t harm whales and it should help increase turtle populations. Don Diego will use a single, slow-moving dredge operating approximately 25 kilometers off the coast.  The minimal noise and dredging footprint will be far from the relatively warm and shallow lagoons and coastline habitats where these animals feed and breed.  The operation is also clear of whale migratory paths.  Don Diego’s dredge will be equipped with safety guards to prevent turtle entrainment.  A comprehensive sea turtle study demonstrated that safety guards have reduced turtle entrainment episodes from 71 per year per project to less than one per year per project.  Ironically, Don Diego should increase turtle populations in the Bay of Ulloa as the sponsor has agreed to fund a turtle hatchery and to help fishermen buy advanced fishing nets that reduce turtle bycatch. Don Diego does not overlap any fishing concessions according to CONAPESCA, and should not have any impact on fish populations.  The operations take place at a depth below the light-fed layer in which phytoplankton live and where fish feed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 –
  10. Empirical evidence gathered from other dredging projects over the last several decades as well as tests specific to Don Diego demonstrate that sediment deposits outside the small footprint of the project (1 square km per year) will be confined to within 2.5 km of the work, and deposition will not occur at a rate greater than the natural rate for the region. Tests measuring toxicity of suspended sediments from Don Diego’s plume show that levels are not dangerous to resident organisms and are within stipulated regulated concentrations. The plume is solely made up of materials naturally occurring on the ocean floor.                                                                                                                                                                    –