"An unacceptable risk" say top world scientists of Mitsubishi's Baja, Mexico salt factory plan

In April, we reported on protests to Mitsubishi's plans for building a salt plant, threatening a critical whale nursery and the entire local marine ecology. Here's more on the state of this important story.

provided by International Environmental Policy & Law


hirty-four of the world's most distinguished scientists, including many Nobel laureates, have joined together in an unprecedented stance against Mitsubishi's plans to build a massive salt factory in Laguna San Ignacio, on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico. Laguna San Ignacio was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, and is the last pristine birthing lagoon for the Pacific gray whale as well as home to many endangered species of flora and fauna.

The prominent group calls Mitsubishi's plans -- to pump 6,000 gallons out of the lagoon per second, and to flood over 116 square miles to create evaporation pools -- "an unacceptable risk" to the environment. Their powerful scientific statement refutes Mitsubishi's eco-friendly claims, and appeared as a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, and as a double-page spread in Mexico's La Reforma and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The ad was sponsored by a Mexican-led international coalition of concerned organizations, including Grupo de los Cien, Pro Esteros, Union de Grupos Ambientalistas, Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, Consejo Para la Defensa de la Costa del Pacifico, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace Mexico, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW -- www.ifaw.org).

Dr. Roger Payne, the world renowned whale biologist who co-discovered that humpback whales sing, drafted this significant scientific declaration. According to Payne, "Mitsubishi needs to recognize the weight of scientific opinion against their plans to turn the California gray whale's last pristine breeding ground into a salt factory." Laguna San Ignacio is home to the only remaining population of gray whales and Payne believes that "It makes no sense to threaten such a unique Mexican and global treasure by converting 116 square miles of critical habitat into an industrial zone."

The statement has been backed by nine Nobel Laureates including Dr. James Watson, Dr. Murray Gell-Man, Sir Andrew Huxley, Mario Molina, and Sir Aaron Klug; as well as prominent scientific figures such as Edward O. Wilson, Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich and Jared Diamond.

"We believe that the industrialization of this undisturbed breeding habitat is contrary to the principles and values that sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, and World Heritage Sites were created to uphold," reads the scientists' statement. "To build major industry here -- especially when it is constructed on, extracts its water from, and pumps its wastes into a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- will create a dangerous precedent."

"We respectfully urge Mitsubishi to abandon the project," the statement emphatically concludes, "and trust that the Mexican government will stand by its original decision denying ESSA permission to construct a saltworks at Laguna San Ignacio."

  For more information please contact: Alberto Székely (Mexican Coalition) 52-5-616-6525; Ellen Beard (IFAW) at 703-518-5170; Tammy Boyer (NRDC) at 323-934-6900