LA SALITRERA, San Luis Potosí – Backhoes rapidly break down what decades ago was a pine and oak forest. Traca-tatatata-traca-tatatata. The mechanical rattling disrupts the silence of northern Mexico’s Sierra de Álvarez, one of 40 Flora and Fauna Protection Areas (APFF) in Mexico, just a few miles away from the world’s largest fluorspar mine.

Daniel guards a steep slope next to the tailings dam No. 4, authorized since 2016 by the Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) to store waste from fluorite extraction in a 21-hectare area. His boots slip on soft sandstone marked by tractor tracks.

“Whose land is this?” he is asked.

“These are community lands, but Koura works them,” says Daniel, dressed in his work overalls.

While a drizzle makes the dam slosh, Daniel adjusts the pipe as if pulling the veins of a beast excreting earthy waste. In front of him stand trees submerged to the top: black as rotten bananas, completely poisoned. A lifeless nature.

Downhill, a muddy road winds its way to one of the curtains of the 22-hectare tailings dam No. 6, in operation since 1982. From the top of El Órgano hill, an attraction for hikers in Sierra de Álvarez, one can see how the mine eats away Sierra like leprosy eats away the human body.

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