Canadians aim to float mining anew in Mendoza, Argentina
Argentina's Mendoza province passed a law banning the use of sulfuric acid and cyanide in mining activities in 2007 (See: Argentina's Mendoza Province Bans In Situ Leach Mining).
Since then, there have been many industry moves to circumvent the prohibition. Nonetheless, companies have so far failed to secure a legal declaration of the law's unconstitutionality.
The country's nuclear energy agency, CNEA, has also failed to re-open the Sierra Pintada open pit uranium mine in Mendoza (See Argentina's CNEA ordered not to reopen Sierra Pintada uranium mine).
Now, a Canadian company has joined forces with US-based consulting firm, Vector Engineering, to seek permitting of an open pit copper-gold mine near Uspallata, in the northern part of the province.
The proposal excludes the use of sulphuric acid or cyanide by proposing a "flotation only project", to circumvent the ban.
Despite being widely criticised for two years, the environmental impact study has made it to the final stage of the permitting process. (This is partly thanks to very close links between members of the provincial government and the local mining firm Minera San Jorge).
A public meeting took place on 26th October in Uspallata, attended by more than 2000 people.
And the local Catholic Church has also voiced its opposition to mining in the area.
[Photos credit: Diario Los Andes]
Historic mining debate in Mendoza
By Sandra Conte
Diaro Los Andes
27 October 2010
The Pizarro brothers synthesize perfectly the mining debate. On the one hand, Gustavo disagrees with the San Jorge mining project and spoke directly to his brother Daniel, on the other side of the room, who spoke before and said that Uspallata started as a mining town and it is committed to the changes already underway and should participate in the mining project to control it from within. The two sides reflected the antagonic developing models that were the focus of the debate.
By mid-morning the police estimated there were about 2,300 participants in the last stage of the permitting process of the San Jorge mining project: a public hearing. The debate lasted over 13 hours and 350 people had a chance to speak.
The mining project is located in northern Mendoza, in the Yaguaraz farm, about 50 kilometres north of Uspallata. The construction of the plant is expected to last two years and would have a lifespan of 16 years and employ 400 people. The site, which will be an open pit mine, is expected to extract 40 thousand tons of copper a year and one ton (40 thousand ounces) of gold.
Eduardo Sosa from the environmental organization Oikos, said the meeting in Uspallata could be considered a historic event since it was the first time in 10 years that so many people attended a public hearing.
Governor Celso Jaque criticized the position taken by the Church regarding the mining project San Jorge. Church officials gave their suggestions to the provincial government in a press release to stop the mining activity because they believe there is scientific uncertainty about the environmental effects the project will cause and addition, because it is creating tensions and divisions among the local population.
Jaque did not conceal his anger at the arguments of the local Archdiocese. "I cannot believe all of this. I want to believe it is a mistake" he said.
[Translation from Spanish by MAC editors]