Argentina: Andalgala Deliberative Council bans miningPublished by MAC on 2016-09-11
Source: El Ancasti, Notas.org.ar (2016-09-12)
After fifteen years of political mobilization, local assemblies achieved their goal
On March 12, 2015 Yamana Gold announced the signing of an agreement with the Government of Catamarca, represented by the provincial mining company Catamarca Minera y Energética Sociedad del Estado (CAMYEN), aimed at promoting mutual cooperation to consolidate the Agua Rica property and the Cerro Atajo prospect.
But last week, the Deliberative Council of the city located in Northern Argentina unanimously approved the Ordinance 029 banning open pit mining in the basin of the homonymous river.
Yamana Gold is also the owner of the Suyai project, a high-grade gold-silver deposit located in the Chubut province, halted since 2003 after a local referendum held in the town of Esquel.
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Mining banned in Andalgala
The Deliberative Council of the city located in Northern Argentina unanimously approved an ordinance banning open pit mining in the basin of the homonymous river.
September 9, 2016
The draft ordinance originally presented by the citizen Leonardo Ramallo in October 2015, drafted by Council President Luis Olas and Councilman Carlos Sanchez, was approved unanimously in a session with no media allowed.
The resolution prohibits open pit metalliferous mining in the Andalgala river basin, including nuclear minerals such as uranium. It also bans the use of cyanide, mercury and other polluting or hazardous chemical substances.
The measure aims to protect the Aconquija mountain range and permanently halts the Agua Rica mining project, owned by Canadian miner Yamana Gold.
Also prohibits the use of water from the Andalgala river, springs or subsurface aquifers for mining activities. Thus, the town of Andalgala becomes the first to pass an ordinance banning open pit metal mining in the province of Catamarca.
Andalgala´s social conflict over mining is emblematic among environmental struggles in Argentina. After six years of political mobilization, local assemblies finally achieved their goal.
Located more than 200 kilometers from the capital of the province, the town is next to Minera Alumbrera, the first large-scale metalliferous mining exploitation of the country.
Since mid 1990s, Minera Alumbrera became one of Argentina´ leading exporting companies. With the mine nearly exhausted, the provincial government intended to proceed with the development of the Agua Rica project. Yamana Gold is a minority shareholder of Minera Alumbrera.
Catamarca Government to examine anti-mining ordinance validity
The ordinance would also apply to the Filo Colorado project. For the Secretary General of Government, mining is regulated by the National Mining Code and not by a municipal ordinance.
10 September, 2016
The Government of Catamarca will scrutinise the validity of an anti-mining ordinance passed by Andalgala Deliberative Council last week. Government Secretary General, Edgardo Macedo, said that they will analyse whether a Deliberative Council has the competence to legislate on the Agua Rica project, because he believes that mining is regulated by the provincial Constitution, the National Mining Code and the Environmental Protection Law.
"I was very surprised by the passing of this ordinance. If there is a department that benefited from mineral resources revenue was precisely Andalgala. Unfortunately, as a result of irresponsibility and mismanagement, the public does not see the benefits of mining, and that justifies their claims. In addition, it is of public knowledge that there is a ruling by the National Supreme Court of Justice ordering a new environmental impact study of the project, therefore the EIA of Agua Rica has not been approved," said Macedo.
On his part, the president of the Deliberative Council, Jose Luis Olas, said that the approved instrument relies on fundamental constitutional principles. He also stressed that the discussion of the ordinance "respected the participation of the citizens and was worked out together with the Municipality, with which we studied the feasibility of the bill".
He also noted that the ban on opencast megamining in the Andalgala river basin "is based on laws that protect the environment and also on constitutional rights," and mentioned the Glaciers Protection Law, because "the glaciers in those mountains generate the water for the Andalgala river."
"Given the environmental risks of the project, there are rights protected by the Constitution. Article 41 states that every citizen has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment. It is our duty to work towards these principles. We also want total protection of our water. We do not want our water to be used for megamining. We also want to respect our history, because the Andalgala department was mainly one of agricultural production," he said.
In that sense, the councilman added that they took into account a ruling of Second Circuit Judge, Rodolfo Cecenarro, which paralyzed all activities in Agua Rica. "No commercial enterprise can be above the common goods that belong to all Andalgala citizens" he added.
Finally, he mentioned that "the province is entitled to manage the natural resources, but in agreement with the people," and said that "deliberative councils have to act as environmental police. If all decisions are taken by the provincial government, municipalities would have no reason to exist," he concluded.
Justice halted development of the Agua Rica mining project
The decision of Judge Rodolfo Cecenarro was placed until it is determined whether the project is "environmentally viable".
1 September, 2016
As anticipated by El Ancasti, Judge of the Second Circuit, Rodolfo Cecenarro, upheld an appeal filed by a group of environmentalists and suspended all activities in the Agua Rica mining project, located in the Aconquija mountain range.
The judge concurred with the ruling issued by the National Supreme Court of Justice in March 2016, which upheld an appeal presented by environmentalists in November 2012 requesting the cessation of activities of the mining project. Judge Cecenarro decision can be appealed.
Among the arguments, the Judge stated that in March 2009 the provincial Ministry of Mining, at that time headed by Jose Sinner, conditionally approved the environmental impact study of the project through the Resolution 035/09, regardless of the objections identified by the application authority.
"As a collective right to a healthy and balanced environment can be affected, performing an environmental impact study before any mining activity is indispensable, in order to avoid negative consequences," says the ruling.
In line with the National Supreme Court
In March 2016, the National Supreme Court of Justice upheld a complaint presented in November 2012 by the Neighbors of Andalgala against a ruling by the Court of Justice of Catamarca, which rejected an appeal to stop the development of the Agua Rica project filed in 2010.
In the ruling, signed by ministers Ricardo Lorenzetti, Elena Highton de Nolasco and Juan Carlos Maqueda, the highest court ordered the provincial court to conduct a new procedure in this matter.
The proceedings in the Supreme Court took nearly 40 months. The file then turned to the Attorney General's Office, in charge of Alejandra Gils Carbo, in July 2013, where it remained until December 2014, when she ruled that the appeal filed by the residents of Andalgala should be admitted.
Sergio Raúl Martínez, César Jair Cecenarro, Carmen Susana Chayle, Raúl Francisco Martínez, María Esperanza Lizárraga, Graciela Clementina Chayle, Gustavo Alfredo Chiapello, Rosa Mariana Rojas, Stella Maris Rosana Lichtig, Mario Ismael Pacheco, Marcela Isabel Villagrán, María Cristina Amarante and Néstor Edgardo Herrera, were the neighbors of Andalgala who initiated the legal process, represented by attorneys from a local professional association.
Translated from Spanish by Luis Manuel Claps