MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Argentina: Aguilar base metals complex sucums to covid pandemic

Published by MAC on 2020-11-24
Source: En24, Explica.co

Lockdown measures coupled with lower grades are said to be causing its inevitable closure.

Base metal complex of Aguilar, the oldest continuing operating mine in Argentina, acquired by Glencore in 2005, announced yesterday its permanent put on "care and maintenance". While lead and zinc price have been affected by the slow on demand and the logistical difficulties caused by the covid pandemic, low grades seems to be causing its inevitable closure.

The closure of Aguilar affects the towns of Palpalá and Fray Luis Beltrán, communities impacted by the plants where its concentrates were smelted. According to sources, Aguilar smelter in Palpalá closed last year, leaving serious pollution that affect human health. The Ar-Zinc smelter in Fray Luis Beltrán closed in 2016, also with serious pollution issues.

In December 2012, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights submitted a legal brief in the case of Bazán, Avelino and others relating to the unlawful detention and torture of 27 workers of the company Minera Aguilar SA during the Argentine military dictatorship (1976-1983).  See https://www.ecchr.eu/en/case/involvement-of-mining-company-in-crimes-of-the-argentine-military-dictatorship/

Alicia Kirschbaum research on the Aguilar mine can be accesed in The environmental impact of Aguilar mine on the heavy metal concentrations of the Yacoraite River; Environ Earth Sci, December 2011.

See also:

2016-03-14 Mining layoffs speed up in Argentina

 

Minera Aguilar closes its plant after 91 years

https://www.en24.news/2020/11/minera-aguilar-closes-its-plant-after-91-years.html

November 16, 2020

The Aguilar Mining Company announced today the cessation of its productive operations in the mine located in the Jujuy town of El Aguilar, north of the Humahuaca department, due to “the decline of mineral resources and reserves in recent years”, that caused a “significant reduction in production”, added to the epidemiological situation generated by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement addressed to the employees with the signature of its president, Guillermo Apraiz, the company pointed out that “the 2017-2020 exploration campaign did not yield the expected results, despite the financial and human resources allocated to this project.”

It was also reported that “although it was planned to continue productive activities until March 2021, the context of the pandemic and, especially, the epidemiological reality that worsened at the mine during September (due to a wave of coronavirus infections), it forced us to suspend activities for the third time since the isolation began. “

In that way, Minera Aguilar a period of “care and maintenance for twelve months” will begin, and then make a transition towards environmental closure, after 91 years of uninterrupted activity.

For both stages “a reduced staffing will be required, so a voluntary retirement program will be made available to workers,” the company said.

In this regard, “a beneficial program” will be offered, in addition to “relocation assistance and a series of social programs to provide support tools in this difficult time.”

Minera Aguilar reported that“will keep the town for two years”, and clarified that “beyond the reduction of the workforce, no person will be forced to leave their home until they decide to do so, before the end of the mentioned period”, in which “support through community projects” will be provided.

On the other hand, the company will provide the health service through the Aguilar hospital until the end of 2021 and in coordination with the union and the Government “we will look for the best alternatives for the changes to come,” concluded Apraiz.


Another multinational reduces its activities in Argentina: after 91 years Minera Aguilar closes

Explica.co

https://www.explica.co/another-multinational-reduces-its-activities-in-argentina-after-91-years-minera-aguilar-closes/

November 17, 2020

A mining company from Jujuy owned by Glencore announced on Monday the closure of its doors in a decision that was accelerated by the sanitary conditions in the northern province. The company said in a statement that despite the nearing end of the mine’s production phase, it had plans to maintain production for a limited time, something that was truncated by the restrictions on circulation that govern in the midst of the pandemic of coronavirus covid-19.

Compañía Minera Aguilar is owned by the multinational Glencore, which, among other investments, is a partner in part of the business of the agro-exporter Vicentin in Renova.

In July 2005 the firm joined Glencore and has more than 600 employees. It produces lead and zinc in the province of Jujuy. It is a pioneer company in Argentina in the field of mining, since it is the oldest in activity with more than 90 years.

Although its operational continuity was foreseen for a short period, the current health condition has forced the advancement of this determination

Through a statement to which he had access ., Compañía Minera Aguilar announced the closure of its plant, which was already undergoing a “phase of care and maintenance of mining operation” in the province, due to the natural decline of its mineral resources such as zinc, lead and silver, which reached maturity later 91 years of uninterrupted operation.

“Compañía Minera Aguilar announced today that it will enter a Care and Maintenance stage of its mining operation in the province of Jujuy. The zinc, lead and silver deposit has reached maturity due to the natural decline of its mineral resources, after 91 years of uninterrupted activity. The productive mining cycle culminates due to the set of geological, technical and economic conditions that have been combined in recent years ”, said the company.

“Today is a very sad day for all of us who value this mining undertaking that has been a part of our lives for many years, but which, unfortunately, has inexorably reached the end of its productive stage. Although its operational continuity was foreseen for a short period, the current health condition has forced the advancement of this determination“, Held Guillermo Apraiz, president of Minera Aguilar, in the statement.


A story of contamination and corruption in Argentina

TRT World visited one of Argentina’s most contaminated cities, Palpala, where 70 years of poor or a non-existent environmental policy and rampant corruption have had a deadly impact on the local population.

Ignacio Conese

https://www.trtworld.com/americas/a-story-of-contamination-and-corruption-in-argentina-24506

26 Feb 2019

You can tell you have arrived at the edge of the Palpala area in Argentina’s Jujuy province thanks to the toxic smell emanating from the city several kilometres away, even before the first traffic sign on National Route 9, also known as the Pan-American Route.

Until the late 1940s, Palpala was a small town near the capital of Jujuy province, San Salvador de Jujuy.

But three-time president Juan Domingo Peron had major plans for the country and especially the north. With the construction of Altos Hornos Zapla, Argentina’s first metal foundry, this small town, its industry and its fate changed forever.

Today Altos Hornos Zapla has almost disappeared, but the foundry cemented the path for many other industries, opening the city up to business in the 1980s.

Palpala, a city with a population of around 44,000 and growing, has more than 40 different types of heavy industry. 

Among them are 15 foundries of both metals and plastic - activities that should be strictly regulated because of the environmental and health dangers involved. 

Instead, the city has maintained a policy of anything goes, even allowing industries that were kicked out of other cities over pollution to be established. One such case is Minera Santa Rita, a foundry that was expelled from the city of Salta because its neighbours were falling ill from the toxic fumes and toxic wastes from the borate production process.

Minera Aguilar, a subsidiary of Swiss Glencore, the world's biggest commodity trader and also one of the most controversial companies worldwide, has a lead foundry, next to a smaller battery recycling plant that also works with molten lead.

The waste from these activities is simply piled up in mountains of compacted soil mixed with plastics from car batteries, borates, sulphuric acid, and other unknown substances.

All of this then drains into the nearby river only a couple of hundred metres downhill and seeps into the air breathed by locals. 

This contamination has been proven in a court of law, after 28 families from Palpala won a legal case against the local authorities for allowing the situation to occur. 

However, the compensation awarded was ridiculously low (the highest amount was for $500) and has still not been paid. 

The case proved the presence of large amounts of lead in the bloodstreams of these families, especially the children. 

It also proved that as a result of the contamination, malformations, spontaneous abortions and stillbirths, breathing disorders and different types of cancers were far more common in the region compared to other nearby populations.

As for regulations, all the local authorities did to improve the conditions was to recommend the companies build walls and fences around their installations, and better compact their waste. 

Instead of compensation, what the families and activists endured was persecution. Some workers lost their jobs because someone in their family was involved in the claims and an activist was murdered in very strange circumstances.  

Last month, the city woke up in shock because local foundry Minera Aguilar was closing, leaving 144 people out of work.

While some activists see this as a victory, others with more experience say that it’s not the first time that the company has done this.

Those apprehensive about the development say that even though the foundry is closing and kicking out 144 sick employees, it will re-start activities under another a shell name a couple of months later. When you pass by the doors of the foundry, it doesn’t seem to be a company that is going out of business.

And Palpala isn’t an inch closer to getting better.

 

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