Latin American UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-09-09
Latin American Update
9th September 2006
Just over a week back, the world's largest mining company threatened never to re-negotiate a pay agreement with its workers at the huge Escondida copper mine in Chile. Now BHPBiliton has signed a new contract - causing mineworkers elsewhere in Latin America to be riled at the lack of rewards they receive from the sub-continent's mineral "bonanza".
Another leading mining multinational, Anglo American, has been indicted by a Peoples' Tribunal for human rights abuses in Colombia. The UK company is also being targeted - along with partners Xstrata and BHPBilltion - for other abuses in the benighted Latin American country. Candidates for the forthcoming provincial elections in New Brunswick, Canada, are being asked to pledge that, if elected, the would ban imports from the notorious El Cerrjon coal mine.
The president of Alumbrera - managed by Xsrata - may be indicted for criminal acts after a district attorney presented evidence, concealed by the company, of pollution at Argentina's biggest copper mine. (The allegations first surfaced in English on the MAC website.)
Thanks to Friends of the Earth Brazil, we also present alarming allegations of iron, alumininum, mercury and arsenic pollution, from various mining operations in the sub-continent's most populous state.
LATIN AMERICA: Mining an Open Pit of Disputes
MEXICO CITY, Sep 9 (IPS)
With skyrocketing metal prices, revenues are flowing in some Latin American countries, but labour conflicts have intensified apace in the mining sector, where workplace dangers are shared by some of the region's best paid miners and by several million poor.
Chilean miners, who earn up to 2,000 dollars a month, and miners in Peru and Mexico, whose paychecks may be no more than 60 dollars a week, are demanding their share in the bonanza.
In Chile, a three-week strike in August hit the world's largest copper deposit, and in Peru, neighbourhood protests paralysed Latin America's biggest gold mine for several days last month.
Meanwhile, in Mexico a labour dispute between miners and the government continues after five months, and in Central America activists and residents want to block mining sector development.
According to the International Labor Organisation (ILO), mining produces the most fatal accidents and illnesses among its labour force. Furthermore, millions of people work in mining informally, without employment or health protections.
Mining generates problems, like "cancer, pollution in the rivers, and [spontaneous] abortions," says Honduran Catholic bishop Luis Alfonso Santos, who is active in the civil society movement against the aggressive Central American opening to transnational mining companies.
The recovery of metal prices over the past two eyars -- thanks to high demand in China and India -- pulled Latin American mining out of the crisis it suffered in the 1990s, when unions' power in the sector shrank and a large portion of the workforce underwent liberalisation.
But now the inflow of millions of dollars in fresh revenues has sparked problems between the mining executives and the workers and nearby residents, in some cases erupting into violent clashes.
The challenge is how to ensure that all sides "reconcile the era of hardship when it turns into an era of plenty," given that price booms are cyclical and could be reversed in four years, Eduardo Chaparro, a mining expert with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (a United Nations regional agency), said in a Tierramérica interview.
Miguel Palacín, president of the national association of Peruvian communities affected by mining, told Tierramérica that with its multi-millions in revenues, "the mining executives have put the government on its knees."
"It is a shame that the authorities accept the alms of the multinational corporations, when, according to the laws, the mining resources belong to the state," he said.
Palacín was referring to the agreement that the Alan García government signed in August with the mining companies, stating that over the next five years the firms will "voluntarily" contribute 757 million dollars to Peru's social programmes.
That figure represents 27.4 percent of the net profits taken in so far in 2006 by the five biggest foreign mining companies operating in Peru.
Since 2004, all of the mining companies in Latin America have seen strong profits. Copper prices jumped 111 percent, gold 42.5 percent and silver 65.5percent.
To ensure that the firms contribute to local development, residents of the northwestern Peruvian region of Cajamarca paralysed operations at the Yanacocha mine, Latin America's leading gold producer, from Aug. 28 to 31.
Run by the U.S.-based Newmont and Peru's Buenaventura, the mine is located in an area where 74.2 percent of the population lives in poverty.
"Mining is done by taking lives, destroying biodiversity and causing poverty. This has to stop," declared Palacín.
According to the activist, the mining industry does not even generate a significant numbers of jobs in this country of 28 million people. The mines in Peru employ 70,000 people, of which 60,000 work in precarious conditions because they do not belong to unions, he said.
In Chile, around 2,000 workers at Escondida, the world's largest copper deposit, staged a three-week strike demanding pay raises. The conflict was resolved Aug. 31 with an agreement to increase wages by five percent.
Most Chilean miners are unionised. But that is not the case in other countries, like Peru or in Central America, where most work independently or are subcontracted employees.
And the regional trend, including Chile, "is an increase in non-unionised workers, because the mining companies use subcontracted workers as part of their cost controls, avoiding the financial burden of providing benefits," explained ECLAC expert Chaparro..
Chile's government-owned National Copper Corporation, Codelco, has three subcontracted employees for every union employee, while in the private sector at least half of the workers are subcontracted, Moisés Labraña, head of the Chilean Mining Confederation, which includes 6,500 mining workers, told Tierramérica.
In Mexico, after the death of 65 workers at a coal mine in April, it was found that most of them were not on the payroll or members of the national union. They were paid about 60 dollars a week for their work in dangerous digs.
After the accident, a labour conflict erupted, and continues today. The Vicente Fox government does not officially recognise the national union's leadership, backed by most of the workers, but instead works with another.
Some observers believe that behind this dispute -- which left two workers dead -- there are negotiations and company and worker interests for adjusting salaries and improving work conditions.
Mining in Mexico, which employs 257,000 people directly, grew more than seven percent annually in 2004 and 2005, the fastest rate since 1995.
It is a recovery similar to what is happening in the rest of Latin America, but is reflected only slightly in small- and medium-scale mining, where social and environmental problems persist, says Chaparro.
More than nine million people in Latin America make their living from artisanal mining, including children and women. It is the most vulnerable sector in terms of the precariousness of the work and the lack of benefits.
Worldwide, some 43 million people work in mining, and it is the industry with highest work-related mortality, according to the ILO.
(*Diego Cevallos is an IPS correspondent. With reporting by Daniela Estrada in Chile. Originally published Sep. 2 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)
Escondida deal ruffles Chile mine owners
Kevin Morrison and Rebecca Bream in London and Raphael Minder in Sydney
30th August 2006
Mine owners in Chile, the world’s largest copper producer, are on notice after workers at Escondida, the biggest mine in the country, received an improved pay offer and attractive bonus that makes the 2,000 workforce the best-paid miners in the South American country.
The miners are set to resume work on Saturday after their 25-day strike sent copper prices soaring and forced Escondida, which accounts for 8.5 per cent of copper production worldwide, to operate at 40 per cent of capacity.
A host of mining companies that operate mines in Chile, including BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Falconbridge, Antofagasta and Anglo American, had been watching the Escondida negotiations closely. But the company most concerned is Codelco, the state-owned miner that produces about 10 per cent of global copper output. Codelco has pay negotiations by the end of the year at two of its key mine operating divisions, Codelco Norte and Andina, which together account for about 70 per cent of the company’s 1.7m tonnes a year of output.
Mining analysts said Codelco mine workers were already among the lowest paid in the country. That gap has now widened, with Escondida workers securing an annual salary gain of more than 8 per cent, a bonus of $17,000 (€13,240, £8,920), and perks such as interest-free loans and funding for health and education programmes. That puts the Escondida worker well above the annual average income of $40,000 for mine workers in Chile.
“I think Codelco will be very worried about the increases at Escondida, because the unions will see that they are already paid less than other mine workers and they will want to narrow the gap,” said one person familiar with Codelco. The copper market is factoring in further supply disruptions, with the copper price up $125 to $7,575 a tonne in London since news first broke of the wage settlement.
A Codelco spokeswoman said the company would not comment on its forthcoming wage negotiations, which start at the end of next month.
Negotiations between Codelco and the unions are likely to be protracted because any agreement has to be ratified by the Chilean Finance Ministry and the Resources Ministry, both of which have representatives on the board. Codelco’s budgets all have to be approved by its paymaster, the Finance Ministry. Relations between Codelco and its 17,000 workers can be fraught, with a history of industrial action. Antofagasta said it had good labour relations at its mines. The company will start renegotiating wages at its largest mine, Los Pelambres, in September next year, and at its smaller mines, El Tesoro and Michilla, in 2009 and late 2007 respectively.
Anglo American said there had been no significant industrial action at its copper mines in Chile for several years. The company is relatively confident of avoiding disruption, as it does not have to renegotiate wages at its mines for at least 12 months.
Analysts estimate that the Escondida strike cost BHP, which owns 57.5 per cent of the mine, about $17m a day in lost revenues. It also forced the company to declare force majeure on copper concentrate contracts.
However, the group, which recently reported record annual net earnings of $10.45bn, described the disruption as manageable and insisted that it needed to stick to a wage structure that would allow it to manage downturns as well as upturns in the commodities cycle.
BHP said that it acceded to some of the wage demands of the workers in return for a pledge from the union that the agreed labour regime and shift structure would stay in force until 2013. Its share price closed down 5 cents at A$27.65.
New Brunswick groups ask candidates to take a stand on NB Power's role in human rights abuses and environmental degradation in Colombia
For Immediate Release
6th September 2006
Fredericton - Energy is emerging as one of the hot button issues in the provincial election campaign, and a coalition of New Brunswick groups hopes to get commitments from candidates on more than gas prices and home heating fuel rebates. The groups that include social justice, labour, environmental and faith-based organizations such as the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, the Saint John Chapter of the Council of Canadians, the Advocacy Collective, Citizens' Press, the Falls Brook Centre, the Tantramar Environmental Alliance, the United Church World Outreach Committee of Woolastook Presbytery, Development and Peace -Saint John Diocesan Council, and the Atlantic offices of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Public Service Alliance of Canada want candidates to commit to addressing the fact that part of New Brunswick's energy comes from coal that is linked to documented human rights and environmental abuses in Colombia.
The election is not the first time this issue has been raised by concerned New Brunswickers. In March of this year some of the groups involved in the current campaign hosted a tour by Colombian community leader, Jose Julio Perez. At great personal risk Perez travelled, for the first time, outside of his native Colombia to tell the story of how his community was destroyed to allow the expansion of the Cerrejon coal mine in 2001. Perez was touring regions where coal from the mine is used to generate power including New Brunswick. While in New Brunswick, Perez met with Energy Minister Brenda Fowlie and NB Power executives, and made public presentations in Fredericton, Hampton and Sackville.
"Minister Fowlie and NB Power reps were visibly moved by Perez's story and committed to looking into the situation further," comments Ramsey Hart of Baie Verte, New Brunswick, one of the organizers of the tour. Since that time, however, no concrete action or public statement has been made by either NB Power or the Ministry of Energy. Attempts to follow up on the meetings by the organisers of Perez's visit have been fruitless. This is in contrast to other companies such as Dominion Energy and jurisdictions such as Salem, Massachusetts that have made public statements denouncing the human rights abuses and urging a just resolution for the displaced communities.
"One by one, small indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities that have lived together, farmed, hunted, and fished for centuries, are being destroyed. Company agents illegally wiped the village of Tabaco off the map in 2001 to expand the mine and, on the expanding edge of the pit, the villagers of Tamaquito are being asphyxiated by the dust. We learned first hand from local villagers and the mine owners about the terrible human impact of this mine," stated Debbie Kelly from Halifax who participated in an international Witness for Peace delegation to the mining region in August 2006.
To ensure that NB Power is held accountable and the purchase of Colombian blood coal deservedly becomes an election issue, the New Brunswick coalition is calling on all New Brunswickers, individuals and organizations, to contact the candidates in their riding with their position and demand action on this important issue.
For more information, http://www.arsn.ca
Prehearing on the mining sector
Permanent People's Tribunal, session on transnationals and paramilitarism in Colombia
We, representatives of organisations from the south of Bolivar, from various parts of Colombia and the world, organisations of small farmers, indigenous people, African descendants, human rights defenders, students, and solidarity and fraternal groups, met in Santa Rosa del Sur on 15 and 16 August 2006 to begin the indictment of the Kedahda mining company, a subsidiary of the transnational company AngloGold Ashanti, for its natural resource extraction project, which is gravely damaging the rights of the miners in the region, and for its use of irregular armed groups to assist in this project.
After two days of deliberations involving small farmers, both men and women, who have been engaged in mining activity in the South of Bolivar region and other parts of the country for many years, we came to the following conclusions:
When miners in the region applied for mining permits and the extension of already existing titles from Bolivar Department's Mines Secretariat, they discovered that the Kedahda company had already sought contracts of concession covering almost the whole mining zone of the Department of Bolivar. They had also sought such contracts in 336 municipalities in the country, using the same strategy to enter areas of interest to them as they had used in Quinchia, Risaralda.
This had occurred because of the reform of the Mining Code, which was carried out a few years ago to the direct benefit of the interests of transnational mining companies and to the detriment of small miners who for many decades had earned their living through this work, which was their only source of subsistence; to the detriment, also, of Indigenous and African descendant communities, territories and cultures.
The conditions which have been imposed on the legalisation of titles totally exclude the possibility of poor miners complying with the State's requirements to legalise their activities, obliging these people and their families to confront conditions of illegality and the misery caused by the mechanisms of speculation dominating the informal gold market, which enable municipalities and departments which do not produce gold to benefit illegally from royalties, many of which have gone to finance paramilitary activities.
Although until now all that can be proven is that exploration has begun at a number of sites, such as in the settlements of Buena Seña, San Martín de Loba and la Cruz, everything suggests that in the next ten years the transnational Kedahda till have all the facilities it needs to pursue the studies it wants in the South of Bolivar and to hold on to the land from which it can derive the greatest benefit, without bothering about the rights acquired over many decades by the peasant population which has worked there. The first explorations also reveal that there is no interest in cleaning up pollution and that the greath wealth of gold produced in this region already is not to be enjoyed by the Colombian people and will be converted into a source of further violence, displacement and dispossession.
We have also been able to prove on the basis of the testimonies of participants that many functionaries paid by the State or by international bodies, after extracting very valuable information from them, have ended up working in the service of Kedahda, to which they bring all the information extracted on the basis of the confidence placed in them by communities. It can also be proved that the presence of public forces in the region is being used more and more for the defence of the interests of the transnational and to convince small farmers that the presence of the company is a sign of progress and that they should therefore submit themselves to all its demands. Other State entities have opted to negotiate with the company, receiving large considerations in exchange for their help and indulgence.
Before the transnational Kedahda was legally constituted, the parent company, AngloGold Ashanti, had tried to help itself to a large area of 7000 hectares in the south of Bolivar, specifically in the settlements of San Pedro Frío, El Paraíso, Mina Gallo and Montecristo, through dubious land titles which in any case had lost their validity, through a controversial process which the company lost. It can be shown that when the negotiations were breaking down the area was invaded by paramilitary groups which committed numerous crimes against the mining population, such as assassinations, forced displacements, disappearances, attempts to starve communities out, threats and subjection of the population to a real reign of terror. This situation reveals the mechanisms which economically powerful groups are accustomed to use to get hold of riches when the population will not give up the defence of its rights.
Recently, since Kedahda's projects in the region have become better known, a growing presence of paramilitary groups has been noticed, even though they have supposedly been demobilised, and of private security companies there to defnd the interests of Kedahda. At the same time, members of the army are striking fear into local people by telling them that soon paramilitary groups like the Black Eagles will be there, and that they will act without mercy towards small farmers who try to oppose the presence of the mining company. For this reason the installation of a special battalion of the army in the mining region of San Pedro Frío is all the more worrying.
We, the participants in this prehearing, because of the huge scale of the aggression which affects our fundamental rights, above all our economic and social rights, confirm our commitment to the defence of our rights, territories and communities, and we see the necessity of calling together all the small farming, Indgenous and African descendant sectors affected at the moment by the schemes of the Kedahda company, which offers food for a day and hunger for the rest of our lives, to build a broad movement of unified resistance in defence of our fundamental rights.
Santa Rosa, Sur de Bolivar, August 16, 2006
RED EUROPEA DE HERMANDAD Y SOLIDARIDAD CON COLOMBIA
(European network of fraternity and solidarity with Colombia)
Minera Alumbrera President Called to Court for Contamination
26th August 2006
By Lucas Livchits
The president of Minera Alumbrera in Catamarca Argentina, Australian Julian Patrick Rooney, stands accused for the crime of contamination and could end up in prison. The case in which he is charged began with an accusation made in 1999 for the dumping of chemicals into a canal in the Province of Tucuman, where the company pumps the mineral extracted from their mines located in Catamarca for drying.
Now, new evidence presented to the District Attorney of the Tucuman courts, Antonio Gómez, has prompted a request for charges to be filed against Rooney. It was no easy matter for Gómez to collect the evidence: The provincial government denied him information from the environmental impact reports in which the mining company had to admit, among other problems, levels of arsenic up to twenty thousand times the permitted levels according to national law.
The most recent statement of the Attorney General, of August 22, presented the very reports carried out by Mineria Alumbrera in June as new evidence, and repeated the request for charges. "From the very information presented by the company, the illicit acts investigated and those responsible are clearly proven," stated Gómez. The company is accused of exceeding levels of arsenic permitted by national law by twenty thousand times, up to five thousand times the levels of cadmium, sixty times the levels of lead and a thousand times the levels of selenium. The environmental impact study also disclosed levels of a substance which has caused alarm within the courts: 2.30 milligrams per liter of stronium, a radioactive element.
The request for charges to be filed against Rooney is based on the national law 24.051 which provides for punishment of those who "contaminate the soil, atmosphere or environment in general," with sentences up to ten years in prison.
Tapirapés fight mining operations on their lands
Based on information from Diario de Cuiba September 5 2006
presented by Friends of the Earth Brazil
Technicians from a mining company from Pará were caught in the act of mining on the Urubu Branco Indigenous Land of the Tapirapés tribe located in the municipality of Confresa, Mato Grosso. The mining activities had been authorized by indigenous leaders, which shocked the rest of the community. Although only three of the five chiefs were involved in the affair, all of them were removed from their positions.
The episode led the youth of the village to write a petition expressing concern and anger over the mining company's strategy.
According to the document, the trespassers had promised money and vehicles to the chiefs in exchange for free access to the region.
The accusations were sent to the Federal Attorney General Mário Lúcio Avelar.
The site where the technicians were working is known as Serra São João and is, to the indigenous group, a sacred site it calls Towajaãwa. Only shamans are allowed to go there, as the Tapirapés believe that the spirits responsible for abundant or scarce hunting of the community live there.
The mining company also had plans to conduct a sweep of the entire mountain range of Urubu Branco. Enacted in 1998, the 167,000 hectare area has a long history of squatting attempts. In the document, the young braves expressed their fear over the possibility of losing the site. "It is only a short while ago that we achieved the demarcation of our land, after much struggle and difficulty. We have not yet been able to remove all of the trespassers. Therefore, we can no longer allow these invaders, such as these miners, to enter our land (.) With so many white men inside our area, we run the risk of losing our land".
The new chiefs promised to seek alternatives that ensure economic sustainability, and not to allow degradation of the tribe's property. All of them are participants in the Indigenous Higher Learning Project of the State University of Mato Grosso (Unemat).
The petition, written by the newly-elected chief Xario'i Carlos and by his students from the Tapi'itawa village also warn against the dangers of mining to the health of the community and to the environment. It cites the sad example of the situation of the Yanomami and of the Cinta Larga peoples who have suffered losses from the effects of this activity.
Recurring illegal acts.
An article published by the Diário de Cuiabá newspaper made accusations of illegal occupation of the Urubu Branco Indigenous Land one year ago. Nevertheless, mining activities continued expanding without any government investigation.
According to the Tapirapés, there are some 200 families of squatters on their lands, who deforest and burn plots in the area. Reginaldo Tapirapé, one of the tribe's leaders, said that they have already alerted authorities regarding the occupation, but neither the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) nor the Federal Police have taken any measures to stop it, which has caused the number of squatters to increase.
On visiting the region, reporters from Diário were witness to deforestation activities, building of new fences and illegal logging over roads, trails and skid trails. Some squatters are still in the area because of an injunction granted by the Federal Court, but these are not authorized to make any modifications to their lands.
Xingu River has iron levels higher than normal
1st September 2006
In a study conducted by the Analytical and Environmental Chemistry Laboratory (Laquanam) of the Federal University of Pará (UFPA), the Xingu River was found to have iron levels almost twice as high as what is acceptable for human health. The study was conducted in the years 2000 to 2003 based on analyses of fish, water and hair samples of the local population. Samples of soil and sediments near the river were also analyzed.
The National Environmental Council (Conama) establishes 300mg/L as the maximum level of iron that can be considered as acceptable. Material collected in the region, however, has an average iron level of 508.08mg/L. The high concentration of iron is very toxic and can cause innumerable problems to human health. The survey shows that the Xingu is being threatened by nearby goldmines.
Eletronorte, the company that financed the study, wanted to compare the levels of metals in the river before and after the construction of the Belo Monte hydro power plant.
The Murucupi River, which runs through the municipality of Marcarena-PA, also shows alarming amounts of metals. Concentrations of 1080.80 mg/L of iron and 365.04 mg/L of aluminum were detected.
Despite the alarming amount, the results from Murucupi may be influenced by an accident that took place in 2004 when a large quantity of alumina, substance containing iron and aluminum, was dumped into the river.
Mercury and arsenic contamination are affecting communities outside the goldmines O Liberal
August 30 2006
People eating fish captured in the Xingu and Tocantins rivers are being contaminated by mercury, arsenic and other substances. The surprise is that this type of contamination, quite common in regions near goldmines especially those that use mercury for separating metals, has also been found in areas where there is no mining activity.
The problem will be discussed during the 3rd Workshop on Chemistry and the Environment, which begins today. Augusto Saraiva, coordinator of the Eletronorte Chemistry Laboratory, states that water analyses, contaminated fish and hair samples of community members present high levels of methyl mercury concentrations.
This type of mercury, according to Saraiva, is the most harmful to human health. The study also identified arsenic concentrations and even corrosive sulfur, used in electric transformers and reactors, outside goldmining regions.
The coordinator is advocating a more detailed study on the impacts of these toxic substances on the population. He said that organic products used by people, such as pesticides called organochlorates, remain in nature for a long time, and that only the state of São Paulo has a law regulating the use of these products.
Santa Rosa, Sur de Bolivar, Colombia, 16 de Agosto de 2006.
Preaudiencia sobre el sector Minero
Sesión del Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos, sobre transnacionales y paramilitarismo en Colombia.
Nosotras y Nosotros, representantes de organizaciones provenientes del sur de Bolivar, de diversas regiones de Colombia y del mundo, organizaciones campesinas, mineras, indígenas, afrodescendientes, defensoras de derechos humanos, estudiantiles, de solidaridad y hermandad; nos hemos encontrado en Santa Rosa del Sur, durante los días 15 y 16 de agosto de 2006, para iniciar el enjuiciamiento de la empresa minera Kedhada, filial de la transnacional Anglogold Ashanti, por su proyecto de extracción de recursos naturales que lesiona gravemente los derechos de los mineros de la región, y su utilización de grupos armados irregulares en apoyo a dicho proyecto.
Después de dos días de deliberaciones, en las cuales participaron campesinos y campesinas dedicados por muchos años a la actividad minera en la región del Sur de Bolívar y en otras regiones del país, hemos llegado a las siguientes conclusiones:
1. Cuando los mineros de la región han solicitado los permisos de explotación y la ampliación de títulos ya existentes ante la Secretaría de Minas del Departamento de Bolívar, han descubierto que la empresa Kedhada había ya solicitado contratos de concesión que cubren casi la totalidad de la zona minera del departamento de Bolivar. Estos contratos también han sido solicitados en 336 municipios del país, y se ha observado que utiliza la misma estrategia para entrar en las regiones de su interés, como el caso de Quinchía, Risaralda.
2. Este hecho se ha dado gracias a la reforma del Código Minero, que hace unos pocos años fue implementada en beneficio directo a los intereses de las empresas transnacionales de la minería, en perjuicio de los mineros de hecho, que durante muchas décadas han gastado su vida en esas labores y tienen allí su única fuente de subsistencia, perjudicando también a las comunidades, los territorios y las culturas indígenas y afrodescedendientes.
3. Las condiciones que se han impuesto para legalizar los títulos, excluyen de plano la posibilidad de que los mineros pobres puedan cumplir con los requerimientos del Estado para legalizar sus actividades, obligando a estas personas y a sus familias a enfrentar condiciones de ilegalidad y a verse expuestas a enfrentar situaciones de miseria y a los mecanismos de especulación reinante en el mercado informal del oro, el cual se presta para que municipios y departamentos que no son productores de oro, se beneficien ilegalmente de las regalías, muchas de las cuales han ido a financiar las actividades paramilitares.
4. Aunque hasta el momento sólo se puede comprobar que solo se han iniciado exploraciones en algunos sitios, como en los corregimientos de Buena Seña, San Martín de Loba y la Cruz, todo muestra que durante los próximos diez años la transnacional Kedhada tendrá todas las facilidades para hacer los estudios que desee en el Sur de Bolívar, y para quedarse con las tierras que mayores beneficios le reporten, sin importar los derechos adquiridos durante muchas décadas por la población campesina que ha laborado allí. Las primeras exploraciones revelan además, que no hay interés alguno de descontaminación y que la gran riqueza del oro que produce esta región ya no será disfrutada por el pueblo colombiano y se convertirá en fuente de nuevas violencias, desplazamientos y despojos.
5. También hemos podido comprobar con los testimonios de los participantes que muchos funcionarios pagados por el Estado y por organismos internacionales, luego de extraer información muy valiosa de ellos, han terminado trabajando al servicio de la Kedhada, a la cual le aportan toda la información que fue extraída aprovechando la confianza depositada por las comunidades. Igualmente se pudo comprobar que la presencia de la fuerza publica en la región, se orienta cada vez más a la defensa de los intereses de la transnacional, y al convencimiento de los campesinos de que la presencia de dicha empresa es un signo de progreso y que deben someterse a todas sus exigencias. Otras autoridades estatales han optado por negociar con la empresa recibiendo grandes contraprestaciones a cambio de su apoyo y complacencia.
6. Antes de la constitución legal de la transnacional Kedhada, la empresa madre Anglogold Ashanti, había intentado apoderarse de una extensa zona del sur de Bolívar de 7000 hectáreas, concretamente en los corregimiento de San Pedro Frío, El Paraíso, Mina Gallo y Montecristo, a través de títulos dudosos que de todas maneras habían perdido su vigencia, en un proceso contencioso que fue perdido por la empresa. Se pudo comprobar que cuando las negociaciones estaban fracasando, la zona fue invadida por grupos paramilitares que cometieron numerosos crímenes contra la población minera, tales como asesinatos, desplazamientos forzados, desapariciones, cercos de hambre, amenazas y sometimiento de la población a un verdadero régimen de terror. Esta situación revela los mecanismos que suelen utilizar los grupos económicamente poderosos para apoderarse de las riquezas cuando la población no renuncia a la defensa de sus derechos.
7. Recientemente, desde que se han ido conociendo los proyectos de la Kedhada en la región, se ha podido percibir una creciente presencia de grupos paramilitares que supuestamente se habían desmovilizado y de empresas de seguridad privada que estarían defendiendo los intereses de Kedhada. Al mismo tiempo los miembros del ejército atemorizan a los pobladores anunciándoles la pronta presencia de grupos paramilitares, tales como las Águilas Negras, quienes según ellos serán inclementes con los campesinos que traten de oponerse a la presencia de la empresa minera. Por ello es tanto más preocupante la instalación de un batallón especial del ejército en la zona minera de San Pedro Frío.
8. Los participantes de la preaudiencia ante la magnitud de la agresión que afecta sus derechos fundamentales, sobre todo los económicos y sociales, ratificamos nuestro compromiso en la defensa de nuestros derechos, territorios y comunidades, y vemos la necesidad de convocar a todas los sectores campesinos, indígenas y afrodescendientes que se ven afectados en este momento por las pretensiones de la empresa Kedhada, que ofrece comida para un día y hambre para el resto de la vida, para conformar un amplio movimiento de resistencia unificada en defensa de nuestros derechos fundamentales.
Santa Rosa, Sur de Bolivar, Agosto 16 de 2006
RED EUROPEA DE HERMANDAD Y SOLIDARIDAD CON COLOMBIA
Presidente de Minera Alumbrera con pedido de procesamiento por
contaminación 26 de Agosto de 2006
Informe de Lucas Livchits
Un fiscal de Tucumán acusa al titular de la minera Bajo de la Alumbrera de volcar sustancias contaminantes en un curso de agua. Los datos constan en un informe de impacto ambiental de la propia empresa.
La minera Bajo de la Alumbrera, ubicada en Catamarca, es una de las más importantes del mundo. Exporta al año oro y cobre por un valor de 270 millones de dólares. Su presidente, el australiano Julián Patricio Rooney, está acusado por el delito de contaminación y podría terminar en prisión. La causa en la que está imputado se originó en una denuncia hecha en 1999 por el vertido de químicos en un canal de la provincia de Tucumán, hasta donde la empresa lleva el mineral extraído para su secado. Ahora, nuevos elementos presentados por el fiscal federal de Cámara tucumano, Antonio Gómez, sostienen un pedido de procesamiento de Rooney. Conseguir las nuevas pruebas no le fue fácil. El gobierno provincial le negaba el informe de impacto ambiental que debe presentar la propia minera y en donde constan, entre otros excesos, valores de arsénico hasta veinte mil veces por sobre los permitidos por la ley nacional.
La Alumbrera extrae oro y cobre en Andalgalá, Catamarca, donde Página/12 había registrado en diciembre de 2005 los reclamos de los vecinos por posible contaminación. Por medio de un mineraloducto el material es transportado en forma de barro desde allí hasta Cruz Alta, Tucumán. Allí es sometido a un proceso de secado, luego del cual el mineral sólido es llevado hasta Rosario, desde donde se exporta. Cuando el barro que llega a Cruz Alta es separado en agua y oro, el líquido es desechado en el denominado Canal Grande, en la localidad de Ranchillos, que desemboca en el río Salí. Allí es donde en 1999 el biólogo Juan González encontró niveles de sustancias químicas por encima de los valores permitidos. Por eso presentó una denuncia contra Rooney.
El directivo recién fue indagado en 2003, a partir de un informe de Gendarmería Nacional incorporado a la causa. Según los peritajes, "el canal provee de agua dulce para animales y cultivos y al parecer hasta para consumo humano" y presentaba contaminación con cobre y cromo cien y diez veces por sobre lo autorizado por la ley nacional 24.051, respectivamente. Los datos de Gendarmería no fueron considerados por el juez federal Felipe Terán, quien le dictó la falta de mérito a Rooney.
El fallo fue apelado por el fiscal Emilio Ferrer, por lo que la causa llegó a la Cámara Federal. En esa instancia, el fiscal general de Cámara, Antonio Gómez, recolectó pruebas y pidió el procesamiento del acusado. Pero la Cámara aún no se expidió.
El último escrito del fiscal, del 22 de agosto pasado, al que tuvo acceso Página/12, presenta como nuevas pruebas los informes de impacto ambiental realizados por la Alumbrera, el último fechado en junio, y repite la solicitud de procesamiento. "Desde la propia información suministrada por la empresa han quedado comprobados los ilícitos aquí investigados y sus responsables", afirma Gómez. Las mediciones de la minera acusan excesos de lo permitido por la ley nacional de hasta 20 mil veces en los valores de arsénico, hasta 5 mil veces en cadmio, veinte veces en cobre, diez mil en mercurio, sesenta en plomo y mil en selenio. El estudio de impacto ambiental incluso encuentra una sustancia sobre la que el fiscal llama la atención a la Cámara: 2,30 miligramos por litro de estroncio, un elemento radiactivo.
La solicitud de procesamiento de Rooney se encuentra enmarcada en la Ley 24.051 que castiga a quienes contaminen "el suelo, la atmósfera o el ambiente en general" con penas de hasta 10 años de prisión.