MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-07-13


Argentina Popular Tribunal Convicts Barrick Gold

Gold Mining Giant Sentenced to Expulsion from Latin America

El Independiente Newspaper

13th July 2007

La Rioja - The Famatina mountain range in the province of La Rioja, Argentina was the site of the fourth national gathering of the Union of Citizen Assemblies (UAC) the weekend of 6-8 July, 2007. Members of community assemblies throughout Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay fighting against the effects of transnational extractive industries met to share strategies and information in their common struggles. Some two hundred individuals gathered, representing neighbouring assemblies resisting a host of extractive industries: the insertion of open-pit metal mining operations throughout the Andes; paper mill industries in the Uruguay river basin; transnational forestry operations; communities displaced by hydroelectric dam projects; cross-state contamination by transnational industries; and the expansion of GMO soy agroindustry. The similarities in their common struggles were clear to participants: The issue of the protection of water resources, the preservation of social and ecological biodiversity, the fight against contamination and the plunder of natural resources, as well as the rights of communities to carry out their own informed decisions regarding appropriate local development.

Argentina, like much of Latin America, is the focus of new and highly aggressive insertion by multinational corporations, who, with the complicity of the neoliberal government, intend to reshape the infrastructure of the country, in order to plunder mineral, water, agricultural and other natural riches, and leave behind contamination and poverty. Communities find themselves confronting a growing host of actors, from global institutions such as the World Bank, multinational corporations, NGOs, public and private armed forces, media outlets, with national political leaders dedicated to facilitate this process of globalization at the expense of ecological systems, human well-being and national sovereignty. These struggles against contamination and extractive industries are taking place within a context of a deliberate strategy of economic, social and cultural abandonment by the State, creating a false "jobs vs. nature" dichotomy.

Resistance by community groups across Argentina is increasingly organized in a horizontal, democratic form of community "assemblies." Distrustful of politicians, citizens are taking upon themselves the task of halting, by whatever means available, the installation of these projects. Direct action, such as road blockages and demonstrations, combine with community education and the use of legal and political maneuvers to interfere with and halt corporate insertion, as communities claim and defend spaces for autonomous community institutions, indigenous rights, local development and food sovereignty.

The importance of the Famatina Range for this UAC meeting was not lost upon participants: Barrick Gold Corporation, the world's largest gold mining firm, was recently forced out of the province of La Rioja after a stunning series of events culminated in the regional prohibition of open-pit mining and the ejection of a corrupt pro-mining governor. Community members in Famatina are warily declaring a no-compromise victory against the gold mining giant, and they are not resting, instead reaching across provincial and national borders to offer their example and experiences to other communities. Thus, an important part of the weekend was a caravan to Peñas Negras, the site where citizens blocked, for four months standing, Barrick Gold from access to their exploration activities upon the Famatina Range. Local activists spoke of the intrinsic value of the mountain range, essential to all forms of life and society in the region, threatened by mining activities. Their decision to take an active, no-compromise strategy in defense of the mountain is exemplified in their motto "Famatina Cannot Not Be Touched."

In two days of meetings and discussions, participants expanded contacts and strategies, and set out goals, including a national Day of Action to be carried out August 10. The strategy of "no-compromise" in halting extractive industry insertion is strong: In municipalities and in provinces, citizen assemblies are demanding and winning prohibitions of open-pit mining with toxic chemicals, prohibiting mining exploration as well as operations, as metals mining is incompatible with sustainable development. Participants reaffirmed their commitment to struggle to expel Barrick Gold from the reviled Veladero/Pascua-Lama project upon the Chile-Argentina border among the glaciers of the Andes.

The third day of the gathering was dedicated to an International Tribunal Against Barrick Gold Corporation. Activists from Chile, USA and Argentina, armed with testimonies from communities around the world impacted by Barrick Gold took the stage, providing witnesses and documentation of the "genocidal" practices of Barrick, to a panel of judges composed of respected local leaders. Argentine journalist and activist Javier Rodriguez Pardo acted as the prosecutor, offering hard-hitting and eloquent indictment of the sordid practices which have continued since the company's inception. Amply demonstrated were the disastrous environmental, economic and human rights consequences of Barrick Gold's practices. Barrick's Pascua Lama and Veladero projects, as well as their exploration activities in Famatina were meticulously exposed by a parade of expert witnesses, scientists and affected communities.

The job of defending Barrick Gold before the Tribunal was handed to David Modersbach, a North American anti-mining activist studying in Argentina. In defense of the company, he pointed to the "real" criminals, the Argentine politicians and officials who have transformed the legal codes and facilitate the handover of national resources and sovereignty to some eighty multinational mining firms including Barrick Gold, in effect "legalizing" Barrick's contamination and plunder. In his role as a Barrick "lawyer," he also attempted to bribe key witnesses and judges.

The trial ended with a forceful verdict against the gold mining giant: Barrick was found guilty of "irreparable damages" and environmental and social genocide, and condemned by the Tribunal to expulsion from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the native lands in Canada and United States and Australia where the mining firm operates. Barrick was ordered to make pay compensation for all damages and human rights violations which they have committed. The Tribunal also directed civil society to identify and bring to justice the Argentine public officials complicit in the plunder and contamination of their own country.

Some of the Parcipating Groups:
Coordination of Citizen Assemblies for the Life of Chilecito (La Rioja)
Self-Organized Neighbors of Famatina, Miranda, Pituil, Chañarmuyo y Capital (La Rioja)
Cabinet of Crisis (Córdoba University)
Popular Commission for the Recuperation of Water (Córdoba)
Environmental Movement of Termas de Río Hondo (Santiago del Estero)
Assembly Concorvida (Entre Ríos)
Citizens Assembly of Uruguay
Mothers of Jáchal (San Juan)
Self-Organized Neighbors of Gualeguaychú (Entre Ríos), General Alvear (Mendoza), Ongamira (Córdoba), Andalgalá (Catamarca), del Valle Calchaquí (Tucumán), de Sierra de la Ventana (Buenos Aires), Esquel (Chubut)
Grupo Quillamapu, University of Buenos Aires
FOCUS on Human Rights (Buenos Aires)
University of General Sarmiento and Clacso (Buenos Aires)
National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI, Buenos Aires)
Binational Assembly of Affected Persons by Yacyretá (Misiones-Paraguay)
Group PROECO and NOA (Tucumán)
Gathering for Biodiversity Against the Soy Industry (Rosario)
Latin American Geopolitical Observatory (Buenos Aires)
Association of Independent Wine Producers of San Juan
Uranium, No Thank You (Mendoza)
Group CTD Anibal Verón (La Plata)
Campesino Movement of Córdoba
Corpwatch (USA)
RENACE (Santa Fe)
Profesors and Students of UNC, UCC, UBA, LA PLATA, MENDOZA.
Self-Organized Neighbors of Chile – No to Pascua-Lama (Luis Faura)

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