MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Gold Mining Project In Lauca National Park Rejected

Published by MAC on 2006-03-20

CHILE / Gold Mining Project in Lauca National Park Rejected

by Cristian Báez

20th March 2006

The Regional Environmental Commission (COREMA) of Tarapacá today rejected a project for exploration of gold deposits which mining company Gold Fields Chile planned to undertake in the Lauca National Park, in the high desert of Arica, Chila. Civic and ecological organizations of Arica, Putre, and Region I have strongly opposed this initiative since October 2005, and there had been a political impasse with the Governor of Parinacota, Isisdro Vásques, who initially supported the initiative, but now votes against the controversial mining project.

Residents of Putre and ecotourisism companies of Region I also showed their opposition to the project during the citizen participation stage, and the organizations today celebrated COREMA's decision. The groups were supported by international treaties signed by the State of Chile, designed to protect the beautiful landscapes and fragile Altiplano ecosystems dependent upon the scarce water resouces of the high desert region.

However, the same organizations continue to call for continued mobilization against the project because the company, Gold Fields Ltd., could again present the project under a rewritten Environmental Impact Report, under the next regional government.

"It is an excellent sign that the State took resonsibility for the defense of the land and the aquifers of the Altiplano, but we also know that the rejection of the project was based on errors and faulty conclusions made by the company during presentation of the project. This could mean that they will present it again in a little while.

"We will continue to organize against this outrageous intent to mine for gold in the middle of a National Park, which puts the aquifers of the Altiplano of Arica in danger" said Cristian Báez, of the organization Rompiendo Fronteras (Smashing Borders), and Silvia López Blanco, representative of the indigenous peoples Aymara, both groups members of the Sustainable Puna Network.

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