MAC: Mines and Communities

National Public Auditor Of Argentina Considers Control Of Mining Activity In Catamarca Insufficient

Published by MAC on 2006-03-20

ARGENTINA / National Public Auditor of Argentina Considers Control of Mining Activity in Catamarca, "Insufficient"

by Diario El Ancasti, Catamarca

20th March 2006

The Public Auditor General of Argentina, Mario Fadel, has stated that the system of oversight and controls of mining activities in the province of Catamarca is inadequate, to guarantee to the community that mining corporations will comply with environmental standards.

Fadel met this past week with the Self-Organized Movement (Vecinos Autoconvocados) of Santa María, which had asked for the intervention of the national Auditor General's office in the conflict stretching across the rural department, over the initiation of operations by mining firm Agua Rica,a subsidiary of Canadian Northern Orion Resources.

"I was able to hear the deep-seated worries which they have over the environmental impact of mining activities, basically linked to the supply of water in the aquifers of this Department, the potential contamination of the waters and doubts about the existence of a guarantee fund for mine closure, among other questions. My personal perception is that these concerns and doubts transform into assertions, that many people here see the State as acting in a negligent manner, to say the least. Since the provincial state itself is responsible for the implementation of the Mining Code, then it is responsible" said Fadel.

The Auditor said that the mistrust of society with respect to the environmental consequences which mining activity could inflict comes from the fact that the State is perceived as incapable of guaranteeing compliance with its own laws. In this sense, he said, words and some actions on the part of the mining companies themselves are not sufficient to bring confidence to the community, because it is doubtful that the mining companies would implicate themselves when they do violate environmental regulations.

"It is really inconceivable that, with an activity such as mining, in Catamarca, where the provincial state is responsible for ensuring compliance, there is no state infrastructure capable of guaranteeing transparency in the compliance with laws and norms, with respect to the importance of the activities, and the consequences that poor oversight and environmental management carries with it," said the Auditor.

He added that the companies Minera Alumbrera and Agua Rica do carry out actions to try to "explain the level of resonsibility which they claim to work at" but he considers them "useless." "People who already have doubts will be hard pressed to believe, because what else could the mining companies say about themselves? The companies should never be allowed to replace the role that the State should serve, to guarantee to the citizens a sustainable development.

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