MAC: Mines and Communities

Latin American Update

Published by MAC on 2007-01-25

Latin American Update

25th January 2007

Anyone who fondly imagines that Barrick Gold's Pascua:Lama project, straddling the border betwen Cyhile and Argentina, is a done deal should have been disillusioned last week as a large group of dissenters blocked roads leading to the mine site. Forty four peaceful demonstrators ended up in hospital as a result of the violent police response.

Gold prospecting is increasing in Argentina and another campaign organisation has announced a further blockade of Barrick's Famatima La Rioja province.

UK mining companies, Rio Tinto and Cambridge Minerals have joined the ranks of foreign companies - which already includes AngloGold Ashanti - seeking riches in Colombia.

The Colombian coal miners' union, Sintracarbon, is preparing for a strike vote in their negotiations with Cerrejon Coal (owned by Anglo American, BHPBilliton and Xstrata), while the Colombian Congress held nationally-televised hearings on the project, with testimony from. Jaime Deluquez of Sintracarbon and Eder Arregoces, representing the community of Chancleta (which faces destruction as the mine expands). Polo Democratico senator Jorge Robledo also issued a press release about the hearings.

Community consultations are also being planned by mining-affected communities in Peru and Guatemala.

Following a January 5 report by the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala that GoldCorp/Glamis Gold may be severely polluting a major river - thus putting 5,000 people at risk - its author, Flaviano Bianchini, has received threatening telephone calls . According to Amnesty International USA, this may mean his life is in danger - and the human rights group has called for urgent action on Bianchini's behalf.

In this month's Mining Environmental Management magazine, Glamis' manager for Sustainable Development told interviewer, Simon Handlesman:

"When Glamis first started discussing the voluntary principles [on Security and Human Rights], some of the people in the company were surprised to be asked to sign a document that says they were 'not going to kill people and pillage'...[I]f you are in an environment where those kinds of things happen...then you have to be trained or briefed in some ways to be made aware of it."

Adds Mr Handeslman (a researcher on human rights issues in the mining industry): "It is clear to everyone that Glamis has raised the bar for what is acceptable by and for the mining industry in Guatemala" [MEM, January 2007, page 23].


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