MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Latin America update - Oficialismo planea que Constituyente vete miner­a a cielo abierto en Ecu

Published by MAC on 2007-09-02


Latin America update - Oficialismo planea que Constituyente vete miner­a a cielo abierto en Ecuador

2nd September 2007

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, wants an upcoming special assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, so as to forbid open pit mining and prevent drilling in biologically rich areas. This is according to the government's top candidate for the body. Alberto Acosta, Correa's pick to lead the campaign for a majority win in the September 30 vote for assembly seats, and a former Energy and Mines Ministry, said reforms are needed to protect the country's ecology from the nascent mining industry.

Honduras' National Congress is also set to start reviewing the country's mining law. In October 2006, its Supreme Court ruled that Congress must amend the country's mining law, deeming unconstitutional 13 articles of current legislation which took effect in 1998. New reforms of the mining law, strongly supported by the Catholic Church, include the prohibition of open-pit mining and the use of chemicals, such as cyanide and mercury - as well as a vast hike in taxes.

Twenty days ago we posted on the MAC website an article by IPS writer Daniela Estrada, suggesting that the 35-day strike by around half the 28,000 sub-contracted workers at CODELCO could be a precedent for labour rights in Chile. Now, subcontracted labourers at Canadian-owned El Peñon have taken over the mine (one of the lowest-cost gold producers in the world), marking the first such take-over of a private mine in Chile's history.

Around 12 percent of Brazil's Amazon charcoal works still uses slave labor, the industry sponsored Citizens' Coal Institute (ICC) said in a recent report. Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), the world's largest iron ore miner, last week announced it was axing iron ore supplies to two Para state pig iron producers, Cosipar and Usimar, because their activities "do not comply with the environmental and/or labor legislation in force in Brazil." Meanwhile, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and the Movement of People Harmed by Dams invaded and took over one of the company subsidiaries.

Monterrico Metals plc says it has launched a US$80 million private fund proposal for communities within the area of influence of its Rio Blanco copper project in Peru. The payment of money will, of course, be in exchange for a series of conditions to be imposed upon the communities, as well as the Peruvian state: a million dollars if the communities decide to participate in the fund; two million more to each community which "ratifies" the use of their lands; another million when the Ministry of Mining and Energy approves the Environmental Impact Study; $500,000 during the construction; and a million and a half dollars for each year of production.

Particularly noteworthy is the request for "ratification" of the permission of the communities. In reality, there is nothing to ratify: the company never has had the authorisation of either community, as is required in Article 11 of the laws promoting private investments in the lands of campesinos.

Finally, state authoriteis in Peru have fined Doe Run over a quarter of a million dollars - a penalty which begins to match the enormity of pollution by this US company at its La Oroya smelter.

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