MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Latin America update - Plebiscito Popular por la nulidad de la privatización de la Compa&nti

Published by MAC on 2007-09-14


Latin America update - Plebiscito Popular por la nulidad de la privatización de la Compañía Vale do Rio Doce en Brasil

14th September 2007

Two major referendums are being carried out in Latin America this month: one challenging the auction by which Brazilian mining conglomerate Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) was privatized in 1997; and the second to enable the rural population of the northern Peruvian department of Piura to express their opinion about the upcoming Rio Blanco copper mine project of Monterrico Metals (Minera Majaz). These initiatives have been strongly opposed by both the Brazilian and Peruvian presidents: Lula said his government is not considering renationalizing the mining group (despite his own party, the PT, promoting the referendum); and Peru's Alan García called the Rio Blanco referendum "absurd".

A truck carrying 25 tons of ammonium nitrate from an Orica Ltd. explosives' plant to a mine in Colima, Mexico, caught fire after a highway crash, killing at least 28 people and injuring some 150 others. Australian-based Orica is the world's largest explosives maker and supplier, with operations in 50 countries.

In another "acident", Costa Rica's Bellavista gold mine had to suspend operations after significant earth movements disturbed heaps of cyanide-tainted wastes, as well as other waste rock piles, causing serious risks of toxic ground-water contamination. Canada's Glencairn Corporation has said that it first noticed cracks in two corners of the leach pad in May, but continued to operate the mine and apply cyanide until July 25. Costa Rica outlawed all new open-pit mining in 2002, but the Bellavista mine was given a permit prior to the ban. It is the only operating large open-pit mine in the country.

In a new chapter of the Glencore saga in Bolivia, Mining Minister Luis Alberto Echazu claims that the Swiss company had sent letters to "scare off" potential buyers of the Vinto smelter tin output. The government of President Evo Morales seized control of Vinto from Glencore in February this year, declaring the company`s acquisition of the smelter in 2005 to be illegal.

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, has ordered authorities to carry out an inspection of a Cemex facility and evaluate its environmental impact following a complaint that pollution has been harming local residents. Venezuela this month ordered the "forced acquisition" of the assets of a Colombian cement maker, and Chavez in April anounced his intention of nationalsze the cement sector.

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