MAC: Mines and Communities

Strike and Road Blockages: Alvear Mobilizes Against Open-Pit Mining

Published by MAC on 2007-06-08

Strike and Road Blockages: Alvear Mobilizes Against Open-Pit Mining

8th June 2007

San Rafael, Mendoza

The community of General Alvear yesterday initiated a powerful mobilization against open-pit metals mining operations in southern Mendoza, demanding that the Chamber of Deputies reject the veto of provincial Governor Cobos of the "Difonso Law." The demonstration was called by the Multisectorial of General Alvear and the Chamber of Commerce of the county in order to urge lawmakers to implement the law which halts exploration and operation and all metals mining activities until the Province of Mendoza approves an Environmental Plan outlined in law 5961.

Mining: A Decree by Governor Cobos to "Cool Down"

Mendoza, 8 June 2007

The provincial government today announced a 90-day freeze on the awarding of Environmental Impact declarations related to new permits for prospecting, exploration and operations of open-pit metals mining operations in Mendoza. With this decree, Governor Julio Cobos intends to reduce the social pressure in front of the provincial Legislature in respect to the issue of mining activities in Mendoza, an issue which has caused powerful demonstrations in General Alvear.

However, the governor's mandate gives lawmakers three months to approve the Executive Project which will regulate the process of evaluations of environmental impact which has been in the Senate since December 18, 2006.

The official decision to halt the awarding of environmental permits for mining development was announced in a press conference in which participated the Minister of Environment and Public Works, Francisco Morandini, the Subsecretary of Environment Gustavo Morgani, and provincial legislator Andrés Marin, who criticized the famous "Difonso Law" which would prohibit open-pit mining with the use of cyanide. "It is unconstitutional, because there already exists a national law which regulates mining activity throughout the country," said the lawmaker.

People of Alvear Not Happy With Cobos' Announcement

The assemblies of General Alvear rejected this evening the decree signed by Cobos, deciding to mantain until at least Saturday three partial road blockages: On route 188 and 143. In the morning members of the citizen assemblies had decided to continue the road blockages if Cobos did not suspend all mining permits. In the afternoon, the Minister of Government Sergio Marinelli traveled to Alvear with the decree suspending mining permits in his hand. Later in the evening the assemblies decided to reject the decree and announced the continuation of the road blockages.

"We will remain on the routes because there has not been a solution. We ask the Governor to "come down" and to talk like he did in Gualeguyachú. We are not going to permit the Canadian companies to set up operations here. Today, the military (gendarmerie) were about to repress us, but they couldn't: We are much more united than they think," said Juan Manual Fernández, one of the many neighbors who have gathered on the different national routes which cross the county. The gendarmes approached one of the three road blockages early in the morning to request a permit to passage for vehicles every 15 minutes, which was rejected by assemblies. Last night, the military accepted that the road closures would relax every thirty minutes to permit passage, and stated that, in the case that the road blockages intensify, they have an order of Federal Judge Héctor Acosta to use force against the citizens.

"Many of us here are thinking about making this a total strike for an indefinite time. It should be noted that the majority of the people here in the road blockages are from the area, they are farmers," emphasized Pilar Castillo in another of the road blockages.

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