MAC: Mines and Communities

Gold Fever in Patagonia

Published by MAC on 2007-05-19

Gold Fever in Patagonia

By Mauricio San Cristóbal

Chile, El Ciudadano, Year 3, Number 44

Throughout 2006, four technical teams of Canadian transnational mining firm Kinross Gold carried out an exhaustive exploration operation in search of gold in nine high-priority targets in the province of Palena, in Chile's Region 10. The results were very favorable, but all of these operations were carried out in the highest secrecy. According to a study recently released by the Chilean Copper Commission (COCHILCO), the gold mining industry will invest some three billion US dollars in Chile between 2004 and 2008. Among them is the Barrick Gold's Pascua Lama. Canada's Kinross Gold Corporation has also caught gold fever, and in association with United States firm Geocom Resources, are seriously studying investment into nine mining projects in the Patagonian wilderness.

In November of 2006, both firm filed a total of 318 mining claims throughout six zones within the Palena province. Geocom's 2007 activities are based on the results generated in 2006, which have moved the company to obtain some 90,000 hectares (225,000 acres) in mineral rights.

The company has moved with the most absolute secrecy. The Aysén senator and president of the Environmental Commission, Antonio Horvath Kiss (RN), was surprised when the El Ciudadano newspaper asked him about the explorations, and he did not have any background information. He said that he would investigate the issue: "I am going to investigate. The truth is that the entire Southern zone is under risk of mineral exploration. The mining firm is very aggressive, and the Patagonia region is clearly based in tourism, biodiversity and the cultural identity."

It appears that the movements of Kinross and Geocom have passed unperceived by everyone, for we requested an interview with the governor of the province of Palena, Juan Águila Cárcamo, who declined any statements because he considered he was not suitable to speak. The authority of the governor, it appears, also is unaware of the facts.

For biologist and national coordinator of Ecosystems, Flavia Liberona, it is necessary to know if the government is knowingly working with the plans of Kinross Gold and Geocom, and how much information they have available. "If the response is that authorities, both regional and national, have this information, it appears to me very disturbing that they have not released it publicly, and this gives the immediate sensation that something is wrong. The obligation of public officials is to inform citizens about the possible activities that are going to affect their lives."

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