MAC: Mines and Communities

Latin America Update

Published by MAC on 2007-08-10

Latin America Update - Solicitan observadores internacionales para consulta popular por el proyecto minero Río Blanco, Perú

10th August 2007

Local communities, a platform of Peruvian NGOs and civil society organisations, as well as the Defense Front for Sustainable Development in the North of Peru, have made a request for international observers to a referendum on the Rio Blanco copper project in Piura, to take place on 16 September 2007 in the districts of Carmen de la Frontera, Ayabaca and Pacaipampa. Also in Peru, Doe Run Peru has not started construction of its sulfuric acid plant, and is accused of continuing to disregard Peruvian environmental laws.

The British mining giant Anglo American has been accused of profiting from the persecution, intimidation and killing of miners who oppose the company's operations in Colombia . The international charity War on Want released a report denouncing a "pattern of global abuse" in countries where Anglo American operates.

In Guatemala, residents of the Mayan Q'eqchi' community of La Paz, in the municipality of Panzos, are facing an eviction, despite Skye Resources' claim to the land being based on old rights granted to INCO by a repressive military dictatorship in the 1960s. Extremely alarmed at the prospect of the impending order, community leaders have asked for international support.

In Chile, it is claimed that the strike of roughly half the 28,000 subcontracted workers at Chile's state National Copper Corporation (CODELCO) may set a precedent for labour rights in the country as it reached its 35th day. The striking workers are demanding the same wages for the same work as employees working directly for CODELCO. The Episcopal Conference's declaration, "Fundamental Challenges in Recent Labour Conflicts," said that subcontracting or outsourcing has become a widely-used mechanism to drive labour costs down to the detriment of working conditions and equal pay.

The legal battle over Drummond's activities in Colombia doesnt seem to be over, despite a US jury deciding that Drummond was not responsible for the killing of three union leaders at a Colombian coal mine in 2001. In a public statement, General Secretary of Funtraenergética claimed that "What we will do now is go to the appeals court ... to annul the ruling in order to repeat the case in better judicial conditions for us".

Residents of the Calchaquí Valley of Salta, in the northwest of Argentina, met in Cachi's municipal hall to reject the government sponsored uranium exploration activities in the area.


Anglo American accused of profiting from abuse by Colombian army

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá, The Guardian

3rd August 2007

The British mining giant Anglo American has been accused of profiting from the persecution, intimidation and killing of miners in Colombia who oppose the company's operations.

The international charity War on Want says in a report released yesterday that Anglo American and its subsidiaries benefited from army operations in areas where the company is prospecting, which have forced families off their land and intimidated community leaders. It is part of a "pattern of global abuse" in countries where Anglo American operates, it says. The report comes on the day Anglo American, the world's second largest mining company, announces its half-year results. Profits rose by 76% to $6.2bn (£3bn) last year.

In Colombia, Anglo American's subsidiary AngloGold Ashanti is registered as Kedahda SA. The company is exploring several areas in the conflict-ridden San Lucas mountains, north-central Colombia, which hold one of South America's richest gold deposits. It is seeking licences to prospect in more than 1.2m hectares (3m acres) in the area. Communities that have been mining the mountains on a small scale for more than 25 years oppose the presence of the mining company, fearing for their livelihoods. And they have paid dearly for it, say community leaders.

Teófilo Acuña, president of a miners' association in the San Lucas mountains, was arrested by the army in April and held for 10 days on what turned out to be trumped-up charges that he was a member of leftist guerrilla groups that operate in the region. "It's no secret that the rebels are there," said Mr Acuña. "But the army doesn't go after the guerrillas. It persecutes the community." The soldiers of the Nueva Granada battalion have publicly told the communities their mission was to protect the interests of Kedahda, said Mr Acuña. The charge of "terrorism" against him was based on the fact that he presided over meetings to oppose Kedahda's presence in the area and because he organised a march to protest at the killing by soldiers of Alejandro Uribe, also a miners' leader, last September.

The military said Mr Uribe was a guerrilla killed in combat. But lawyer Jorge Molano, who represents the miners, said forensic analysis showed he was shot in the back at close range. In October 2006 another community leader was killed by the Nueva Granada battalion, which later claimed his killing was a "military error". War on Want does not blame AngloGold Ashanti directly for the rights abuses in the region. But the organisation's campaign director, Ruth Tanner, said the company had benefited from the army's actions. "The key thing is that the company's presence is fuelling conflict," she said.

Kedahda has applied for mining concessions in 37 municipalities of Nariño province near the border with Ecuador, a focal point of skirmishes between government forces and Farc rebels, according to a report published last month by local rights groups. Those municipalities coincide with areas where civilians have been subjected to "cruel, inhumane and demeaning acts", the report said.

Mike Faessler, Kedahda's director of security, acknowledged that the company had two platoons from Colombia's army's 5th brigade "on loan" to protect an exploration operation in the region because the "security situation is pretty dicey". But he said the firm was unaware of the persecution of community leaders by the military. He said the complaints against AngloGold Ashanti came from "people out there with an agenda against big mining and big business". "There's a perception that because we're in a certain area there's going to be violence but the truth is they are violent areas anyway," he said.

* To read the report and watch a film exposing the reality of Anglo American mining activities in Colombia visit:

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