MAC: Mines and Communities

Minera Alumbrera President Called To Court For Contamination

Published by MAC on 2006-08-26


Minera Alumbrera President Called to Court for Contamination

26th August 2006

By Lucas Livchits

The president of Minera Alumbrera in Catamarca Argentina, Australian Julian Patrick Rooney, stands accused for the crime of contamination and could end up in prison. The case in which he is charged began with an accusation made in 1999 for the dumping of chemicals into a canal in the Province of Tucuman, where the company pumps the mineral extracted from their mines located in Catamarca for drying.

Now, new evidence presented to the District Attorney of the Tucuman courts, Antonio Gómez, has prompted a request for charges to be filed against Rooney. It was no easy matter for Gómez to collect the evidence: The provincial government denied him information from the environmental impact reports in which the mining company had to admit, among other problems, levels of arsenic up to twenty thousand times the permitted levels according to national law.

The most recent statement of the Attorney General, of August 22, presented the very reports carried out by Mineria Alumbrera in June as new evidence, and repeated the request for charges. "From the very information presented by the company, the illicit acts investigated and those responsible are clearly proven," stated Gómez. The company is accused of exceeding levels of arsenic permitted by national law by twenty thousand times, up to five thousand times the levels of cadmium, sixty times the levels of lead and a thousand times the levels of selenium. The environmental impact study also disclosed levels of a substance which has caused alarm within the courts: 2.30 milligrams per liter of stronium, a radioactive element.

The request for charges to be filed against Rooney is based on the national law 24.051 which provides for punishment of those who "contaminate the soil, atmosphere or environment in general," with sentences up to ten years in prison.

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