MAC: Mines and Communities

Latin American Update

Published by MAC on 2006-10-22

Latin American Update

22nd October 2006

The gloves are coming off against community leaders, in Ecuador and Argentina, who dare continuing to fight against foreign mining companies. The house of reputed environmental activist, Carlos Zorilla, was raided by armed police on October 17th, his family brutally questioned and drugs apparently planted inside his home. This follows a highly dubious complaint of assault, made by a citizen closely connected with the Ascendant Copper company.

At the same time, the Meridian gold mining company - subject to an overwhelming vote of rejection three years ago by public referendum - has filed a case against six residents of the Argentinian city of Esquel. They're accused of trying to "change the will" of the population. The action followed the broadcast of a recording that alletedly demonstrated representatives of the company themselves threatening to "twist the will of the people".

Following the bloody conflicts between cooperative miners and state miners earlier this month, President Morales of Bolivia is following through on his promise to "nationalise" the mines. He's ordered the takeover of several of Glencore's concessions. In early 2005, Glencore had bought out the Comsur mining company - previously owned by the disgraced (and wanted) ex-president "Goni" Lozada, and Rio Tinto.

Last week we published a press report, clearly based on a statement by the world's biggest iron ore producer, Brazil's CVRD (now also the owner of Inco, the world's second largest nickel miner), that accused Xicrim Amerindians of "invading" their own territory in a quest for compensation they say is owed them by the company.

In a more balanced story, a leading Brazilian newspaper points out that the Xicrim's struggle was backed by the country's Indian "protection" foundation, in the face of what it calls CVRD's intransigence.

Recently named as one of the "ten worst places on earth" by the Blacksmith Foundation, the Peruvian city of La Oroya in Peru features in an article from the latest "Mother Jones" magazine, describing how residents polluted by the Doe Run company have joined hands with some of their Peruvian counterparts.

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