MAC: Mines and Communities

Environmentalists Demand: Residents Meet With Lawmakers

Published by MAC on 2006-09-01
Source: El Independiente

Environmentalists Demand: Residents Meet with Lawmakers

1st September 2006

Over 200 persons gathered yesterday in a march that took over the center of the city of La Rioja, protesting against the future open-pit mining operation which is to be carried out by Canadian company Barrick Gold in Famatina Range, a project which carries health and environmental risks.

The march organizers, residents and organizations from Chilecito, Famatina and other western La Rioja communities, such as Pituil, Campanas, Chañarmuyo, carried [banners] alerting the consequences of the mining operations using "the method of leaching with cyanide and other toxic substances." Adding to their support were social organizations and neighborhood groups from the provincial capital.

The first person to speak for the demonstrators was the mayor of Famatina, Lídoro Leiva, who recognized that "the task of the legislators, representatives of the people, is to defend the rights of those who have chosen them," referring to the opposition that the majority of local legislators have expressed against the official project. Leiva declared, "We are not against mining, but rather, against the exploitation and contamination using certain methods."

The legislators received a technical report over the consequences that the mega-mining activities coud bring to health and environment, prepared by Raúl Montenegro, of the National University of Córdoba (UNC). The assembly "Citizens for Life" of Chilecito also brought a document where their claims are detailed, urging the lawmakers to draft laws to prohibit open-pit mining with the above-mentioned techniques. They also are asking that the Famatina Range and the Antinaco/Los Colorados Valley be declared a "Protected Nature Area." Another request is the implementation of a binding popular referendum for the affected localities "before the carrying out of any mega-mining project, to guarantee the information and education over these projects in a transparent manner." To the La Rioja Governor Maza, they ask that he "revoke the water-use permit given for the prospection and exploration of the mines," as well as the immediate cancellation of the mining project. "We want to determine our proper destiny and we want to be part of the decision that the government takes in defense of life," concluded the document.

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