MAC/20: Mines and Communities

First International Forum On Mining, Health And Environment, Mendoza

Published by MAC on 2006-03-25

First International Forum on Mining, Health and Environment

by Mendoza, Argentina.

23rd-24th March 2006

Argentine-Chilean Coalition of Citizens And Institutions for NO to the Mines Pascua-Lama and Veladero

Individuals and organizations throughout Argentina and Chile met recently to carry out the First International Forum on Mining, Health and the Environment, meeing to unify in struggle against the Andean mining projects Pascua Lama and Veladero.

They formed a new coalition which unites the most important organizations of both countries, and the participants named the group "Argentine-Chilean Coalition of Citizens and Institutions for No to the Mines Pascua Lama and Veladero." Their first unified action will take place on April 22, Earth Day, and will be joint demonstrations against the so-called "Big Mining."

Jennifer Ibarra, co-organizer of the Forum which was carried out in Mendoza on March 23-24, says that the mining project Pascua Lama "creates a third country between Argentina and Chile," and in this territory "there exist neither controls nor customs." She added that the mining of gold as well as uranium "put into serious jeopardy the supplies of water in our semiarid valleys and deserts."

Who Participated:

120 representatives of NGOs, universities, public institutions, neighbor groups and citizens from Chile and Argentina partipated in the meeting.

Javier Rodríguez Pardo, well-known environmentalist from Patagonia, said that this coalition "brings together the strengths of Argentina and Chile. NGOs, assemblies, neighborhood and citizens alike will continue building a wall of resistance against the transnational mining companies who are plundering our resources under the shelter of laws which were drafted to facilitate the plunder." Rodriguez Pardo had a major role in the sucessful struggle in Esquel, in Chubut, Argentina, a town who said "NO" to mining company Meridian Gold in a popular referendum three years ago.

Among the Chilean organizations who participated in the meeting were OLCA (Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts), as well as the Self-Organized Citizens of Huasco Valley, Anti-Pascua Front and Colective Resistencia.

Recognized Participants

Dr. Raúl Montenegro, President of Argentine environmentalist organiztion FUNAM and winner of the Alternative Nobel of 2004, emphasized that the construction of the gold mines in the Andes is "immoral" and "unacceptable" because "they are destroying our sources of water and the stability of the climate," and they will discharge "incredible volumes of heavy metals and toxic wastes into the high mountain headwaters of the principal rivers of the valleys of Huasco in Chile and Jáchal in Argentina."

Montenegro predicts that the coalition created between Chileans and Argentines "will multiply the struggle which citizens and institutions of both countries are waging," and will show society as well as the governments that "the environmental impact studies carried out for Pascua-Lama and Veladero are deplorable."

During the meeting, Montenegro also spoke of the environmental impact produced by the mining of uranium in Sierra Pintada in San Rafael, in the south of Mendoza. "The worst," said Jennifer Ibarra, "is that the operations of Barrick Gold in Chile and Argentina will only leave crumbs economically speaking, and will create a huge environmental legacy. Pascua-Lama and Veladero could destroy the sources of the purest water on the planet, causing the collapse the regional economies which depend upon this water."

Support the Press

Forum participants drafted a document giving an overview of the meetings, which included, among other points, a denunciation of pressures received by reporters and social communication medias to not report the serious environmental problems already observable in Pascua-Lama and Veladero. The Forum sought to support press workers, and made a call to the mining companies and governments to support "the respect of democratic values, the liberty of expression, and public participation."

The statement drafted during the meeting accused the mining activities of "already having damaged a large portion of the Biosphere Reserve of San Guillermo in the Providence of San Juan," which now "threaten the expansion of the Provincial Reserve of Laguna Diamante in Mendoza."

The Nation That Does not Protect the Environment

Dr. Raúl Montenegro claimed that mining activity "is experimental - their environmental consequences and contaminative cocktails are not reflected in current environmental legislation, and the technical capacity to control damages does not exist either." He added furthermore that Pascual-Lama and Veladero "are altering in an irreversable manner the hydrological, climatic and landscape stability of these Andean zones. They appear very little bothered by the instability produced by the blasting and open-pit operations in these high mountinas. These 'miners' destroy entire mountains, alter the Andean microclimates, generate cocktails of contaminative substances which local officials cannot detect and threaten the headwaters of the important river basins of Chile and Argentina."

He said furthermore that in Argentina, "the company Barrick Gold presented very crude environmental impact studies for their work done in Chile," and that the behavior of the Secretary of Mining and the Secretary of the Environment of the nation "do not protect either the health of people or the integrity of vital ecosystems." He forsees that organizations will eventually have to file criminal complaints against various officials for "failure to meet their responsbilities as public officials."

Next Actions

Finally, citizens and institutions of both countries branded as "horrible" the Binational Argentine-Chilean Mining Treaty, and decreed to demonstrate together against the big mining companies during the upcoming celebration of the International Earth Day on April 22.

CONTACTS:

Med. Vet. Jennifer Ibarra
Fundación Cullunche
Teléfono: 0261 4300059 o 0261 155034020
Email: cullunche@infovia.com.ar

Lic. Javier Rodríguez Pardo
MACH-SEPA
Teléfono: 02965 15417785
Email: machsepa21@yahoo.com.ar

Dr. Raúl A. Montenegro, Biólogo
FUNAM
Teléfono: 03543-422236
Email: montenegro@funam.org.ar

Lucio Cuenca
OLCA, Chile
Teléfono: 56.2.2745713 56.2.2253218 Fax: 56.2.3430696
Email: l.cuenca@olca.cl, observatorio@olca.cl

* Translation, David M: a href="mailto:dmoders@yahoo.com">dmoders@yahoo.com

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