Tour Organised By The Assembly Of Manitoba Chiefs, Representing 120,000 First Nations People In CanaPublished by MAC on 2006-01-15
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, representing 120,000 First Nations people in Canada, has expressed support for the Diaguita People of Pascua Lama. The Assembly last month signed a political accord with the Diaguita Leadership to assist them in their struggles against Barrick Gold Corp.
The following is an account of the tour organised by the Assembly in January, followed by the Accord between the two peoples.
Pascua Lama & Barrick Gold
Grand Chief Ron Evans - Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Chief Sheldon Kent - Black River First Nation
12th January to 19th January 2006
Thursday, January 12, 2006 Meeting with Ambassador Bernard Giroux (Canadian Embassy to Chile)
Our First Nations delegation met with the Canadian Ambassador on Thursday, January 12, 2006, the meeting allowed for our leaders to discuss the deployment of the Black River project in Chile (Ojibway/Williche Well-Being & Health Care Initiative) along with the Indigenous partnerships that are being developed between Black River First Nation, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Indigenous Peoples of Chile. Grand Chief Evans spoke to the Ambassador about Barrick Gold a Canadian gold mining company and its proposed Pascua Lama Gold Mining Project. The Grand Chief informed the Ambassador that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs plans to work very closely with the Diaguita People of the Pascua Lama Valley (Region III of Chile) to ensure the project does not negatively or adversely impact their way of life.
Friday, January 13, 2006 Meeting with Barrick Gold Corp
The delegation met with Barrick Gold, on Friday, January 13, 2006, they would not allow the filming of the meeting nor grant an interview at their corporate offices in Toronto. Mr. Rod Jiminez, a representative of Barrick Gold in South America informed our delegation that everything is under control with Pascua Lama and everyone is content with the project.
Saturday, January 14, 2006 Meeting with Daquita Leaders
Grand Chief Evans met with Nancy Yanez (a lawyer with the Observatorio de Derechos de los Pueblos Indigenas) and two Daguita leaders on Saturday, January 14, 2006, in Vina del Mar. These leaders who attended the meeting took a bus 10 hours to meet Grand Chief Evans and Chief Kent at their own expense. The meeting with these leaders was overwhelming as they informed us about the Pascua Lama project and the way they have been treated by Barrick Gold during the development phase of the project. The Diaquita leadership felt they have not been consulted and fear they will have few opportunities to protect and preserve their culture in the event that the mine is approved by the Chilean government. We were told that the Diaguita People are the original owners of the land and feel their concerns (environmental, social, economic and political) are being ignored by the company. The leaders asked the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs for assistance and to advocate on their behalf so that their cultural way of life is not destroyed by the proposed $1.5 billion US mega-mining project.
To date, Barrick Gold Corp has agreed to provide $60 million US over the life span of the mine (20 years) to farmers and industry in the valley for irrigation (as this is a desert like region). It has further pledged another $10 million US for community based projects but has not provided anything directly to the Diaquita People to protect their communities from what they feel is cultural genocide.
The project it self will see the removal of several glaciers off the side of an Andean mountain in order for the company to access the nearly 15 million ounces of gold worth $ 8.2 to 8.4 billion US (based on a gold price of $550-555.00 US per ounce). The mentioned amount does not include the millions of dollars that will be made from the mining of the very rich silver and copper deposits also located at the site.
From a development perspective, this Canadian mega-mining project will create 5500 jobs during construction of the mine and another 1500 to mine the deposits over a 20 year period. History demonstrates that these types of mining projects in Chile do not benefit the Indigenous Peoples. The project has experienced mounting pressure from Chilean environmental groups and has witnessed thousands of people protesting in front of Barrick's offices in Santiago. As well the intensity and public attention towards this project has put considerable pressure on Canada's reputation in the Pascua Lama region and throughout Chile.
In Closing, the Diaguita People are very much opposed to the Pascua Lama mining project as they are concerned about the effects this project will have on the environment, the impact on their cultural way of life, as well as the social fabric of their communities. As one leader informed our delegation, he said this project as it stands today, "it is nothing more than cultural genocide of the Diaguita People and if Barrick Gold is allowed to continue the project in its present form, the Diaquita will become extinct"..