MAC: Mines and Communities

Latin American Update

Published by MAC on 2006-03-06

Latin American Update

6th March 2006

While Doe Run was reducing toxic emissions in the US, it was "ramping" them up in PERU - yet another confirmation of the unacceptable practices of this US company, at La Oroya.

In CHILE, the compromise reached with Barrick, over the Pascua Lama project, now faces a legal challenge which could be the first of many to come.

Global Response's latest action alert calls for worldwide protests against exploitation of coal-rich Indigenous territory in VENEZUELA

XSTRATA - the world's biggest exporter of thermal coal - digs itself a stake in the notorious El Cerrejon mine in COLUMBIA.

Fallout continues from last months' MEXICAN coal mine disaster, with accusations, and counter accusations, over the role of Grupo Mexico, the government and trade union leaders themselves.

Customarily, mining companies present their projects in terms of future promise. But, as demonstrated by a sobering account of what followed Rosario's departure from HONDURAS, in many cases nobody remembers what the promise was originally about...

PERU: "A toxic bargain"

by St Louis Despatch

6th March 6 2006

"About 18,000 children live in the mountain town of La Oroya, Peru. Virtually every one of them is lead poisoned -- by a St. Louis company.

Nearly three-quarters of La Oroya's children have lead levels that are two to four times what would be considered poisonous, a recent study by researchers from St. Louis University found. Lead poisoning puts them at risk of brain damage, developmental problems, colic, anemia and kidney disease.

The lead comes from a smelter owned by Doe Run Resources Group of Maryland Heights. It pumps about two tons of lead into the thin mountain air every day. Each year, it discharges roughly 32 tons of lead, 36 tons of poisonous arsenic and 69,000 tons of the toxic metal cadmium into the nearby Mantaro River.

When the St. Louis University researchers visited Peru last year, they compared children's blood lead levels in La Oroya to those in the town of Concepcion, about 70 miles down river. About one in five children in Concepcion was also lead-poisoned, most likely from lead dumped into the river or air. La Oroya residents also had cadmium levels three times the U.S. average and arsenic levels twice as high as those in residents of Concepcion.

When Doe Run bought the La Oroya smelter in 1997, it agreed to clean up contamination at the site and meet Peruvian emission standards.

Things have gotten marginally better: Average blood lead levels in workers at the smelter have declined, although they remain more than three times the level of concern. Emissions of deadly pollutants have dropped. But piles of lead waste (slag) remain uncovered, so the wind carries lead into the community. Last year, smelter smokestack lead emissions were 24 percent higher than Peruvian law allows.

A report released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the most important thing that could be done for La Oroya's children is to stop pumping lead into the air and water. Until that's done, nothing can prevent the continued poisoning of these children -- and any more children born there.

As it has in Missouri for decades, Doe Run is slow-dancing with regulators. It asked for and got two extensions to meet Peruvian emissions standards. Now it wants a third, which the Peruvian government rejected last month. The company has until mid-March to respond.

Doe Run has threatened to pull out of Peru if it is forced to meet those standards. Since it is by far the largest employer in La Oroya, that threat triggered riots in which people were killed.

Doe Run made the same threat in Herculaneum when federal and state regulators finally cracked down for consistently exceeding U.S. emission standards, poisoning children and fouling surrounding homes and roads with lead dust. In 2001, testing showed that 28 percent of children living near the Missouri smelter were lead poisoned.

Eventually, Doe Run met U.S. emission standards.

But at the same time it was cutting emissions here, it was ramping them up in Peru. Between 2002 and 2004, lead emissions through the main smokestack at La Oroya increased by 33 percent.

Like all good parents, the people of La Oroya want decent jobs and good health. What Doe Run has given them instead is a toxic bargain: In exchange for the sweat and toil that have created its wealth, Doe Run has poisoned the sky, the land and the water -- and the thousands of little ones of La Oroya."

First Legal Action in Chile to Prevent Pascua Lama Mining Project

by Julio Nahuelhual

3rd March 2006

La Tercera Online

This week the first legal action was filed to prevent initiation of the Pascua Lama project, a mining project carrying investments of U$1.6 billion. The legal claim was filed by Huasco Valley businessperson and farmer, Jaime Perelló Arias, who filed a claim before the Appeals Court in Santiago on January 27 2006, against the National Environmental Comission (CONAMA). The claim, filed by lawyers Eduardo Rodríguez Guarachi and Marcelo Castillo of law firm Etcheberry-Rodriguez, seeks to declare null and void, Resolution #39 of the year 2001, made by COREMA of Region 3, which gave environmental approval to the mining project.

The lawsuit presented by Perelló - who is the owner of farms Las Ventanas and Valparaíso in the zone and who owns water rights for much of the river Huasco - claims that CONAMA has acted unconstitutionally in many respects concerning their resolution. Specifically, the businessman alleges that the project will harm his rights to use water in the region.

The presentation of Jaime Perelló is the first of what is expected to be an avalanche of new judicial actions. According to sources involved in the case, other appeals and legal representations to the environmental authorities will be filed by environmentalists and farmers in the region.

Support Indigenous Peoples vs. Coal Mines / Venezuela


3rd March 2006
Also available at

"We will not be removed from the lands where our ancestors are buried. We are defending the animals, the forests and the water. This planet can't withstand any more contamination. What good is all this wealth from oil and coal if we are dying of diseases and misery? Several years ago they pushed out some of our people to make a coal mine. In that region the animals, the fish, the birds and the people are all sick. Now they want us to move again so they can make more mines, but there is nowhere to go. We will defend our lands and our heritage with our lives."- Jorge Montiel, Wayuu leader

"If the coal mining project continues, the ecological impact will be disastrous. Is it worth destroying our natural heritage and our water source for coal?" --Herencia Gonzalez, Regional Manager of the Venezuelan Water Authority (Hidroven)

The Sierra de Perija is the northernmost range of the Andes mountains, reaching to the Caribbean along the Colombia-Venezuelan border. Rich in primary forests and biological diversity, the Sierra has become a battleground where the Venezuelan government must make a choice between indigenous rights and environmental protection on one hand, and exploiting the region's massive coal deposits on the other.

Indigenous Peoples' Rights -- The Sierra's quarter million indigenous people have already experienced environmental devastation, disease and social upheaval since two enormous open pit coal mines began operations in 1987. They are united in opposing the construction of three new mines and the expansion of one existing mine within their territories. The projects, which would quadruple Venezuela's coal production, would be joint ventures between the Venezuelan state and mining companies from the US, Ireland, Brazil, Australia, Chile, Japan and elsewhere.

For the Wayuu, Yukpa, Bari and Japreria peoples, the primary issue is securing their land rights, including the right to deny access to sub-surface mineral deposits. Venezuela's new constitution requires demarcation of indigenous lands and awarding of collective land titles - a significant step forward for indigenous peoples' rights. But the land titles can exclude existing mines and mining concessions as well as large cattle ranches within the indigenous territories. "We want collective title to all the ancestral lands that we have demarcated," says Yukpa leader Leonardo Martinez - including the areas designated for the new coal mines.

Water Resources -- For the down-river population of Maracaibo, a city of 1.5 million people, the main issue is water. Deforestation at the mine sites would cause erosion and siltation of the rivers and reservoirs that supply the city's drinking water, which is already in short supply. Open-pit mining uses huge quantities of water, competing with the needs of agriculture and urban areas. The mining operations would contaminate rivers with heavy metals, endangering the health of fish, wildlife, birds, livestock and humans. Acid mine drainage could continue to pollute the land and water for centuries to come.

Biological Diversity -- The three proposed new coal mines would destroy large tracts of ancient tropical forests that provide habitat for hundreds of endangered species, including many that are endemic (found nowhere else on earth). During the last 50 years cattle ranchers invaded the Sierra's lower altitudes, systematically destroying forests. As a result, jaguars, ocelots, Andean bear, giant anteaters, iguanas, macaws and spider monkeys already face extinction - and their demise would be accelerated by the coal mines. To export the coal, a new mega-port would be built on islands in the Caribbean, destroy-ing unique wildlife and bird habitat and fisheries, as well as the livelihoods of displaced fisher families.

President Chavez inspires the hope, gratitude and enthusiastic support of Venezuela's poorest citizens by using oil profits to provide far-reaching education, health and employment programs that are transforming the society. But environmentalists, scientists and indigenous people fear that the social gains will be short-lived if the country's forests, rivers, air and biological diversity are sacrificed for oil, gas and coal production. As Wayuu leader Angela Gonzales says, "We can live without coal. We can't live without water."

How Can We Help? Three times in the last year, the Wayuu, Yukpa, Bari and Japreria peoples have marched in the capital city under banners saying "No to Coal." At the World Social Forum in late January, they appealed to world citizens to help them convince President Chavez to annul the coal concessions on their lands. They said, "We are not against Chavez. We are against coal mines!" Please support their struggle by writing to the President and the Minister of the Environment.

Requested Action: Please write a polite letter to President Chavez (a model letter is available here)

* Tell President Chavez that you applaud Venezuela's constitution which provides for indigenouspeoples' rights.

* Urge him to grant the request of Wayuu, Yukpa, Bari and Japreria leaders to have a personal meeting with him concerning the coal concessions within their territories.

* Tell him why you oppose new coals mines in the Sierra de Perija. Some good reasons: 1) The indigenous people who live there oppose the new mines; 2) The mines would destroy ancient tropical forests whose biological diversity is of incalculable value; 3) Coal mining would contaminate the water supply of the entire population of Maracaibo; 4) Worldwide, we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, especially on coal -- the dirtiest source of energy and the greatest contributor to global warming and climate change; 5) Venezuela doesn't need this coal. The economic benefits would go primarily to multinational mining companies (otherwise, why do they want to mine there?), while Venezuela's land, water, wildlife and people would suffer irreparable harm.

* Tell him what you are doing to reduce coal consumption and fossil fuel dependence in your country.

Sr. Hugo Chavez, Presidente
Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela
Palacio de Miraflores
Final Avenida Urdaneta, Esq. de Bolero
Caracas 1010, Venezuela
FAX: +58-212-806-8210

Please send copies of your letter to:
Ing. Jacqueline Faria, Ministra
Ministerio del Ambiente
Centro Simon Bolivar, Torre Sur, Piso 25
El Silencio, Caracas, Venezuela
FAX: +58 212 408 1024

Prof. Lusbi Portillo
Homo et Natura
Calle Carabobo No. 7-34
Maracaibo, Zulia

Postage from US to Venezuela: 84 cents
It would also be very helpful to send a copy of
your letter to the Venezuelan ambassador in your
country. Find the address at>

US Citizens should send copies of their letters to:
Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
1099 30th St. NW
Washington DC 20007
FAX: 202 342-6820

This Global Response Action was issued at the
request of and with information provided by the
Wayuu, Yukpa and Bari indigenous communities of
Cachiri, Socuy and Mache, and the NGO Homo et
Natura. For information on Venezuela, see and
For info on the environmental costs of coal, see www.uvduds.ot/vlrsn_energy/coalvswind/c01.html.

Comment from Paula Palmer of Global Response:

In late January at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuelan indigenous leaders asked Global Response to support them in their struggle to stop construction of open-pit coal mines in their territories. I joined them in an all-day march through the streets of Caracas, carrying banners saying "No al Carbon!" (No to Coal).

Later I visited the Wayuu, Yukpa and Bari communities in northwestern Venezuela, where villages, rivers, forests and farms would be directly affected by the coal mines. Everywhere there were signs that read "No al Carbon!" By foot, canoe and donkey-back, community leaders arrived to appeal for international support to stop the mines. We saw the concrete markers where the mining companies have staked out their concessions, encompassing forests, farmlands and villages.

We walked to one of the rivers that would carry mine-polluted water into the reservoir that serves the city of Maracaibo, potentially affecting the health of 1.5 million people. In the cool tranquility along the river, it was impossible to imagine the enormous gray cavity that the miners plan to excavate, the blasting, the choking dust, the screeching of machinery and trucks. "The river is our mother," said Lida Narva, a Yukpa community leader. "We cannot let them kill our mother."

Most of the indigenous people and the poor throughout Venezuela enthusiastically support President Chavez, who is channeling millions of dollars of oil revenues into state programs for education, health care and job training. "We're not against Chavez," the indigenous people chanted as they marched in Caracas; "we're against coal mines."

In that spirit, we are launching this new Global Response campaign -- not against Chavez, but for sound environmental policy and indigenous peoples' rights. Please join the Yukpa, Wayuu, Bari and Japreria peoples in this campaign.

Xstrata heaps up profits and digs into Colombia

by FT Investor

1st March 2006

Xstrata (LSE: XTA.L - news) promised more alchemy in 2006 as it reported a 71 per cent rise in pre-tax profits for 2005 of $2.46bn and unveiled the acquisition of a $1.7bn stake in the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia, taking it into the expanding US coal market.

Investors will benefit from a 42 per cent rise in the total dividend to 34 cents.

Mick Davis, chief executive, attributed the Swiss-based, London-listed miner's rise in
profits to three factors: high commodity prices; shrewd acquisitions and project investments as those prices began to take off; and cost control in the face of high energy and construction metals prices.

Shares in Xstrata were 1.2 per cent higher at £16.86 in early trade in London on Wednesday.

New Donkin Mine Owner Linked to Human Rights Abuses in Colombia

by Garry Leech / ARSN (ATlantic Regional Solidarity Network), Canada

1st March 2006

In December 2005, Nova Scotia's provincial government announced that Australia's AustirXstrata Coal, a subsidiary of the Swiss-based mining company Xstrata, had been awarded the rights to the Donkin Mine in Cape Breton. The province's decision to hand the rights to the Donkin Mine to a foreign company instead of either of the Cape Breton bidders-Donkin Resources and Cape Breton Coal Energy-means that Nova Scotia has now become further enmeshed in human rights abuses being perpetrated in Colombia.

Since the closing of Cape Breton's last two coalmines five years ago,Nova Scotia Power (NSP) has turned to Colombia for the coal it needs to fuel its power plants. Colombia's Cerrejón Mine, which supplies coal to NSP, is responsible for human rights abuses committed against communities located near the mine. In February 2006, the Donkin Mine's new owner, Xstrata, purchased a one-third share of the Cerrejón Mine.

In order to understand Xstrata's connection to human rights abuses in Colombia, we first need to comprehend the incestuous structures so commonly found in multinational companies-and behind which they so often hide. Swiss-based multinational Glencore controls 40 percent of Xstrata-it owns 16 percent of Xstrata outright and voting rights for another 24 percent stake held by Credit Suisse. Glencore owned a one-third share of the Cerrejón Mine in Colombia, the world's largest open-pit coalmine, when the mine forcibly displaced the Afro-Colombian village of Tabaco in early 2002 to allow for the mine's expansion. [* Please see MAC editorial comment below].

Villagers who insisted on collectively negotiating the relocation of Tabaco were forcibly displaced from their homes by 200 Colombian soldiers, police and members of the mine's private security force. Many villagers received no remuneration following their displacement and have continued to demand that the mine's owners resettle their community. In February 2006, Glencore sold its one-third share in the Cerrejón Mine to Xstrata, a company it partly owns-BHP Billiton and Anglo American own the remaining two-thirds of the mine.

Meanwhile, the Cerrejón Mine has announced that it intends to increase its annual coal production to 32 million metric tons from 26 million tons. In all likelihood, some of that increased production will be coal from the land upon which the village of Tabaco used to sit. Furthermore, some of this coal will inevitably end up being shipped to Nova Scotia Power's electricity generating plants.

Glencore's human rights abuses are not limited to the displacement of impoverished Colombian villagers. The company's wholly-owned Colombian subsidiary Prodeco has violated labor rights by actively seeking to bust its employees' union. Glencore purchased Prodeco in 1996 and following a strike by workers in 1999, fired 21 union members who had participated in the work stoppage. In the ensuing years, the company forced many unionized workers into early retirement and replaced them with new employees who were prohibited from joining the union.

In September 1999, union leader Henry Ayala Gualdron was detained by the Colombian National Police and imprisoned for 15 days without any charges being filed. Another labour leader from Prodeco's mine was abducted, beaten and questioned about his union activities by right-wing paramilitaries engaged in a dirty war against those sectors of civil society struggling for social justice. In 1999, 188 of Prodeco's workers belonged to the union. According to the union, the company's tactics had reduced the number of unionized employees to 25 by 2004 from 188 five years earlier.

Xstrata has also been crititicized by its unions in Australia. The company's Australian subsidiary and three of its managers were found guilty in the 1996 deaths of four workers at Gretley Colliery. In 2005, Xstrata responded to the convictions by seeking to change Australian law so that employer's are protected against criminal prosecution for workplace deaths. The company's Australian union has threatened to shut down the mining industry in the province of New South Wales if Xstrata succeeds in its landmark challenge. As one union leader noted, "People shouldn't be required to work under safety laws that are unenforceable."

Given Glencore-Xstrata's history of violating the human rights of people living in mining regions and anti-union activities, Nova Scotians should be concerned with the province's decision to award the Donkin Mine to Xstrata. Not only has this decision further linked Nova Scotia to human rights abuses in Colombia, it has also placed mine workers and communities in Cape Breton on a collision course with a mining company that has proven itself to be ruthless in its pursuit of profit.

[* MAC editorial comment: At the time of the destruction of Tabaco (mostly completed in August 2001 and finally finished off in January 2002), Glencore owned one-sixth El Cerrejon, through the consortium of which it was a part.The other half of El Cerrejon was owned by the mine's operator, Intercor - a 100% subsidiary of Exxon.]

Political Fallout from the Mexico Mine Disaster

by Frontera NorteSur (FNS)

3rd March 2006

Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

The explosion that killed 65 miners in the border state of Coahuila last month is sending fallout far and wide. Bursting open a new political can of worms, the coal mine disaster is setting loose labor-management conflicts, heightening government-union conflicts, firing up intra-union rivalries, and exposing possible corruption in all the institutions entrusted with safeguarding the lives of miners and the well-being of their families.

On March 1, about 270,000 members of Mexico's National Mineworkers Union launched work stoppages in several states in protest of an attempt by the federal Labor Ministry to remove Napoleon Gomez Urrutia as secretary-general of the miners' union. The national action was primarily aimed at facilities operated by Grupo Mexico, the owner of the Pasta de Conchos mine in Coahuila where the 65 coal miners died. Safety grievances and the lack of equipment at other company mines were also raised as justifications for the mass worker protests. Erupting during an already turbulent federal election year, a prolonged labor dispute in the mining industry is bound to have unforeseen political repercussions.

In the northern state of Sonora that borders Arizona, copper and other miners quit work at facilities in Cananea, Nacozari and Agua Prieta. Francisco Javier Salazar, a union member in Cananea, accused Grupo Mexico and the Fox administration of trying to divert attention away from government and corporate responsibility for occupational health and safety hazards in the mining industry by placing the blame on Gomez for miners' problems. On February 28, the Labor Ministry headed by Francisco Javier Salazar Sanez approved a long-time Gomez opponent, Elias Morales Hernandez, as the "provisional" head of the union.

Finally acting years after a legal challenge was first pursued by Morales against Gomez for the union's top leadership post, the timing of the Labor Ministry's decision fell under immediate suspicion. Morales was once considered the "right-hand man" of Gomez's father, Napoleon Gomez Sada, who ran the union for decades prior to his death. Morales and the younger Gomez then fought over succession of the union leadership, with Gomez's supporters maintaining their man was legally elected union president in a 2002 assembly.

Pro-Gomez union members label Morales as a tool of Grupo Mexico, a tag Morales denies. Although he is not in control of the union's headquarters in Mexico City, Morales declared the union's national committee under Gomez was dissolved.
Morales was backed by the head of Mexico's Labor Congress, railroad union leader Victor Morales, who himself is under fire from retired railroad workers for allegedly failing to pay their pensions.

Elias Morales said this week he would press the Federal Attorney General to pursue legal charges against Gomez for illegally occupying the union's headquarters. The claimant to the top post of the mine workers' union is also demanding that federal legal authorities investigate an alleged misappropriation by Gomez of a multi-million dollar trust fund set up for miners after the privatization of mines in the 1980s.

The dramatic challenge to Gomez and subsequent miners' strikes followed days of mounting accusations of official malfeasance in the deaths of the Coahuila miners. A December 2005 report from the Labor Ministry noted that better monitoring of gas levels in the Pasta de Conchos mine was needed. Two weeks before the disaster the mine passed a safety inspection, but several miners were later quoted in the press as saying there were dangerous levels of methane gas in the mine just before the deadly February 19 explosion.

Urging an investigation of the Labor Ministry, Coahuila Governor Humberto Moreira charged that two federal inspectors responsible for the Pasta de Conchos mine were bought off with "girls, liquor and money" before the disaster happened.

In recent days, angry family members confronted both union leader Gomez and government representatives, accusing the officials of forcing the doomed miners to work in deadly conditions. Already balancing numerous scandals on its agenda, the Mexican Congress is now stepping in to hear government testimonies and conduct its own investigations of the Coahuila disaster. And like many other scandals in Mexico, the Pasta de Conchos disaster is now an international issue.

Mexico's National Union of Highway and Bridge workers filed a complaint with the International Labor Organization (ILO) this week that charged the Fox administration with not taking adequate steps that could have avoided the catastrophe. Martin Curiel, the secretary-general of the union, said the purpose of the ILO complaint is to urgently correct "omissions" of international labor agreements signed by the Mexican government. Raul Vera, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Saltillo, Coahuila, and several human rights and labor groups supported the complaint.

Meanwhile, family members express sorrow, outrage and a sense of betrayal. Reports that it may take weeks or months, if ever, before the miners' bodies are recovered only enhance the anguish. Besides educational scholarships and other forms of support, Grupo Mexico is offering miners' survivors between US$75,000 and US$100,000 in compensation for their dead relatives. The dead miners left behind 162 children.

Javier Rojas, a Catholic priest advising families, is cautioning survivors against signing any agreement before all legal remedies all carefully examined. Reportedly, 54 of the 65 affected families have rejected any compensation until responsibilities for the tragic deaths of their loved ones are clarified. Interviewed on television, Leticia Carrillo, the wife of one of the miners killed, said she was confused by the company's offers and called on President Vicente Fox to come to the scene. Another family survivor who erected an altar outside the mine simply said, "My tears aren't going to end."

Sources: Nuevo Dia (Nogales), March 1, 2006. La Cronica (San Luis Rio Colorado), March 1, 2006. Article by Zorayda Gallegos. El Universal, March 1 and 2, 2006. Articles by Julian Sanchez, Hilda Fernandez Valverde, Jorge Octavio Ochoa, and the Notimex and EFE news agencies. La Jornada, March 1 and 2, 2006. Articles by Patricia Muñoz Rios and regional correspondents. Proceso/Apro, March 1, 2006. Article by Arturo Rodriguez Garcia. Univision, February 28 and March 1, 2006.

Mexican mining, refining crippled by national strike

by Reuters

2nd March 2006

More than 20,000 Mexican miners and metal workers joined a nationwide strike yesterday that crippled output at the country's biggest mines, metals refineries and steel mills. Grupo Mexico, the world's No. 3 copper producer, said its Cananea and La Caridad copper mines were closed by workers who say labour conditions are unsafe.

Penoles, the world's top producer of refined silver, said workers at its massive Fresnillo silver mine were not working and top steel plants in the country were closed, including Mittal's four-million-tonne per year Lazaro Cardenas mill. There has been mounting unrest since an explosion at a coal mine in northern Mexico owned by Grupo Mexico killed 65 men last week.

San Juancito: From Mining Emporium to Ghost Town

byy Glenda Perdomo [], Honduras

26th February 2006

Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The noise of the trains and the constant come and go of foreigners appeared to indicate that progress and civilazation had arrived. The people of this poor village couldn't get over their shock the first time they touched the famous "green bills" which they were offered as pay for digging rocks. In less than a month, the life of San Juancito had changed radically: from a little lost village in the mountains of Honduras, it became a spot upon which the world was gazing, owing to its rich deposits of gold and silver.

It was in 1880 when permission for mining exploration was first awarded to the New York and Honduras Rosario Mining Company. The "age of gold" had arrived in the community and "silver fever" attracted hundreds of persons arriving in search of work that would permit them to rise above poverty. The "fever" also attracted business ventures from many parts of the world, and San Juan city was soon seat of operations of the first hydroelectric plant in Central America, as well as the first refreshments' bottling plant and the first embassy of the United States in Honduras.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Rosario already employed thousands of workers, had produced gold and silver valued at more than six million dollars and was already one of the ten top producing mines in the world.

However, behind the attraction of the gold and silver there was hidden a severe environmental destruction which had terrible repercussions to the natural environment: entire forests were being sacrificed to satisfy the enormous and growing need for fuel and supports for the underground structures.

A great part of what is now the La Tigra National Park was destroyed to construct houses and buildings, and roads for wagons and carts containing minerals were cut through the forests. Finally, seventy four years after their arrival, the mining company decided that the scant amount of mineral remaining in the mountain was no longer profitable, and abandoned the mountains of San Juancito.


With the departure of the Rosario Mining Company, the town also lost its attraction, employment and population shrank almost to almost nothing, and San Juancito turned into a ghost town. Legally protected since 1952, the zone began a long process of recuperation, and in 1980, became the first National Park in the history of the country.

Now, although San Juancito is a location often-visited by tourists, it has fallen apart, and much of its infrastructure was finished off by hurricane Mitch in 1998. The few residents have opted to dedicate themselves to agriculture and the only recreation is to go to the football field, or perhaps "shake their bones" when someone organizes a dance party. "We have been forgotten even by the government, I think that we don't even appear on the map any more," says sixty five year resident José Gustavo Zepeda, with a trace of bitterness.

LUEGO QUE LA autoridad ambiental dio luz verde para el inicio del proyecto de oro Pascua Lama en la Tercera Región hace dos semanas, las complicaciones siguen para la canadiense Barrick Gold. Esta semana comenzó a tramitarse la primera acción judicial para impedir que la emblemática iniciativa de la mayor minera de oro del mundo, que involucra una inversión de US$ 1.600 millones, empiece a operar.

El impulsor de la medida judicial es el empresario y agricultor de la zona del Huasco Jaime Perelló Arias, quien interpuso una demanda de nulidad de derecho público ante la Corte de Apelaciones de Santiago el 27 de enero pasado en contra de la Comisión Nacional de Medio Ambiente (Conama).

El recurso -patrocinado por los abogados Eduardo Rodríguez Guarachi y Marcelo Castillo, del estudio Etcheberry-Rodríguez- busca declarar nula la resolución exenta número 39 del 2001 de la Corema de la Tercera Región, que calificó favorablemente el proyecto Pascua Lama.

Dado el feriado judicial que se extendió desde fines de enero, la acción judicial comenzó a tramitarse esta semana, por lo que la notificación a la Conama será en los próximos días, comentaron fuentes ligadas al caso.

Derechos de agua

La mayor minera del mundo, Barrick Gold, pretende iniciar las operaciones del proyecto que abarca territorio chileno y argentino durante este año y luego de que las autoridades ambientales transandinas aprueben el proyecto.

Tras una fuerte polémica con grupos ambientalistas y agricultores de la zona, el pasado 15 de febrero la Corema de la Tercera Región aprobó la iniciativa, pero impidió la intervención de los glaciares que cubren el yacimiento.

Sin embargo, el escrito presentado por Perelló -quien es propietario de las haciendas Las Ventanas y Valparaíso en la zona y posee amplios derechos de aprovechamiento de agua en el río Huasco- dice que la Conama habría actuado inconstitucionalmente en diversos aspectos de la resolución.

Específicamente, el empresario alega que el proyecto lesiona sus derechos de aprovechamiento de agua en la zona, sostiene la misma fuente.

Nuevos recursos

Pero la presentación de Jaime Perelló anticipa una avalancha de nuevas acciones judiciales. Según fuentes relacionadas al caso, se espera que la próxima semana el propio empresario de la Tercera Región interponga un nuevo recurso judicial por las modificaciones hechas al proyecto Pascua Lama durante febrero.

A este recurso se sumarían las anunciadas apelaciones ante la autoridad ambiental y otros recursos judiciales de ambientalistas y agricultores de la zona.

Presentan primera demanda judicial en Chile para impedir proyecto minero Pascua Lama Empresario de la Tercera Región interpuso una demanda de nulidad de derecho público en contra de la Conama. El mismo empresario, ecologistas y otros agricultores de la zona emprenderían nuevas acciones legales en los próximos días con el fin de trabar el inicio de las operaciones de la minera canadiense Barrick Gold.

Por Julio Nahuelhual
Fecha edición: 3 de marzo de 2006
La Tercera Online -

Ganancias minera Xstrata crecen, compra en Colombia

Miércoles 1 de Marzo, 2006

Por Dan Lalor

LONDRES (Reuters) - La minera suiza Xstrata Plc reportó el miércoles un aumento del 60 por ciento en sus ganancias del 2005, impulsadas por los alto precios de las materias primas, que pronosticó que se mantendrán por encima de la media a largo plazo durante algunos años.

Xstrata además señaló que comprará a Glencore International una participación de un tercio de la mina de carbón colombiana Cerrejón, por 1.700 millones de dólares.

La minera dijo que Cerrejón, ubicada en el noreste de Colombia, está "idealmente posicionada para proveer al creciente mercado importador estadounidense."

Sobre las operaciones actuales de Xstrata, el presidente ejecutivo Mick Davis dijo que aunque es razonable esperar que los precios se relajen desde niveles excepcionales en los próximos meses, "tengo pocas dudas de que por un par de años se mantendrán por encima de sus promedios de largo plazo."

"Como consecuencia, el pronóstico del 2006 es alentador," agregó el ejecutivo.

La minera registró una utilidad atribuible de 1.706 millones de dólares en el 2005, sobre ingresos que crecieron un 25 por ciento, a 8.050 millones de dólares.

Xstrata extrae carbón termal, coque, cobre y zinc, entre otros productos.

Davis dijo que Cerrejón es "el productor de carbón de menores costos del Atlántico y la mina carbonífera abierta de mayor exportación en el mundo, con una base de recursos que permitirán expansiones progresivas de su producción desde las 26 millones de toneladas del 2005."

Anglo American Plc también posee un tercio de Cerrejón, al igual que BHP Billiton . Ninguna de las dos empresas emitió comentarios inmediatos sobre la inversión de Xstrata.

"Xstrata sorprendió al mercado por el momento en que llevó adelante lo que era considerada una adquisición inevitable de la participación de Glencore. El precio parece alto, pero justificable por este activo de primer nivel con capacidad de crecimiento," dijo Cazenove en una nota.

El analista de Numis Securities John Meyer dijo que Cerrejón "es un desarrollo significativo para Xstrata y representa una adquisición importante desde la perspectiva de sus accionistas."

De emporio minero a pueblo fantasma

26 Feb 2006

Por Glenda Perdomo

Tegucigalpa. El ruido de las locomotoras y el constante ir y venir de personas extranjeras parecía indicar que el progreso y la civilización habían llegado. Los humildes lugareños no salían de su asombro cuando por primera vez pudieron palpar el famoso "billete verde", que les era ofrecido como paga por picar piedra.

En menos de un mes, la vida de San Juancito había cambiado radicalmente: de un pueblito perdido entre las montañas de Honduras había pasado a convertirse en una zona en la que el mundo había puesto sus ojos, esto debido a sus ricos yacimientos de oro y plata.

Aunque la zona era visitada asiduamente por buscadores de fortuna, fue hasta el año de 1880 cuando se le otorgó el permiso de explotación a The New York and Honduras Rosario Mining Company, la empresa que descubrió y explotó la mina de plata más rica de Centroamérica.

La "época de oro" había llegado a la comunidad y la "fiebre de la plata" atraía a cientos de personas nacionales y extranjeras que llegaban en busca de un trabajo que los sacara de la pobreza.

La "fiebre" también atrajo a empresarios de diversas partes del mundo, al grado que San Juancito fue sede de operaciones de la primera estación hidroeléctrica en Centro América, así como de la primera embotelladora de refrescos gaseosos del área centroamericana y de la primera embajada de Estados Unidos en Honduras.


La actividad económica se había vuelto muy grande, al grado que, según algunos historiadores, San Juancito jugó un papel preponderante en la decisión que tomó el entonces presidente de Honduras, Marco Aurelio Soto, de trasladar la capital de la república de Comayagua a Tegucigalpa.

Para comienzos del siglo XX, la compañía minera ya empleaba a miles de trabajadores, había producido oro y plata valorados en más de seis millones de dólares y estaba considerada en el ranking de las mejores diez minas del mundo.

Sin embargo, detrás del atractivo que representaba el oro y la plata se escondía una destrucción severa que repercutía terriblemente en el entorno natural; bosques enteros fueron sacrificados para satisfacer la enorme y creciente necesidad de leña y madera para soportes estructurales subterráneos.

Gran parte de lo que hoy es el parque nacional La Tigra fue destruido para construir casas y edificios, así como para abrir largas brechas por donde transportaban vagones y carretas que contenían minerales.

Finalmente, setenta y cuatro años después de haber llegado, orgullosos y convencidos de que el escaso mineral que quedaba ya no justificaba su presencia, la compañía minera abandonó las montañas de San Juancito.


Con la partida de la Rosario Mining Company, el lugar perdió también su atractivo, la población y la oferta de empleo disminuyeron casi en su totalidad, convirtiendo a la localidad de San Juancito en un pueblo fantasma.

Familias enteras tuvieron que emigrar por la necesidad de sobrevivir y la soledad del lugar se combinaba con la enorme destrucción ambiental que la compañía minera había dejado.

Protegida legalmente desde 1952, la zona comenzó un largo proceso de recuperación y en 1980, por primera en la historia del país, fue declarada parque nacional La Tigra.

Actualmente, San Juancito, aunque es una localidad muy visitada por turistas, luce desabitado y mucha de su infraestructura fue arrastrada por el huracán Mitch que azotó el país en 1998.

Sus escasos habitantes optaron por dedicarse a la agricultura y la única diversión es asistir al campo de fútbol y, a veces, "mover el esqueleto", cuando el patronato organiza alguna fiesta bailable.

"Hemos quedado olvidados hasta por las autoridades, hace muchos años que ni siquiera el alcalde nos visita, yo creo que ya no aparecemos ni en el mapa; aquí para sobrevivir la gente tiene que emigrar porque no hay ni una tan sola fuente de empleo", manifiesta con amargura don José Gustavo Zepeda (65).

Nuevo propietario de la mina Donkin involucrado en casos de violaciones a los derechos humanos en Colombia Por Garry Leech

ARSN - Marzo 1, 2006

En diciembre de 2005 el gobierno de la provincia de Nueva Escocia anunció que la empresa australiana AustirXstrata Coal, subsidiaria de la multinacional minera suiza Xstrata, obtuvo los derechos de explotación de la mina Donkin en Cape Breton. Luego de la decisión de otorgar estos derechos a una empresa extranjera, en lugar de a las oferentes locales Donkin Resources y Cape Breton Coal Energy, la provincia de Nueva Escocia ha quedado enredada en casos de abusos a los derechos humanos perpetrados en Colombia.

Desde el cierre de las dos últimas minas de carbón en Cape Breton hace cinco años, Nova Scotia Power (NSP) ha obtenido el carbón que requiere para alimentar sus plantas de energía eléctrica en Colombia. La mina de carbón El Cerrejón, que provee a NSP, es responsable por abusos a los derechos humanos cometidos contra las comunidades cercanas a la explotación. En febrero de 2006, el nuevo propietario de las minas de Donkin, Xstrata, compró un tercio de El Cerrejón.

Para establecer las conexiones de Xstrata con los casos de violaciones a los derechos humanos en Colombia, tenemos que comprender primero las relaciones incestuosas que comunmente se dan entre compañías multinacionales, y detrás de las que éstas se ocultan. La multinacional suiza Glencore controla el 40 por ciento de Xstrata: es propietaria del 16 por ciento y tiene derecho a voto por otro 24 por ciento que pertenece al banco Credit Suisse. Glencore era propietaria también de un tercio de El Cerrejón, la mina de carbón a cielo abierto más grande del mundo, cuando la expansiva explotación desplazó por la fuerza a la comunidad afro-colombiana de Tabaco a comienzos de 2002. Los pobladores que pretendieron negociar colectivamente la reubicación de la villa, fueron forzados a dejar sus casas por unos 200 soldados colombianos, policías y personal de seguridad privada de la mina. Muchos de ellos no recibieron una indemnización y aún hoy siguen reclamando que los dueños de la mina reubiquen la comunidad. En febrero de 2006, Glencore vendió su tercio de El Cerrejón a Xstrata, una compañía de la que es en parte propietaria (BHP Billiton y Anglo American controlan los dos terios restantes). Mientras tanto, El Cerrejón anunció que pretende aumentar la extracción anual de carbón de 26 a 32 millones de toneladas. Muy posiblemente, parte de ese aumento será obtenido de la tierra sobre la cual la villa de Tabaco estaba emplazada. Y peor aún, parte de ese carbon terminará en las plantas de generación eléctrica de Nueva Escocia.

Las violaciones a los derechos humanos de Glencore no se limitan a la expulsión de humildes ciudadanos colombianos: una de sus subsidiarias en Colombia, Prodeco, ha violado derechos laborales y sindicales de sus empleados. En septiembre de 1999, el líder sindical Henry Ayala Gualdron fue detenido por la policía colombiana y estuvo preso 15 días sin que un solo cargo fuera presentado en su contra. En 1999, 188 rabajadores de Prodeco estaban sindicalizados. Cinco años después, en 2004, las tácticas y presiones de la compañía habían reducido ese número a 25.

Xstrata también ha sido objeto de críticas sindicales en Australia. Una de sus subsidiarias y tres de sus directores fueron declarados culpables por la muerte de 4 trabajadores en Gretley Colliery, año 1996. En 2005, Xstrata repondió a las condenas tratando de reformar la Ley australiana de manera que los empleadores no sean responsables penales ante casos de muerte en los lugares de trabajo. Los sindicatos amenazaron con paralizar la industria minera en Nueva gales del Sur si Xstrata tenía éxito en esa operación.

Ante la historia de violaciones a los derechos humanos de Glencore y Xstrata, los ciudadanos de Nueva Escocia deberían estar preocupados por la desición provincial de entregar la mina Donkin a Xstrata. A partir de aquí, no solamente queda Nueva Escocia enredada en casos de violaciones a los derechos humanos en Colombia: los trabajadores mineros y las comunidades en Cape Breton entraron en curso de colisión con una compañía minera que ha probado su crueldad en la búsqueda insaciable de ganancias.

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