MAC: Mines and Communities

Latin American Update

Published by MAC on 2006-02-13

Latin American Update

13th February 2006

Barrick Gold is mounting enormous political pressure to get its Pascua-Lama project approved before the inauguration of the new Chilean president in March.
Another assembly is held in Patagonia to fight a new threat. And a US scientist outlines in detail what expanded mining would mean for people and other species in north western Peru.

CHILE: The Regional Commission for Environment of Atacama (Corema), will decide in the coming week whether or not to athorise Canadian mining corporation Barrick Gold's ominous gold project Pascua Lama, on the border between Chile and Argentina. There have been new protests in Santiago de Chile, and a letter to president Lagos signed by diverse chilean organisations, some of them based in Canada (such as the Pablo Neruda Center in Québec) demanding that he not approve the project. These organizations denounce Barrick for mounting a political operation to obtain the approval of the project just two weeks before elected president, Michelle Batchelet assumes the presidency. The Communist Party of Chile (PCCh) has announced that, in the coming days, it will mount mobilisations against the mining project. Here is a Spanish update, drawing on some recent articles in the Chilean press.

ARGENTINA: Mining Company Wants to reactivate a Mining Project 20 Km from the City of Esquel

Press release from the Assembly of Self-Organized Neighbors of Esquel

9th February 2006

The recent announcement of Patagonia Gold S.A. to renew exploration of gold mining project Huemules adds a new element to the struggle of residents of this region against mining operations.

Tomorrow, like the fourth day of every month, neighbors throughout the Province of Chubut will carry out a march saying "NO TO THE MINES", beginning at 6pm in the Plaza San Martin, to course through the streets of this city, which will celebrate it's 100th anniversary this February 25.

The residents of Esquel and other parts of the country come together to affirm that mining activity will not only seriously damage the environment but also implies the plunder of natural resources, carrying scandalously unacceptable tax and import benefits for the companies involved.

English-Argentine multinational mining company Patagonia Gold announced that they will renew exploration works in their project "Huemules," which had been suspended two years ago. This project is a gold mine located 20km west of Esquel, directly alongside the Los Alerces National Park , and within the headwaters of one of the most important rivers of the region.

There are currently 1,450 permits for mine prospecting in the Province, and of the metal mining projects, 94% of them are for gold. Mining company Patagonia Gold S.A., based in London, of which the "Bemberg-Miguens Group," isa minority owner, holds prospecting rights to over 9% of the mineable surface of Chubut, or something more than 330,000 hectares (835,000 acres) located in the Andes and foothills zones of Chubut. The territory occupied by this company is more than the 289,790 hectacres combined of the National Parks of Lago Puelo and Los Alerces of Chubut.

The residents of Esquel have carried out almost fifty marches against mining activity and plunder. They remain steadfast in their determination to oust mining company Meridian Gold, who still maintain offices and buildings in the same city - a city which is urging the Provincial Government of Mario Das Neves to cease all the company's activities throughout the Provincial territory.

Assembly of Self-Organized Neighbors of Esquel

Statement of the Patagonian Coordinating Assembly for Life and Territory Against Plunder and Contamination

by Lago Puelo, Chubut, Argentina,

28th January 2006

After much interchange of information, debate and decision making, the Assembly warns the people and social and political organizations of Argentina that the Argentine State is continuing with the policy of supporting corporations and sectors that live off the extraction of common goods such as petroleum, mining, fishing, hydroelectricity and control of water and waterways.

In addition to polluting and sacking our productive resources, they are de-instrustrializing the country, multiplying the mechanisms of poverty, depreciating regional economies and devaluing the creative productivity of the population.

In this way, in the best case, we are offered scraps of bread today, but reality shows that hunger, unemployment and the loss of control over production and commerce has seriously worsened. For this reason we understand that the AXIS of State-Corporate PLUNDER is multiplying its tactics.

For example, recent Constitutional reform in Neuquén province guarantees the riches of the extractive sector, while at the same time denying totally the rights of indigenous peoples and limiting drastically the political rights of all of the population.

Something similar is happening with the reform of the Environmental Code of Chubut province which, dressed up in technical language, intends to justify great changes in the laws without popular consent and participation.

In both cases it is clear that laws are being drafted by the very politicians and company officials who will directly benefit from them, and the government officials who publicise these reforms as valid. The tendency now emerging is that. on a municipal level, codes and laws are drafted to assist in selling off the common goods of the people.

None of this is new: viz.the grand corporate scams such as the FTAA, the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), and other so-called "free trade" agreements, also those made by our representatives in our name, in closed and secret sessions.

Among the objectives of this type of politics, one finds the proposed construction of a new highway crossing the Andes connecting Argentina with Chile near Lago Puelo. This is announced as "integration", but has various aspects.

In the first place it will facilitate primarily the transit of metals and minerals destined to Asian industry, in the second place it will facilitate further land speculation, generating great financial changes in real estate, tourism and land control, all of which threaten communities throughout the region, especially the oldest habitants and Mapuche communities, such as the families Cayún and Cárdenas in Lago Puelo.

As this spiral of speculation continues, land is transformed into exclusive and excluding uses, such as the construction of casinos, golf courses, private country clubs, eco-ranches and other profitable ventures.

Behind the plan to extend the municipal common lands, pseudo-progressive private business ventures are silently gathering force. In other parts of the Andes, those planning the plunder are proposing huge dams across the river Carrenleufú-Corcovado, the private ownership and use of watersheds, the biopiracy and patenting of biodiversity, or - in the most pressing case at hand - the parasitic and highly contaminative mining industry.

The ramifications and consequences of this festival of investment is affecting all of this region in a manner devastating to regional culture, economy, social relations and ecology.

We demand that the Interamerican Development Bank and other credit organizations, as well as their intermediaries, stop financing these illegitimate ventures, because there has been no consultation with the affected communities.

We demand that the State immediately recognise the communal ownership of lands by indigenous communities, as well as those lands legitimately recuperated, lands taken back by important social experiments, such as Tierra y Dignidad (Land and Dignity) in El Bolsón, Río Negro, and by the struggles of groups such as the Consejo Asesor Indígena (Indigenous Peoples Council) and the Mapuche Campesino Front, among others.

This Assembly reaffirms our commitment to confront mining exploitation and prospecting all of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and the Islands of the South Atlantic, and we stand in solidarity with the struggles of people in territories affected by mining and other parasitic forms of exploitation of people and nature throughout this country and continent.

PERU: BHP Billiton to sell copper mine at Tintaya

9th February 2006

The world's top miner, BHP Billiton, has said it planned to sell by midyear its Peruvian copper mine Tintaya, where it had conflicts with area residents last year.

BHP Billiton said in a statement it had "begun talks with a limited amount of companies that have expressed an interest in acquiring Tintaya," Peru's third-largest copper mine.

The Anglo-Australian giant ran into problems at Tintaya last year, halting operations for a month after residents of the nearby town of Espinar invaded the mining camp demanding closure due to contamination.

The residents also pressed BHP Billiton to make more social investment in the area, located some 1,100km south of Lima.

BHP Billiton noted in its statement that it has chosen to negotiate with companies "that meet strict criteria of financial strength and commitment to better practices in health, safety, environment and community development".

The company said it had achieved an "excellent relation" with human resources, non-governmental organisations, the Peruvian government and communities, which ensures its permanence in Peru.

"BHP Billiton will continue to operate in Peru through its stake in Antamina and believes the country has great mining potential that is attractive for investment," the company said.

INSIGHTS: Mining Peru's Andean Forests Puts Unique Species, Ecosystem at Risk

By Craig C. Downer, ENS, MINDEN, Nevada

6th February 2006

Though interspersed with sobering dangers, my trip to northwestern Peru in October and November 2005 has nonetheless proven to be enlightening. Now I realize just how urgent it is to change humanity's reigning values and lifestyles in order to save the natural forest and paramo still occurring here. I realize that every support must be given to the extensive grassroots movement that aims to do this.

Between 600,000 and 800,000 hectares in the mountains and valleys of Piura and Cajamarca states have recently been given over to companies as mining concessions by Peru's national government. The biggest concession is to the London-based Monterrico Metals plc, whose Peruvian company is Majaz.

As president of the Andean Tapir Fund, I am especially concerned because Monterrico Metals-Majaz' main project, known as Rio Blanco, is located on extremely steep and erodible slopes. It threatens the very heart of the habitat for Peru's last remaining Andean tapirs, Tapirus pinchaque, also called mountain tapirs, one of the world's most endangered large mammals.

Massive mining projects are planned in and around the Cerro Negro mountain area. Here, tens of thousands of hectares of virgin, or near virgin, cloud forest and treeless plateaus called paramos provide a last refuge for this woolly and nimble tapir as well as many other endemic rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

Highland lake above Tapal Alto. This pristine area is jeopardized by mining concessions. (Photo © A. Zegarra) Based on recent scientific evaluations, I estimate the remaining population of the mountain tapirs in Peru to be somewhere between 200 and 300 individuals. Monterrico and other companies plan to mine copper and other metals such as molybdenum, gold, silver, and zinc using the ecologically devastating process of open pit mining combined with heap leaching using cyanide and other noxious chemicals to extract the metal from the crushed ore.

Not only would the mountain tapir and thousands of co-dependent plants and animals be negatively affected, but the headwaters of many of northwestern Peru's major lakes, such as Las Huaringas, and rivers would be thoughtlessly damaged and contaminated.

The rivers at risk include Rio Chira, Rio Piura, Rio Blanco, and the Rio Chipillico, which fills the agriculturally important San Lorenzo reservoir. Also at risk are the Rio Quiroz, which fills the equally important Poechos reservoir, Rio Huancabamba, and the Rio Chinchipe, which affects the only nature reserve in this area, the 29,500 hectare Tabaconas-Namballe National Sanctuary.

The headwaters of the Rio Quiroz are affected by mining concessions belonging to Newmont-USA, while the headwaters of Rio Chinchipe are seriously compromised by concessions belonging to Monterrico Metals-Majaz, according to Piuran plant ecologist Dr. Fidel Torres-Guevara, in an unpublished paper written in 2005.

The area that I visited above the highland community Tapal is known for its beautiful lakes, cloud forests and paramos, as well as healthy populations of endangered mountain tapirs, yet this relatively pristine area is being claimed by Newmont for open pit mining of copper and other metals.

If these operations are allowed to go through, a tragic swath of death and destruction would ensue and thousands of unique and endemic populations would be killed. Water supplies upon which thousands of people depend downslope would be largely dried up, and the water which remains would be contaminated now and for generations to come. This must not be allowed to happen!

The negative impacts of mining in these mountaintops and side slopes would be pervasive, affecting some of Peru's richest farmlands, where mangos, zapote, lemons, sugar, banana, coffee, rice, kapok, carob bean, and many other quality crops are produced.

Grassroots protest against mining takeover of highlands in Ayabaca, frontier garrison capital of Ayabaca municipality. This provincial government has declared its highlands to be nature reserves, but are up against the federal government's support of the mining companies. June 2005. (Photo © A. Zegarra)

In general, northwestern Peru is very dry and contains extensive deserts, yet it is blessed with more water than most parts of western Peru, which contain some of the driest deserts in the world.

By damaging northwestern Peru's few precious highland water sources, an ever more extensive and severe desertification would be caused, as Dr. Torres-Guevara has substantiated in his 2003 book, "Mineria Metalica bajo El Niño en Piura: Injustificado Riesgo para su Vida y Desarrollo."

In a 2005 article, Torres-Guevara quotes a Monterrico Metals statement made in 2005, "Just the Rio Blanco project alone situated in the headwaters of Rio Chinchipe plans on extracting 20 million tons of ore per year to produce 200,000 tons of copper during each of the first five to ten years of operation. ... The flotation process that is planned would use 30 to 162 cubic meters of water per ton. This would total between 6,000 and 32,000 cubic meters of water used per year - and this is projected to increase in following years."

This impact would be devastating to northwestern Peru and its linked natural and agrarian ecosystems, because these precious waters would become terribly contaminated and their extraction for mining would disrupt the age-old, natural flow patterns throughout the region.

The millions of tons of waste rock that would be generated would continue to leach caustic sulfuric and nitrous acids for generations, releasing heavy metals that become incorporated into the food chain, including the human consumer.

The extensive algorrobo, or carob bean, forests of northwestern Peru, that depend on their deep roots to tap subterranean water flows, provide humans with a nutritious syrup that is commercially sold. This tree is also utilized as forage for goat herds and other herbivores, while affording firewood, pollen for honey, shade, wind breaks, and soil stabilization.

However, if the subterranean waters upon which this tree depends become contaminated due to mining operations up slope, and/or if the water tables sink too deeply due to the mining operations' disruption of natural flows, the algorrobo forests will perish along with thousands of co-dependent species, including many unique birds such as the endangered white-winged guan, Penelope albipennis, that occurs here and nowhere else.

The livelihoods of many thousands of campesinos would be negatively impacted, as would northwestern Peru's 231,402 hectare Man and the Biosphere site lying just to the northwest. This site covers another distinctive ecosystem with many rare and endemic species inhabiting the equatorial dry forest and the small remaining tropical Pacific forest.

The noxious effects of mining would reach the Pacific Ocean to the west, with its tidal estuaries. Thousands of fish species depend upon this fresh water inflow, having co-evolved with this continental input over thousands of generations.

Also jeopardized would be the freshwater Piuran white crocodile, unique to this area and struggling to survive in the polluted Chira River. This river has recently been dammed up at Sullana, as I observed, while noting how utterly eutrophied the dammed waters had become. These waters are now toxic due to the accumulation of human sewage and agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

This crocodile is probably a race of the American crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red Data Book of 1996, and in need of our urgent help. Strong winds that arise in the afternoon in Piura would become more extreme in their effects as the moderating effects of vegetative cover are undone. Scouring the ground, these atmospheric currents would lift many tons of fine particulates from the open pit mines and waste heaps. These particles would remain suspended for long periods in the atmosphere and would include heavy metals toxic to plants and animals and linked to various cancers in humans.

Of particular concern are the ever more frequent and more extreme El Niño climatic events that bring torrential downpourings and lashing winds to northwestern Peru. The exposed open pits, heap leach ponds, and discarded crushed ore mounds would be subject to damaging flooding and pounding rains and winds and would certainly spill or leach out their toxic acids and heavy metals during these El Niño events. Potentially, not just hundreds but thousands of square kilometers would be seriously polluted, as the unique ecosystem of northwestern Peru is dealt what may prove its final death blow.

El Niño events are projected to become increasingly frequent and severe in future years. For this reason, it is all the more imperative that those Andean forests and paramos that have to date escaped destruction by humans be preserved intact.

They must be allowed to continue to act as vital living sponges that retain fertile soils and absorb rain water during storms, thus preventing floods, to release this water later during the long dry season that is becoming increasingly severe in northwestern Peru today.

As of 2003, there were about 206,000 hectares of suitable forest and paramo habitat for the mountain tapir in the northern Andes of Peru above the Huancabamba Depression, the southern limit for the mountain tapir, according to Diego Lizcano and Aivi Sissa in their 2003 article "Notes on the Distribution, and Conservation Status of Mountain Tapir" in the quarterly journal of the IUCN SSC Tapir Specialist Group. Such an area could support between 350 and 375 mountain tapirs in theory, but due to heavy hunting, either for local consumption or for sale of parts used in folklore medicine, disease transmission and stress caused by habitat disturbance by both people and their livestock, I would estimate that only a little over half this number actually remains.

Very probably if the Monterrico and other associated mining projects are allowed to proceed, a final death blow could be dealt to this very ecologically important seed disperser and ancient living fossil in Peru.

For this reason, I am now preparing a professional justification for the creation of the Cerro Negro Andean Tapir National Sanctuary. This includes a map outlining the chief forests, including cloud forest and paramo, essential for the future survival of a viable connected population of mountain tapirs in northwestern Peru and linking with Ecuador just to the north.

This new sanctuary should contain at least 57,144 hectares of remnant tapir habitat and provide a biological corridor between the Tabaconas-Namballe National Sanctuary to the south and Ecuadorean habitat to the north, including Podocarpus National Park, where I have observed the mountain tapirs together with the ARCOIRIS conservation organization of Loja, Ecuador.

The creation of this sanctuary would fulfill the recommendation of the "WWF Rapid Biological Evaluation of the Tabaconas-Namballe Sanctuary and Surrounding Areas" that was issued in conjunction with Peru's natural resource agency, INRENA, in December 2003, as detailed in Informe WWF-OPP: OM-91.

This competent ecological evaluation urges the declaration of 57,144 hectares as an extension of the Tabaconas-Namballe National Sanctuary in order to protect a vital biological corridor to and with Ecuador linking further to the north. Such a legally established corridor is urgently required to prevent excessive fragmentation of populations and habitats of the mountain tapir and other rare species and their respective unique habitats functioning as a unit.

This includes a new species in the genus Gynoxys, an aster genus that I documented as constituting the major food of the mountain tapir in Ecuador's Sangay National Park in a July 2001 article in the "Journal of Zoology-London." Among the 13 species of amphibians documented by this WWF-funded study, two frog species appear to be new to science. Also observed were 186 species of birds and 59 species of mammals, the latter including one new bat and one new rodent species. Many other unknown species undoubtedly exist in this area.

The creation of the new Cerro Negro sanctuary would automatically cancel mining concessions in this ecologically precious and unique area and uphold the prohibition by Peruvian law of major industrial projects within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the Ecuadorean border. It would also assure the natural retention and provision of water to a number of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs upon which the vital domestic and export agricultural economy of northwestern Peru depends.

As the National Confederation of Peruvian Communities affected by mining (CONACAMI-Peru) said in June 2004, "Open pit mining will not prove the economic salvation of NW Peru, rather it will employ only a relatively small percentage of locals in the short term while ruining their land and contaminating their water and air for generations to come. The companies will leave having enriched their stockholders and contributed to the consumerist lifestyle of the world's rich and wasteful class of people."

"In Peru, 3,500 communities have been thus affected by the mining industry, and their ecosystems have been poisoned, eroded, and devastated," the group said. "It is high time that people wake up and learn the lesson Mother Earth, or Pachamama, is trying to tell them and modify their lifestyles and priorities accordingly."

Unlike the vast areas of Peru already devastated by mining, overgrazing, and other human activities, the region of the Huancabamba Depression where the Abra de Porciulla pass at 2,144 meters above sea level still preserves a relatively extensive viable Andean ecosystem, is indeed an island of hope in today's world!

Mountains and valleys in this unique region are oriented not just north-south, but in diverse directions of the compass. This greater variety of formations has amplified the opportunities for the evolutionary formation of new biological species.

Acting in combination with the low elevation pass between Amazonia and the western coastal plain of Peru, this topography has allowed the intermingling, hybridization and evolution of many species of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth.

One species of endemic hummingbird, the Neblina metaltail, Metallura odomae, which occurs only in the paramo, is listed as Near Threatened in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is considered a focal species for this region. Bird species that have been judged Vulnerable to extinction in the paramo here include the bearded guan, Penelope barbata, and the masked saltator, Saltator cinctus.

The golden-plumed parakeet, Leptosittaca branickii, is another Vulnerable species found here and depends for food on the cones of the over-logged podocarpus conifer and for nesting depends on the dwindling wax palm.

The Endangered spectacled bear, Tremarctos ornatus, is found here, as is the Vulnerable cock-of-the-rock, Rupicola peruviana, and the rare Andean flicker, Colaptes rupicola, which I observed by Rio Mangas.

The region forms a key portion of the Northern Andean Center of Endemism that includes a band of subtropical and temperate Andean forest and paramo that extends from Colombia through Ecuador to northwestern Peru.

It contains a great diversity of small mammals, including rodents, a new species of Oryzomys in the Muridae family, and a curious collection of remnant marsupials dating from South America's period as an island continent whose isolation lasted 60 million years, from the early Paleocene to the late Pliocene epochs.

As a geographical barrier to mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, the Huancabamba Depression has played an important role in separating species by creating a divide between the more southern mid to high elevations of the Andes and their more northern Andean counterparts. At higher elevations, this includes the divide between more humid northern paramo and drier puna to the south.

The mountain tapir is closely linked to the paramo biome. The lakes of this region, including those above Tapal, the Huaringas, and the Arrebiatadas, are especially important for endemic frogs, presently found to be disappearing on a global scale; and for migratory birds, such as the blue winged teal, Anas discors; the Puna teal, Anas puna; and the Andean lapwing, Vanellus esplendens. These lakes are crucially important to many species that migrate from as far off as Canada and Argentina.

These and similar lakes purify and imbue their waters with special healthful qualities. Gravity then guides their waters downslope to make northwestern Peru one of the world's finest fruit producing areas. The majority of the people who live here do not want to see mining destroy their way of life, as their massive demonstrations for the past several years and in the present clearly indicate.

Also hidden in the cloud forests and paramos of northwestern Peru are ancient ruins, including a mysterious temple believed by locals to have been dedicated to a tapir god. From here I have observed one small statue, possibly of Chimú origin, with tiny flecks of black paint suggesting that this was meant to depict the mountain tapir. Glazed ceramic vessels have also been uncovered and are believed to be of Moché tribal provenance, particularly from the municipality of Yanta, whose highlands and lakes are a very important refuge for mountain tapirs - disturbingly, all under the dark cloud of mining concessions.

Traditional local shamans and their patients whom I have interviewed say they have experienced powerful innervating qualities when entering the pristine forests and paramo of the Cordillera de Las Lagunillas and experiencing its lakes and rivers. Perhaps it was for this reason that some of my local guides physically prohibited me from bathing in one of these highland lakes, thinking I would somehow alter its energetic balance or potency.

The force of their conviction leads me to theorize that the actual metals found in these mountains could, indeed, be important in maintaining certain geomagnetic fields and their subtle flows.

These could be intimately tied to the well being of all the plants and animals who live here and including especially humans who have been here for long periods of time, yet also including visitors like myself, who, though just briefly visiting the area, are positively affected by the harmony they feel here. This certainly has been the case with me.

This concept parallels that of the ancient Kogi who still inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta of northern Colombia. Their "mamas," or wisemen, warn against extracting gold, iron, or any naturally occurring metal from the Mother Earth and will even place gold statues in spots they consider strategic to the energetic balance and well-being of the life community they regard as family and which includes many wild plants and animals as well as their tribe.

Could these natives of the Peruvian and Colombian Andes be on to something very important here and which modern civilization ignores at its peril?

Does this involve the subtle electromagnetic force fields and currents that both protect and unite both individuals and species of plants and animals and are somehow essential to a more amply defined ecological well being for us all, individually and collectively?

And could this not have much to do with the electrical conductance that various metallic elements naturally dispersed in the earth and water maintain?

Perhaps in some little-recognized and remarkable way, the whole planet is kept alive by such subtle energies whose dynamics are maintained by the metals found in the Earth, and that give each region a special quality with which its life forms have co-evolved.

It follows that humans' thoughtless and insensitive, rock-pulverizing extraction of these metals, especially in the enormous scale of open pit mining, could do enormous damage to a finely balanced and tuned ecosystem that has been millions of years in the making.

This is a subject that demands greater investigation and further calls into question the massive processing of millions of tons of metal-bearing rocks to extract their metallic content for incorporation into an artificial world of humans' own making - one that today has lamentably, but not irremediably, become a monster parasite of Pachamama - Mother Earth.

{Craig C. Downer is president of the Andean Tapir Fund. Contact him by email at:}

Pascua Lama en semana decisiva

Santiago, Chile.

10 feb 2006

El Intendente (s) de la Tercera Región, Antonino Prado, descartó que el plazo para decidir la aprobación o rechazo del proyecto minero Pascua Lama, se haya fijado dentro del gobierno de Ricardo Lagos como una maniobra política.

En entrevista a Radio Cooperativa, Prado, que por el cargo que subroga preside la Corporación Regional del Medio Ambiente (Corema), declaró que "la ley fija un plazo máximo de 180 días para su tramitación, este plazo se cumple el 22 de febrero y algunas críticas que han surgido de que se estaría presionando al Gobierno para que saque la aprobación durante el mandato del Presidente Lagos no es efectivo".

Prado aclaró que, a pesar que la reunión para definir la resolución es el 14 de febrero, la Corema tiene plazo hasta el 22 para hacer todos los trámites posteriores al fallo. Sin embargo, este se decidirá aproximadamente el día 15.

"Está todo calendarizado a partir del 14, pero dado el volumen de las consideraciones que hay que revisar todo apunta a que el día 15 sería el día de la aprobación o rechazo del proyecto, porque después hay que tomar algunos días para confeccionar la resolución y notificar a la empresa de la resolución sea ésta afirmativa o negativa", estimó.

Con respecto a las protestas que han realizado organizaciones medioambientalistas, que exigen que la mina no se haga a rajo abierto sino que bajo tierra para que no cause estragos en el ecosistema, el también gobernador de Copiapó respondió que no estaba dentro de las funciones del organismo modificar el proyecto, sólo aprobarlo o rechazarlo.

"La autoridad no puede obligar a una empresa a que cambie su proyecto, nosotros solamente vamos a analizar el proyecto, sus consideraciones que hicieron los equipos técnicos, desde esa perspectiva el proyecto apunta a una explotación a tajo abierto, no subterráneo". Sin embargo, aclaró que "nosotros vamos a evaluar considerando el desarrollo económico pero sin un maltrato al medio ambiente".

Además, destacó que hay organizaciones que estuvieron fuertemente en contra del proyecto minero, pero que tras una conversación con la empresa encargada, Barrick Gold, llegaron a un acuerdo y ahora la apoyan.

"En un comienzo los que eran detractores con más fuerza, que era la Junta de Vigilancia que está conformada por los agricultores del Valle del Huasco, ellos llegaron a un acuerdo extra sistema con la empresa Barrick y hoy día han cambiado su posición", dijo.

También descartó que la empresa no pueda ser normada tanto por el gobierno chileno como por el argentino, ya que existen instituciones cercanas al lugar que realizarán la fiscalización.

"Eso está perfectamente normado y hay distintos servicios ahí como Aduanas, Investigaciones, SAG, que son los fiscalizadores de cualquier actividad productiva que se realice en ese contorno", apuntó.


En tanto, la presidenta subrogante de la CUT, Ana Bell, manifestó que "nosotros por supuesto que no estamos de acuerdo con que se legisle y que se legisle además de esa manera, no puede ser que se legisle de esa manera, cuando el país no sabe lo que está pasando, yo creo que eso es realmente de mucha irresponsabilidad".

El dirigente nacional del comando de exonerados políticos de la CUT, Sergio Troncoso, agregó que "el Gobierno va a tener que escuchar todo lo que ha sido la acción, la movilización no sólo de ecologistas, ambientalistas sino que de todos los trabajadores de la zona afectada porque nosotros como CUT no nos oponemos a la inversión pero queremos que esta inversión no dañe el resto de la economía".

Para este lunes, en tanto, una decena de organizaciones sociales y ciudadanas convocaron a una manifestación de protesta contra el proyecto minero a partir de las 12.00 horas en la Plaza de Armas de Santiago.

Entre las organizaciones convocantes están el Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales, Oceana, la FECH, el movimiento Surda y Attac.

Ciudadanos canadienses protestan en Santiago contra Pascua Lama

Jueves 9 de febrero de 2006

Ambientalistas exigen al gobierno proteger la integridad de los glaciares a menos de una semana que la Corema se pronuncie sobre el proyecto de la canadiense Barrick Gold, que busca extraer oro, plata y cobre en el Valle del Huasco.

Una protesta en contra de Pascua Lama protagonizó un grupo de ambientalistas, entre ellos ciudadanos canadienses, quienes se congregaron frente a la sede de la Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente (Conama) para expresar su rechazo al proyecto minero, a días de que el organismo ambiental se pronuncie al respecto.

Los manifestantes argumentaron que el plan de la empresa canadiense Barrick Gold –que será resuelto por la Corema de la III Región el próximo martes 14 de febrero- provocará un grave daño ambiental en el Valle del Huasco. En ese lugar, la compañía pretende extraer oro, plata y cobre, sobre el límite internacional chileno-argentino, unos 150 kilómetros al suroriente de Vallenar y unos 300 kilómetros al norponiente de San Juan, con una inversión de 950 millones de dólares y una vida útil de 20 años.

Antes de protestar en las afueras de la Conama, los ambientalistas llegaron hasta La Moneda para entregar una carta dirigida al Presidente Ricardo Lagos, en donde le piden rechazar el proyecto tal cual está y le solicitan que solo sea aprobado cuando cuente con los resguardos medioambientales necesarios.

En este sentido, el vocero del movimiento “Acción Anti Pascua Lama”, Felipe Varas, precisó que “nosotros no estamos diciendo que no se haga el proyecto necesariamente, pero queremos que se haga de acuerdo a las normas internacionales, bajo los parámetros internacionales y no de la forma que se está haciendo”.

Por su parte, Nancy Díaz, miembro del Centro Chileno Pablo Neruda de Québec, denunció que Barrick Gold “es una compañía que en Canadá está bastante desprestigiada desde el punto de vista de la poca preocupación que tiene cuando realiza sus proyectos en cualquier parte del mundo, porque no respeta los derechos ambientales”.

Según Díaz, el objetivo es “proteger la integridad de los glaciares, que la empresa Barrick planea destruir prácticamente para poder realizar su proyecto”, y evidenció su preocupación por “el agua de los ríos que riegan los valles San Félix y el Tránsito, conserven su pureza en bien de la población, la zona y la calidad de la producción agrícola, porque ésta no es una zona minera, y por lo tanto esta desviación de su actividad principal haría que los productores agrícolas no tendrían una agua pura ni para vivir ni para los regadíos”.

Por otra parte, el portavoz del movimiento anti Pascua Lama denunció que Barrick Gold está llevando a cabo una estrategia política para que su proyecto sea aprobado en un período en que “toda la gente está de vacaciones, y dos semanas antes de que asuma Michelle Bachelet.

Por ello, hizo un llamado a la Mandataria electa, Michelle Bachelet, para que cumpla con sus promesas de campaña. Recordó que la sucesora de Ricardo Lagos dijo que “el proyecto tal cual estaba, de trasladar los glaciares y hacerlo a tajo abierto, no lo iba a aprobar. Ella se comprometió de palabra a hacerlo y por lo tanto nosotros simplemente queremos que ella cumpla lo que está diciendo”.

Carta de ciudadanos canadienses al Presidente Ricardo Lagos
Québec (Canadá), 08 de febrero de 2006

Señor Ricardo Lagos Escobar
Presidente de la República
Santiago, Chile

Señor Presidente, En el curso del año 2005 los ciudadanos canadienses nos hemos informado acerca del proyecto minero Pascua Lama que la empresa canadiense Barrick Gold espera realizar en la III Región de Chile.

Por iniciativa de las organizaciones de chilenas y chilenos que se encuentran en cada una de las ciudades de Canadá, hemos realizado una campaña de información y difusión de los grandes riesgos que comporta dicho proyecto, para unir nuestros esfuerzos a los ciudadanos chilenos y a las organizaciones de defensa del medio ambiente que se han expresado en Chile contra la realización del proyecto Pascua Lama.

Formulamos un llamado que ahora le presentamos a usted y a la opinión pública chilena, respaldado por más de 6.000 nombres de adherentes (adjuntamos aquí una lista de 600 nombres del total de adherentes) residentes en Canadá y en otros países a los que se llegó – y sigue llegando – nuestro llamado, por el que solicitamos a usted que no se autorice la realización del proyecto Pascua Lama teniendo en cuenta principalmente la necesidad de proteger:

- la integridad de los glaciares Toro I, Toro II y Esperanza

- la pureza del agua de los ríos que riegan los valles San Félix y el Tránsito

- la calidad de la producción agrícola de la Región de Atacama, en el norte de Chile, y

- la calidad de vida de la comunidad diaguita y de toda la población de la región.

Adjuntamos también a la presente copia de la carta dirigida el 16 de enero de 2006 a la Barrick Gold Corporation y a la CONAMA, por parte del Regroupement pour la responsabilité sociale et l’équité (la Agrupación por la Responsabilidad social y la igualdad) con sede en Montreal, cuyos miembros – algunos de los cuales son accionistas de Barrick – expresan su preocupación sobre el proyecto Pascua Lama.

Esperamos que nuestro llamado sea escuchado por usted y por todas las instancias políticas y técnicas sobre las que recae la responsabilidad de evaluar, autorizar o rechazar la realización del proyecto Pascua Lama.

En nombre de los miles de adherentes canadienses y de otras nacionalidades que suscriben esta petición,

Loraine Rousseau, Nancy Díaz, Suzanne Gagnon, Marie Claude Lévesque

Corema define próxima semana si da luz verde a Pascua-Lama

by Reuters

Jueves 9 de Febrero de 2006

SANTIAGO, 7.- Las autoridades ambientales de Chile decidirán la próxima semana si la gigante canadiense Barrick Gold Corp. puede continuar con un controvertido proyecto de oro en la línea fronteriza con Argentina.

Antonino Prado, gobernador de Copiapó, provincia cercana al proyecto Pascua-Lama, dijo hoy que las autoridades empezarán las deliberaciones sobre el proyecto el 14 de febrero y tomarán una decisión uno o dos días después.

’’Vamos a trabajar el día 14 en adelante hasta que entremos a la calificación final, que significa aprobarlo o rechazarlo’’, dijo Prado, quien además es el portavoz temporal de la Comisión Regional de Medio Ambiente (Corema).

El proyecto Pascua-Lama, que demandará una inversión de 1.500 millones de dólares y tiene reservas por 17,6 millones de onzas de oro, ha recibido duras críticas de grupos ambientalistas sobre todo por el plan de trasladar parte de los glaciares de la zona.

El proceso de aprobación se producirá un mes antes de que la primera mujer presidente de Chile asuma el cargo.

La presidenta electa Michelle Batchelet ha reconocido que la minería es el principal motor de la economía chilena, pero ha asegurado que no permitirá que el interés por invertir en el sector reemplace las preocupaciones ambientales.

Barrick, que luego de una fusión que aún está pendiente se convertirá en la mayor firma minera de oro del mundo, ha tratado de probar por más de un año que el proyecto Pascua-Lama en Los Andes es viable para el medioambiente.

La firma espera que su proyecto sea aprobado y planea empezar su construcción en septiembre, cuando finalice el invierno en el hemisferio sur.

Una comisión de 16 miembros de Corema, que incluye a las autoridades locales, revisará el reporte de 163 páginas que contiene las respuestas de Barrick a las preocupaciones ambientales sobre el proyecto, dijo Prado.

Pascua-Lama, que sería una mina a tajo abierto, generó controversias en Chile desde que Barrick decidió reactivar el proyecto hace más de un año a una escala mayor al plan aprobado inicialemente y que implicaría mover glaciares en la línea fronteriza con Argentina.

PC anuncia movilizaciones contra proyecto Pascua Lama

Santiago, Chile.

6 feb 2006

El Partido Comunista de Chile (PCCh) ha anunciado que en los próximos días realizará movilizaciones para protestar por el proyecto minero que ha emprendido la empresa canadiense Barrick Gold en Pascua de Lama y que, en su opinión, provocará un daño ecológico irreparable. De momento, la Comisión Regional de Medio Ambiente (Corema) tiene de plazo hasta el 15 de febrero para evaluar la continuidad de los trabajos.

Los comunistas chilenos consideran que la explotación de oro en Pascua Lama eliminará los trabajos agrícolas de la región y hará desaparecer dos glaciares, una situación que dañará la ecología y la fauna local. Los integrantes del PCCh insisten en la necesidad de realizar otras investigaciones para medir el proyecto transnacional.

Jorge Insunza, miembro de la comisión política del PCCh, ha recordado a la presidenta electa de Chile, Michelle Bachelet, que la detención del proyecto minero era uno de los cinco puntos con los que los comunistas condicionaron su apoyo a la vencedora de las pasadas presidenciales.

En concreto, en la carta que el PCCh envió a Bachelet se exigía que ningún proyecto, por cuantioso que pueda ser, podrá pretender hacerse rentable a costa del medio ambiente.

Insunza ha explicado que el argumento que promueve la empresa Barrick Gold se focaliza en que se crearán 4.500 empleos en la etapa de construcción, cifra que disminuirá en el momento de la puesta en marcha a 1.000 puestos de trabajo. De esta cantidad, 200 serán para chilenos y el resto para argentinos por la ubicación del proyecto que también se encuentra en territorio trasandino.

Gacetilla de Prensa Mañana se hará la marcha del no a la mina en Esquel


Esquel, 03/02/06. El reciente anuncio de Patagonia Gold S.A. de recomenzar la exploración del yacimiento Huemules, suma un nuevo elemento a la lucha de los vecinos de la región contra los emprendimientos mineros.

Mañana, como todos los 4 de cada mes, se realizará la habitual marcha por el NO A LA MINA a partir de las 18 hs. en la Plaza San Martín para recorrer las calles de esta ciudad chubutense que el próximo 25 de febrero cumplirá su centenario.

Los vecinos de Esquel y de otros puntos del país vienen denunciando que la actividad minera no solo compromete gravemente el medio ambiente sino que también significa un saqueo a los recursos naturales además de poseer escandalosos e inaceptables beneficios impositivos y aduaneros. La minera de capitales anglo-argentinos Patagonia Gold anunció que retomará los trabajos de exploración en su yacimiento “Huemules”, suspendidos hace unos años. Se trata de una mina de oro ubicada a 20 Km. al oeste de Esquel, lindero con el Parque Nacional Los Alerces y dentro de la cuenca de uno de los ríos más importantes de la zona.

El catastro minero de la provincia acumula 1.450 permisos de cateos y exploración de yacimientos metalíferos, el 94% de ellos son de oro. La minera Patagonia Gold S.A. con sede en Londres, de la cual el "Grupo Bemberg-Miguens" es dueño minoritario, posee el 9% de la superficie total del catastro minero del Chubut o sea algo más de 330.000 hectáreas, ubicadas en la cordillera y precordillera chubutenses.

El territorio ocupado por esta empresa es mayor que las 289.790 has. de los Parques Nacionales Lago Puelo y Los Alerces localizados en Chubut.

Los vecinos de Esquel llevan casi medio centenar de marchas contra la actividad minera y el saqueo. Persisten en sus reclamos de que vaya la empresa Meridian Gold que permanece con oficinas y galpones en la ciudad a la vez que exigen al gobierno de Mario Das Neves que cese toda la actividad de las empresas en territorio provincial.




Lago Puelo, CHUBUT, Sábado 28 de enero de 2006

Luego de intercambiar infomación, debatir y decidir acciones, la Asamblea advierte a la población y a sus organizaciones sociales y políticas que el Estado Argentino continúa con las políticas de sostén a corporaciones y sectores que viven de la mera extracción de bienes comunes como petróleo, minería, pesca, hidroelectricidad, control de aguas y cuencas.

Además de contaminar y vaciar nuestros recursos productivos, desindustrializan al país, multiplican los mecanismos de pobreza, desvalorizan las economías regionales y el trabajo creativo de la población. Así, en el mejor de los casos, ofrecen un escaso pan para hoy, pero la realidad muestra que el hambre, la desocupación, la pérdida de control sobre la producción y el comercio han empeorado gravemente. Por esta razón también se entiende que el EJE del SAQUEO Estado-Corporaciones multiplique sus tácticas. Por ejemplo, la reforma constitucional en Neuquén garantiza la riqueza al sector extractivo al mismo tiempo que niega totalmente los derechos a los pueblos originarios y limita severamente los derechos políticos de toda la población. Algo similar ocurre con la reforma del Código Ambiental de Chubut que, con la fachada de un lenguaje técnico, pretende justificar grandes cambios sin el consentimiento y la participación social. En ambos casos se puede reconocer la redacción de los beneficiarios directos de éstas políticas, y de funcionarios que publicitan éstas reformas como caminos válidos. Las tendencias observadas a través de las Cartas Orgánicas Municipales también ejemplifican la entrega en cuotas de los bienes comunes de los pueblos.

Nada de esto es nuevo: los grandes negociados-trampa como el ALCA, la APEC, y otros tratados autodenominados de “libre comercio”, también son realizados por “nuestros representantes” en nombre de todos y en sesiones cerradas y secretas.

Entre los objetivos de este tipo de políticas se encuentra la construcción de un nuevo paso internacional terrestre a Chile, en las cercanías del Lago Puelo. Está publicitada como “integración”, pero tiene varias lecturas; en primer lugar beneficia principalmente al tráfico de metales y minerales destinados a la industria asiática, en segundo lugar facilita la especulación sobre la tierra, generando presiones inmobiliarias, turísticas y financieras que amenazan a todas las comunidades de la región, y especialmente a los viejos pobladores y comunidades mapuche, como las de las familias Cayún y Cárdenas en Lago Puelo. A esa espiral especulativa se agregan otros espacios de uso exclusivo y excluyente, como promotores de casinos, canchas de golf, countries privados, “eco-estancias” y otros que cotizan en bolsa. Detrás del plan de extender los ejidos municipales florecen silenciosos negocios particulares seudo-progresistas. En otros lugares de la cordillera, el esquema del saqueo propone las represas imaginadas para el río Carrenleufù/Corcovado, el uso privado de cuencas hídricas, la biopiraterìa y patentamiento de la biodiversidad o el caso que más nos ocupa: la minería parasitaria y altamente contaminante.

Las ramificaciones y consecuencias de este festival inversor afectan a toda la región de manera devastadora en lo cultural, económico, social y ecológico.

Exigimos al Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo y a otros organismos de crédito, o a sus intermediarios, de abstenerse a financiar cualquiera de estas aventuras usurpadoras por no haber sido consultadas las comunidades afectadas por las mismas.

Esta Asamblea reafirma el compromiso de enfrentar la explotación y prospección minera en toda la Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego e Islas del Atlántico Sur, y se solidariza con la lucha de los pueblos y territorios afectados por la minería y otras formas parasitarias de explotación humana y de la naturaleza en todo el país y continente.

BHP prevé vender mina de cobre Tintaya antes mitad año

Miércoles 8 de Febrero, 2006

LIMA (Reuters) - La anglo-australiana BHP Billiton, la mayor empresa minera diversificada del mundo, informó el miércoles que prevé vender su mina de cobre Tintaya de Perú antes de mediados de año.

BHP Billiton detalló en un comunicado que "ha iniciado conversaciones con un número limitado de compañías que han expresado su interés en la adquisición de Tintaya," la tercera mayor productora de cobre de Perú.

"Tintaya podría convertirse en una operación clave para el portafolio de las compañías participantes," agregó la empresa sin identificarlas.

La compañía multinacional reseñó que continuará operando en Perú, el tercer productor mundial de cobre, a través de su participación en Antamina, una de las dos mayores productoras de ese metal en este país.

El año pasado BHP Billiton paralizó por un mes las operaciones de Tintaya por razones de seguridad, luego que miles de pobladores andinos de Espinar –donde opera la mina a unos 1.100 kilómetros al sudeste de Lima- invadieron ese campamento exigiendo su cierre por temor a la contaminación.

Los habitantes de Espinar también le exigían a BHP Billiton más inversion social, por lo que la empresa destacó que eligió dialogar con companies responsables y de fortaleza financiera.

La minería es el motor de la economía de Perú porque aporta más de la mitad de las divisas que recibe este país por sus exportaciones totales, pero el sector sufre desde el 2003 violentas protestas de comunidades vecinas a las minas que temen ser contaminados y que exigen más inversión social.

Tintaya habría cerrado el año pasado con una producción de 90.000 toneladas de concentrados de cobre y 38.000 toneladas de cobre en cátodos, pese a su paralización, según la compañía.

La mina produjo 82.146 toneladas de concentrados de cobre y 36.381 toneladas de cátodos de cobre en el 2004.

En Sudamérica, BHP Billiton opera en Chile con su mina Colorado y con la Escondida, la mayor mina de cobre del mundo.

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