MAC: Mines and Communities

Towards a True Remediation of the Existing Toxic Wastes in Sierra Pintada

Published by MAC on 2006-07-31

Towards a True Remediation of the Existing Toxic Wastes in Sierra Pintada

By Ricardo Schkop – President of the Multisectorial of the South

Mendoza, Argentina, Monday

31st July 2006

Diario Los Andes -

Since the middle of 2004, a group of residents of San Rafael, involved in different activities, companies and organizations, began to see that there were important movements taking place regarding the reopening of the Manufacturing Complex San Rafael (or Sierra Pintada mines). We felt intuitively that an issue this delicate could not be taken lightly - much less without the intervention of the community. Because of this, and with the participation of more than 40 institutions of the South of this Province, at the end of that year, the Multi-Sectorial of the South for Sustainable Development was formed. Two of the major achievements of our group, together with the Provincial Government, were the following:

* Rejection of the treatment of the existing mining wastes at the same time or after the reopening of the mine. This meant that we would not discuss the mine reopening until the already-existing legacy of mining contamination has been adequately dealt with.

* Prevent the transfer of the company DIOXITEC SA to Mendoza, thus preventing a worse problem of contamination in the future, which today the city of Córdoba is suffering and does not know how to solve.

On February 20, 2006, the CNEA presented an Environmental Impact Report to deal with the existing toxic wastes, in order to set the stage for a possible reopening of the mine. This study was given to us for study and analysis by the Ministry of Environment and Public Works on July 7.

In a meeting with the ministers Morandina and Marinelli, we formally asked, and were granted, a period of 90 days to analyze the Environmental Impact Report. This time period is neither whimsical nor dilatory. For over twelve years we have lived with these toxic wastes and we want them dealt with, but we want them remedied well. Because every nuclear technician in the province works for the CNEA – for obvious reasons, as there is no other nuclear activity here – we have had to hire specialists from the rest of the country and other countries.

The conclusions of our work will be sent to the provincial and municipal authorities (co-responsible for the care of the environment in the local department), for their analysis and to add to the updates. Afterwards a Public Hearing will be called for in order to give space for opinions on methods to treat the existing wastes. If there is something about which we all agree, it is that there are wastes and we have to treat them. We may differ about which wastes have to be treated, and on the methods to do this.

In no way are we going to oppose starting the treatment process. What we are going to urge, for ourselves and the generations to come, is that this treatment is not just a "makeup" but rather, that it be an integrated remediation of the entire mining legacy existing in Sierra Pintada.

Quoting a provincial senator in an interview with a reporter of San Rafael: "…If there weren't any more uranium in Sierra Pintada, the CNEA would never have returned again to San Rafael, and we would be now searching through the halls of some building in Buenos Aires for someone to come and help repair these damages…"

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