Latin America UpdatePublished by MAC on 2007-06-01
Latin America Update
1st June 2007
Toxic metallic wastes. dumped on Chile by a Swedish company, have been found to have poisoned more than 300 residents of the Chilean mining city of Arica. But, while the state's supreme court has ordered compensation for those affected, the company itself has long quit the scene unscathed.
A new labour federation has been formed by workers sub-contracted to the world's biggest copper producer, Chile's state-owned Codelco.
Health and other social problems in a Honduran community are allegedly linked to the activities of one of the world's biggest gold mining companies, but the government is doing little to recognise, let alone, deal with what one community members dubs "mining terrorism."
The dire impacts of operations by Anglo American subsidiary, Kehdada, in Colombia, have resulted in a growing alliance between the country's Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
As Bolivian president, Evo Morales, embarks on a "rationalisation" of the country's mining laws, his intention to bring increased benefits to ordinary people faces many different conflicts of interest.
A natrional "uprising"is declared this week by various organisations in Ecuador which are demanding that all current mining (and other) contracts be cancelled. I Global aluminium companies, Alcoa, Alcan, and Nippon Aluminium have long benefited from power produced by the huge Tucurui dam. On May 23 hundreds of protestors invaded the power plant ,following years of failures by the state electricity company, Eletronorte, to fulfil its promises on compensation and social provisions. These grave impacts have been confirmed by a recent report from the National Research Institute of Amazonia.
The battle over a provincial ban on metallic mining is far from over in Mendoza, Argentina: senators voted this week to reinstate anti-mining legislation that had been vetoed by the provincial governor in December on the grounds that it was unconstitutional (Mendoza governor, Julio Cobos, is being cited as a vice presidential hopeful for president Nestor Kirchner at the national elections in october).
CHILE MUST PAY US$5.4 MILLION TO ARICANS LIVING AMID TOXIC WASTE Mike Gaer, LA TERCERA, ELMOSTRADOR
(June 1, 2007) In a landmark case, Chile's Supreme Court ruled this week that the state must compensate 356 residents of two slums in the northern mining city of Arica for health problems brought on by years of exposure to open deposits of toxic waste. Promel, the Swedish company responsible for the importation of the toxic materials, cannot compensate the plaintiffs because the company no longer exists. Court documents reveal that health authorities let the toxic waste lay bare, literally on the ground without shelter, for almost 15 years as the area became populated by poorer residents living on the city's margins.
The court ruled that the citizens of the Cerro Chuño and Las Industriales slums of Arica each receive reparations of more than US$15,000 for physical and emotional damages brought on by heavy metal poisoning. A previous ruling fixed the number of inhabitants eligible for compensation at 176, but the final Court of Appeals judged another 180 residents worthy of reparation for emotional damages directly connected to the toxic materials.
The state is liable because the Ministry of Health did not adopt any measures to protect the residents from the 20,000 tons of toxic materials it allowed Promel to begin storing in the area in 1984. The court ruled that the Ministry of Health offered the residents no protection and did not meet its obligations to the Sanitary Code, the General Law on Environmental Areas and the Basel Convention Treaty. Chile ratified the international treaty in November 1992 with the aim of limiting the movements of hazardous waste from developed countries to less developed countries like Chile, as well as managing existing hazardous waste in an environmentally conscious manner.
THE BEGINNING OF THE PROBLEM
Promel bought thousands of tons of lead, arsenic, zinc, cadium, mercury and copper and brought them from Sweden to Chile to use in the extraction and treatment of minerals from mines in the area. The cargo was left in Arica's Site F, at the time an industrial area with no residents. Years passed as Promel awaited authorization from customs to use the materials, which was never granted. Meanwhile, Chile's Urban Housing Service (Serviu) began developing the area for residential use despite possessing studies showing high levels of soil contamination. In 1990 Serviu began building basic housing and gradually developed the area to its present level of high population density.
Serviu argued that the housing deficit in the city and the people's wishes obliged it to build lodging in a zone previously designated for industrial use.
Eventually Promel gave up attempting to put the toxic materials to use, and in 1993 the company tried to transfer the waste to the government. However, the Customs Service rejected the state's paying for the removal of the waste. In 1997 the Arica Court of Appeals ordered the Ministry of Health to remove of all the materials, which was finally done in March 1998.
Despite the extraction of the materials, their dust had already been spread around the community by the elements. Samples taken afterwards revealed the presence of lead and arsenic in many houses. Blood tests revealed that thousands of residents had high levels of lead in their blood due to involuntary exposure to the waste.
In the court's opinion, "The affected persons ingested or breathed in these metals which produced--among other symptoms--hair loss, fainting, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, head pain, rashes, and mental problems." Other permanent effects of lead poisoning include high blood pressure, involuntary abortions, brain damage, changes in the masculine reproductive system, anemia, learning disabilities in children and change in disposition. The Supreme Court decided to compensate all residents who can prove their health has been damaged.
The case has taken almost ten years to reach final judgment. The environmental lawyer Francisco Ferrada called the case a sad history. "A lot of people had their pictures taken with the victims, even Bachelet when she was Minister of Health," he said. "But no one was capable of taking the concrete steps needed to repair the damage done. What the court did this week was bring some justice to the victims."
CHILE'S COPPER WORKERS FORM MASSIVE LABOR CONFEDERATION
Codelco Strike Slated For June 8
By Nathan Crooks (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(28 May 2007) The president of Chile's Central Workers Union (CUT), Arturo Martínez, announced this weekend the formation of a new labor confederation uniting all the subcontracted workers at the state-owned Codelco copper mining company. The new 'Confederation of Subcontracted Codelco Workers' will bring together more than 80,000 workers from both public and private firms that perform work for the copper giant's many divisions.
Labor experts, meanwhile, worried that the CUT was exceeding its authority in helping create the confederation and predicted that the labor group would be challenged in court. According to Martínez, the new confederation will seek to enhance "inter-company collective bargaining" in an environment that had previously been hostile to worker negotiations because of the vast number of different businesses involved.
"A much stronger form of union activity is coming," predicted Martínez. "And it's happening because the companies don't understand the kind of issues that they have to cede to the workers." Martínez, however, said that no national level union of subcontracted workers was in the works. "Various federations already exist," he said. "We'd like to unite them all, but it's still a bit premature."
Just as the new confederation was created, subcontracted Codelco workers announced their intention to begin an indefinite strike on June 8 because of what union leaders said was "lack of progress" in ongoing worker demands. Union leaders charge that Chile's state-run copper company deliberately uses subcontracted labor to hinder collective bargaining and divert responsibly for pay concerns and working conditions to third parties.
Labor restlessness in Chile has been growing in recent months.
Twenty labor leaders from four different unions blocked 3,000 workers from entering Codelco's Chuquicamata mine in early April (ST, April 2). The Chuquicamata mine is one of the world's largest open pit copper mines and the flagship of Codelco Norte's operations. A new three-year contract between management and labor was negotiated late last year with workers winning generous bonus payments and sizable pay hikes.
Workers in Chile's forestry sector recently secured record salary increases in negotiations that concluded early this month, but only after one worker was killed. As workers' demands increase, Chile's mining and forestry sectors continue to be hugely profitable, according to Chile's Securities and Exchange Regulator (SVS), which recently released country-wide January-March earnings figures (ST, May 2).
Codelco led all Chilean companies with reported earnings of US$1.4 billion – a historic high. The windfall profits are linked to the continuing high price of copper, which averaged US$2.69 per pound during the three-month period, US$0.45 more than in 2006 (ST, May 2). Copper production costs at most companies are between US$0.50 and US$0.70 per pound.
Union membership in Chile, meanwhile, remains low. A report released in early May by Chile's International Workers Organization (OIT) said union coverage was improving in Chile, although it still remained remarkably low. In 2006, only 8.6 percent of Chile's workers were members of a union and only 11 percent of the workforce was covered by collective bargaining. The statistics were only a small improvement from 1999, when 7.8 percent of Chile's workforce belonged to a union.
As future labor unrest looms, some experts are worried that the country's economy could sufferer as a result. Chile's economy grew by 4.4 percent in 2006, down from 2005's 6.3 percent growth, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). CEPAL attributed the decline in mining production to wage talks and an accident at the Chuquicamata mine as partly responsible for the nation's relatively low 2006 growth (ST Dec. 22, 2006). The use of cheap "scab" labor by Chile's major mining and forestry companies has remained one of the most controversial issues in Chile.
A subcontracted worker of Cellulose Arauco (Celco) was killed by police in a violent strike turned protest in early May. Police shot the worker three times after he attacked police vehicles with a tractor he was driving. He was one of 5,000 subcontracted workers of Bosques Arauco, a subdivision of pulp-processor Celulosa Arauco (Celco), who were striking after demands for more freedom to organize and a monthly raise of US$38 were rejected. Most forestry workers in Chile typically have base salaries of under US$100 a month, but can make up to US$400 a month with production-based bonuses (ST, May 7). After the worker's death, Church officials intervened and helped secure a significant pay hike for Celco's unionized labor force and the forestry protests ended.
This was the first death in 30 years in a labor dispute. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet condemned the shooting and urged a settlement based on "democracy, liberty, and respect." "No labor conflict can or should justify violence or death," she said. "Both sides must use mechanisms based on the law" (ST, May 9)
Gold, Skin and Bones: Goldcorp's Adventure in Honduras
Written by Dawn Paley
29th May 2007
"We've been here for seven years," explains Pedro Rodolfo Arteaga, gesturing at a scattering of plain houses lining a dirt road, " and we never thought we would find ourselves in this situation." A resident of Palo Ralo, in the Siria Valley in central Honduras, Arteaga explains that "the old village was inside the perimeter of where the company wanted to put their machinery, and we were obstacles for them."
Palo Ralo is a village constructed in 1999 to house 14 families who were displaced from their original village to make way for the San Martin mine, an open pit gold and silver mine owned by Vancouver's Goldcorp, one of the largest gold companies in the world.
From the front stoop of Arteaga's house, the site of the original village is still visible, but nothing remains where the village once stood. He describes how after four years of exploration, the company, then Glamis Gold, "started to work with leaders in the community, giving them money and incentives to work in the interests of the mine."
Eventually, everybody left. Arteaga was one of the last people to leave the old town site, following his family out in early 2000. The "situation" that Arteaga refers to could be deemed worst case: health problems, skin infections, water contamination, and miscarriages now accompany high unemployment and migration as typical conversation topics around town.
Ten people from the village are working overseas, and just a handful are employed at the mine, taking advantage of the few opportunities that the San Martin mine has opened up for their community. For Arteaga, as for most in Palo Ralo, the nostalgia connected to their old village is made even sweeter by the current problems facing the community in their new location. The great unknowns that accompany mining mega-projects have become known in this region: pollution, contamination and displacement.
Sickness and the Burden of Proof
Leslie Yaritza Perez hasn't given up on waiting for the day when her baby, 18 month old Carla, will start walking. Carla still can't support her body weight, and has little control over her legs. Perez remains optimistic for her daughter's future, even though "the doctors say we have to wait to see what happens, we still don't know if she will develop properly."
Though still unsure as to the causes of Carla's developmental problems, Perez is confident of one thing: it's related to the gold mine. Carla's father works at the mine, and their family home in Palo Ralo is a stone's throw away from where the company built a well for the displaced community, which was later found to be contaminated with arsenic.
People's lived experiences with illness, as well as their perceptions as life long residents of the area that their new illnesses are related to the seven-year-old mining project, are often dismissed as purely anecdotal evidence.
Goldcorp and their predecessor Glamis Gold have consistently denied that the health problems and allegations of water contamination in the Siria Valley are related to the mine, but the studies documenting those links are beginning to pile up high.
The results of the latest water quality and health study, which was released on February 7th of this year, show that water sources -including a domestic use well built by the company- have higher levels of copper and iron than even the generous amounts allowed by the World Bank guidelines for open pit mining areas.
This study, authored by Flaviano Bianchini, an Italian chemist working with the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, goes on to state that of the ten local people to have had their blood sampled, every single one has quantities of lead and arsenic in their blood at a level considered "very dangerous" by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Although organizations like the WHO state openly that when it comes to arsenic exposure "mining and industrial emissions may also be significant locally," Goldcorp has refused to entertain the possibility that their open pit gold operation in Honduras is linked to health problems.
Blame it on Hygiene
Tim Miller, Goldcorp's Vice President in Central America, who used to work at the San Martin project in Honduras, told the CBC in 2005 that "the mine [in Honduras] is not causing any skin damage or hair falling out" and attributed the health problems to "a lack of hygiene." In the same 2005 interview, Miller stated that with regards to peoples health concerns, "how the workers could stay healthy and children 10km away would be affected is kind of hard to believe."
Were he to return to the Siria Valley today, Miller would not have any trouble finding ex-workers from the San Martin mine experiencing the grave consequences of working as labourers at the mine.
Don Francisco, who worked handling cyanide for six years, had to stop working a year ago because of extreme pain in his legs and in his body. He explains that he was healthy before he started working at the mine, but that him and his colleagues "could smell the cyanide when we were working," and to protect themselves, they "just used disposable gloves, masks, and goggles." Now unemployed and without benefits, Don Francisco is too sick to return to working in the fields.
Until the last golden drop
According to Arteaga, Glamis Gold (aquired by Goldcorp in 2006) never told them that the project would have these effects on their communities. In fact, he says "they've had eight bosses in the last five years, and each one makes a score of promises to the people and then leaves to work at another mine somewhere else." The San Martin mine has three years of extraction left before the company begins the process of reclamation, but the majority of residents in the Siria Valley wish that the mine would shut down sooner.
Honduran mining law stipulates that mining concessions can be cancelled if the mining activity "affects or damages water, air, flora, fauna, the community and the general ecosystem." The government, led by President Manuel Zelaya, has shown little will to back the concerns of the communities and suspend Goldcorp's concession in Honduras. For now, the battle lines have been drawn. Communities dealing with illness and water contamination, which is affecting their children more than anyone else, are on one side. Goldcorp, a major gold company waging an expensive public relations campaign is on the other.
If the pattern holds until the gold is gone, Goldcorp will leave the Siria Valley in a few years. Here in Canada, few people will be aware of the 10 odd years that the Canadian flag was flown high above the mining company's office. It too will be folded up and taken down when the company packs out. The communities, on the other hand, will stay, dealing with the long-term effects of what one villager called "mining terrorism."
GOLD MINING IN COLOMBIA - CAUCA ASSEMBLY IN RESISTANCE
Source: Pete Bearder, Colombia Solidarity Campaign (Britain)
28th May 2007
To see article with graphics and photos visit: www.bearder.com/peter
Buenos Aires is a small Afro-Colombian mining community an hours drive by jeep from the nearest town in Cauca, South West Colombia. The hall of the local college is filled with a variety of faces from the municipio of Suarez – human rights workers, campesinos, Afro-Colombians and members of local indigenous groups such as CRIC (The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca). One thing they have in common is that they are all extremely concerned about the existence in their territory of the mining company Kedahda. Paramilitary violence arrived in this part of Cauca two years ago - the same time as the company. It is currently seeking to reform the countries Mining Code which will ease the exploitation of mining resources. This will be at the expense of the small mining companies, the environment and the rights of the local communities. This forum is one of the first steps in exercising the right to life, dignity and permanence in the shadow of this mining giant.
The London/Johannesburg based Kedahda is 99.98% owned by Anglo Gold Ashanti (the world´s second largest gold mining company) The company is implicated in grave human rights violations across Colombia. In turn, Anglo Gold Ashanti is 42% owned by the former apartheid Anglo-American (the London stock exchange listed giant that declared an operating profit of US $9.8 billon for 2006). With a subsoil rich in basic minerals, Colombia is considered one of the `new frontiers´ for the mining industry. Already there are approximately 4,261 gold mines, 191 platinum and 10 emerald concessions.
Reform of the Mining Code
The reform to the Mining Code will favour applications from companies with economic and technical advantages. The Special Reserve Zones (protected environmental or ethnic territories) will be opened up only to macro- strategic mineral projects. As such, they will be handed to the biggest investors. To facilitate this, public resources such as water and transport will be made freely available even if it is at the expense of local competitors and inhabitants. Taxation will also be flexiblised; if no deposits are found all taxes for the period of exploration will be dropped. To compound this the reform will further repress Colombia´s famously brief prior consultation process. This amounts to a clear violation of the right to territory and participation for countless communities across the country. Meanwhile the inhabitants of Cauca flounder. The day before (19th May) social movements in the department declared a permanent assembly of the people. It´s opening statement denounced corruption, underinvestment in health, education and infrastructure and the misappropriation of their resources to benefit foreign capital.
New Free Trade Treaty
The new changes link up closely to the new Free Trade Treaty between Colombia and the United States. In November 2005 the Minister of Mines and Energy, Luis Ernesto Mejía, talked of “an enormous world of opportunities that is opened up to the energy and mining sector with Treaty". However, these opportunities look set to benefit only the large trans-nationals whilst destroying any form of protection to small scale Colombian producers. All the changes (privatization/ deregulation/ trade liberalization) will be imposed by the security forces of the state. On a daily basis we are now seeing protest and mobilization against the treaty from all sectors of Colombian civil society. Firma Cavellier de Abogados - a lawyers firm involved in the signing of the treaty in Bogotá - own the 0.02% of Kedahda that does not belong by Anglo Gold Ashanti.
Juan Andrés is an Afro-Colombian in his 20´s. He pointed to the largest mine in the community across the valley. “The environmental damage is wholesale”, he told the delegates, “water, land, air and social composition”. By social composition he is referring to the militarization and para-militarization of the community that comes with the arrival of large scale mining operations. Accompanying this are problems of violence, prostitution, inequality and changes of surname which break social cohesion. “Many of us have been relocated to Cali”, said another villager, (Cali is a city three hour drive away) “We are a rich country but there is so much poverty”.
Indeed the correlation between Kedahda´s operations in Cauca and paramilitary violence is by no means an isolated incident. Jorge Molano, a Bogotá based human rights lawyer, told how in 70% of the municipalities where Kedahda have worked there have torturing, disappearances and massacres at the hands of these groups; crimes against humanity that total in their thousands. What is more, in 335 of the 336 municipalities people have been forcibly expelled for the appropriation of their land. Anglo Gold Ashanti and the mining industry at large have a shameful track record in contributing to Colombia´s 3.5 million internally displaced.
Sur de Bolivar
In one of the talks a representative recounted the experience in his department of Sur de Bolivar. Since 2004 Kedahda have opened up operations in this department too. The representative told how the company now owns 150,000 hectares across Colombia. From 1996, Anglo Gold and Conquistador Mines found gold deposits in Sur de Bolivar, opening up one of the bloodiest chapters of Colombian history. Paramilitary incursions have been supported on land, in the air, and in the waterways by the 5th Brigade of the Colombian Army. Blockades cut off delivery of food and medicine vital to the survival of the communities. The results were thousands dead and over 20,000 (officially) displaced. “Our schools and hospitals have been burned to the ground three times”, he said, “and why? Because of the resources on our land.” It was a brutal warning from history and a heroic tale of resistance. The assembly became animated by his presentation. “If we organise and believe in ourselves we can do many things”.
The forum resolved to strengthen the interethnic and community bodies. Nationally and internationally, the Assembly will seek alliances with politicians and organisations such as human rights NGOs. A march in Bogotá is also being planned. The forum forms part of a strategy of local and regional workshops that will culminate in a national forum later in the year. The proposals of this will be handed to `institutional and non institutional spaces´. Ultimately the aim is to counter-propose the reform of the Mining Code.
Perhaps one of the most positive things to come from the forum is the fortification of solidarity and organization between the indigenous groups and the Afro – Colombians. Traditionally there is not much trust between the two groups in the area. Event organizers and human rights NGO La Red de Hermandad (The Network of Brotherhood) believe it is necessary to confront the problem together and form a collective strategy through the exchanging of experiences and ideas. Through mobilization, in the widest sense possible, these communities hope to achieve permanence in the face of Kedahdas ominous advances.
The Colombia Solidarity Campaign campaigns for a socially just and sustainable peace in Colombia based on a respect of human rights and an end to foreign military intervention.
Mining Policy in the Morales Administration: Reactivation and Conflict
Written by Andean Information Network
29th May 2007 - http://ain-bolivia.org
President Morales has announced plans to commence a new era in Bolivian mining in 2007. The year 2006 saw the highest mining revenue since 1985 and exports jumped from $346 million in 2005 to over $1 billion in 2006. Increased demand for minerals, in large part coming from China and India, has revitalized the Bolivian mining sector. Price increases on the world market for Bolivia's most profitable metals – zinc, silver, tin, and gold – has heightened hopes that mining can again become a dominant industry, as it had been for most of the nation's history. If the reactivation of the industry and tax reform can be structured and implemented effectively, the current mining boom could benefit most Bolivians for the first time.
The Morales administration has promised that greater mining income, in addition to increased hydrocarbon revenues, will fund social and health programs for citizens throughout Bolivia. However, the potential profit gains and greater state control have both raised expectations and anxieties of other interested groups. Private mining companies anticipate that skyrocketing demands for minerals will bring increased profits but fear that the state will expropriate their investments through the nationalization process. Communities most affected by mining, some of the most polluted and impoverished regions, hope that the reactivation of the mining sector and greater state control will guarantee greater benefits for their communities. Environmentalists worry that without greater environmental protection, exploitation of new mines will worsen water contamination and other environmental conditions in the world's eighth most biologically diverse country.
The diverse groups of miners are also struggling, amongst themselves and with the government, to determine who will receive the rights to work in the mines and on what terms. This update on cooperative miners is the first in a three part series on Bolivia's mining sector from the Andean Information Network.
Part I: Cooperative Miners in the Nationalization Process: Explosive Politics
On May 1, 2007, one year after the "nationalization" of the hydrocarbons industry, Bolivian President Evo Morales declared all Bolivian territory a public mining reserve and reasserted that all minerals, metals, precious and semi-precious stones are under the jurisdiction and power of the State mining company, Bolivian Mining Corporation (COMIBOL), excluding concessions granted before the decree.
While stopping short of fully nationalizing the industry, the decree clearly asserts state control over all mineral wealth in the national territory and continues the process of "recovering control" of Bolivia's natural resources, a key element of the President's 2005 electoral platform. However, unlike the "nationalization" of the hydrocarbons industry, which enjoyed widespread support throughout Bolivia, this decree raised the hackles not just of private mining interests, but of Bolivia's cooperative miners, a powerful and vocal political force that has emerged over the last twenty years.
Within this context, the concerns of Bolivia's more than 50,000 active cooperative miners have been making the headlines. After working through two decades of low mineral prices cooperative miners believe they deserve to benefit from soaring prices. Indeed, while some miners continue to struggle to make ends meet, as a result of today's mineral prices others are making up to 200 times the Bolivian minimum wage. They fear that state control and foreign investment to upgrade the industry will rob them of these increased earnings.
Significant disagreements between miner groups, the government, private companies, and local communities, have resulted in the resignation of two Mining and Metallurgy Ministers in six months, mass demonstrations on the streets of La Paz, and violent conflicts, including a two day conflict at Bolivia's largest tin mine resulting in 16 dead and 115 injured.
"Capitalization" weakens industry and increases mining cooperatives
Bolivian mining is no longer a simple negotiation between the state and private mining companies. Today the voice of cooperative miners as well as a widespread call for government control over natural resources has complicated the scenario and created new pressures for the Morales administration and the mining industry. In 1985 COMIBOL shut down hundreds of mines, fired 30,000 miners (as well as thousands of workers in company-run schools, stores, and health clinics). As a result, the company became a merely administrative entity. With scarce employment opportunities many of the laid-off miners formed cooperatives that continued to work the few remaining functioning mines. The privatization of the industry in the mid-nineties further drained the historic strength of the state miner's union and turned COMIBOL into an even weaker administrative entity.
As the mining industry slowly rebounded through the 1990's, cooperative miners became perhaps the most important players in Bolivia's mining sector. Many small cooperatives or "artisan miners," use rudimentary mining techniques and earn modest wages. However, some cooperatives have grown into medium operations with the assistance of investors who buy into the cooperative. Today, cooperative miners belong to the largest union, the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia (FENCOMIN) and form the backbone of Bolivian mine workers. A smaller group of miners are still employed by the state, work for COMIBOL and make up the Federation of Mining Workers of Bolivia (FSTMB).
Cooperative miners are often criticized for using antiquated extraction technology that contaminates the environment. Cooperatives employ thousands of children, composing up to half of the workers in some cooperatives. Motivated by a desire to make a fast buck they extract as much mineral as quickly as they can, thus shortening the life of a mine and creating unsafe mining conditions.
Miner activism dominated the Bolivian Workers Union (COB) after the 1952 revolution and served as the primary resistance to dictators such as Hugo Banzer. Cooperative miners have followed this tradition and do not hesitate to take the streets to defend their interests – often successfully. At times these protests have resulted in violent confrontations and even deaths, such as the conflict over the Posokoni mine.
Huanuni: the "Ground Zero" in Bolivian mining
The largest tin mine in Bolivia, Posokoni, is located in Huanuni, in the Oruro department. This mine is the epicenter of the conflict between cooperative miners and the Morales administration as it attempts to reassert state control of the mining industry. On October 5 and 6, 2006, sixteen people died and 115 were injured in violent conflicts that erupted between cooperative miners and COMIBOL miners in a dispute over access to the richest veins in the mine.
Many believe that this conflict resulted from government inaction to resolve mounting tensions between the two groups. The state company regained control over the mine in 2002 after its primary private investor, RBG Resources (formerly Allied Deals) of Great Britain, declared bankruptcy. As tin prices increased to the highest levels since 1985, cooperative miners demanded access to the richest, deepest tin veins from COMIBOL. The state company argued that foreign investment was necessary to improve technology and efficiently exploit this part of the mine.1 This announcement denied cooperative miners access to the coveted veins and led them to threaten a mine takeover if a mutual agreement could not be reached.
Violent clash between miners
Tensions mounted throughout 2006 as negotiations between cooperative and COMIBOL miners stalled. The Mining Minister Walter Villarroel, who facilitated the talks regarding reactivating the mining sector and overhauling the mining code, garnered widespread criticism because of his connections to the cooperative miners.2 Finally, in October the violence erupted when cooperative miners attempted to take over Posokoni and COMIBOL miners turned out to defend their stake in the mine. During the two days of violence in Huanuni, members of the same family – some COMIBOL employees and some cooperative miners - threw dynamite and makeshift bombs at each other. Although cooperative miners outnumbered the COMIBOL workers 5,000 to 1,000, the overwhelming majority of both the dead and injured were cooperative miners.3
Immediately following the violence, Guillermo Dalence replaced Villarroel, whom COMIBOL miners blamed for the conflict, as Mining Minister. Dalence is a former COMIBOL miner and leader of the COMIBOL miners' union (FSTMB). President Morales decreed that Posokoni and several surrounding mines would be completely controlled by the Huanuni Mining Company, a COMIBOL subsidiary. Cooperative miners who wanted to work the mine therefore needed to become employees of the state mining company. He also said that the government would help to rebuild the community, including hundreds of homes that were partially or fully destroyed during the violence.
Two of the four mining cooperatives working at Posokoni before the conflict agreed to become state employees. The remaining two cooperatives continued to fight for access to the mine and, in the weeks following the decree, blocked the highway between Oruro and Cochabamba. When police attempted to lift the blockade the protesting cooperative miners took a police officer hostage, strapped dynamite to his body and detonated it. The resulting injuries killed him.
Legal challenge to the Huanuni decree
On March 9, 2007, a National Unity (UN) party senator filed a petition with the Constitutional Tribunal charging that the transfer of Posokoni to state hands violates the constitution. The Mining Code prohibits from directly engaging in mining operations without a partnership or leasing the mine, to a cooperative or a private company for exploitation.4 Concerned that the Tribunal, perceived to be aligned with the neoliberal governments that proceeded Morales, 4,000 state COMIBOL miners protested in front of the Constitutional Tribunal building in Sucre in April. During the protest a group of miners blew the doors of the Constitutional Tribunal open with dynamite, injuring two police officers.
In response the Constitutional Tribunal called for the government to guarantee its safety from threats and attacks from any groups attempting to violently coerce them. The president of the Constitutional Tribunal dramatically stated that as a result of the lack of security the tribunal was "fatally wounded." The government spokesperson accused the UN senator of trying to stir up another conflict between the cooperative and COMIBOL miners and stated "the only way to avoid a repetition of these acts and another conflict between cooperative and [COMIBOL] miners is that the congressman withdraw his demand."5
Aftermath of Huanuni
For the first nine months of the Morales government the constructing a new mining policy took a back seat to other issues such as hydrocarbons and the constitutional assembly. It appears that Morales administration was only compelled to intervene after 16 people died and 115 were injured. However, critics suggest that the Morales administration's failure to address the crisis in Huanuni was an attempt to exacerbate mounting tensions in order to justify the reassertion of state control of the industry. In addressing the crisis, the government would be able to reign in the political power of cooperative miners, ease the introduction of increased mining taxes and carry out its nationalization plans.
Mining tax debate generates further conflict
Although the cooperative miners lost ground in the Huanuni conflict as a result of the firing of the Mining Minister, an ex-cooperativist, and a more direct state management of one of Bolivia's most valued natural resources. Yet, the cooperative miners continue to be a force to reckon with for this government. In January 2007 the Morales administration began a campaign to increase national taxes on the mining sector. According to 2006 statistics, increased international demand and prices for Bolivian metals and minerals led to exports exceeding $1 billion (US) and net profits of around $600 million. The same year, in compliance with the Mining Code, companies paid only $67 million in taxes.6 The government argued that the mining industry should be paying $300 million, or approximately 50% on the net earnings from both private investors and mining cooperatives.
Once again, cooperative miners flexed their political muscle and on February 6, 20,000 cooperative miners "shook up La Paz." They marched through the streets in protest of the tax hike, detonating over 200 sticks of dynamite in less than two hours. The cooperative miners argued that they are not big private mining corporations and should not have to pay more taxes. The government accused the cooperative miners of supporting of private interests and said that all parties must pay more in order to help develop Bolivia and end poverty. Still, in an apparent concession, President Morales himself sat down for bilateral negotiations with them and reached an agreement. The agreement had three major points:
1. Both parties agreed on the principal that "whoever earns more, pays more" in order to protect smaller cooperatives from paying the same amount of taxes as large operations.
2. The cooperative miners agreed to create mechanisms to improving fiscal oversight – an important concession given the loose structures of the cooperatives.
3. The government gave two of the six seats on COMIBOL's Board of Directors to cooperative miners which will also include two representatives each from the government and the COMIBOL miners' union (FSTMB).
The Bolivian press criticized the Morales administration for giving into the pressure of the cooperative miners. However, the agreement temporarily eased relations between cooperative miners and the government. In March 2007 Morales abruptly replaced Mining Minister, Guillermo Dalence, with his vice minister, Luis Alberto Echazú. The Morales administration gave no official reason and the move upset COMIBOL miners and leaders of the Bolivia Workers Union who claimed that nationalization of the industry would be stalled.7 On the other hand, the cooperative mining leaders praised the change and said that they expected to have better relations with Echazú, a metallurgic engineer and former consultant to mining unions.
Mining code outdated
Despite repeated calls for a new mining code and for a comprehensive government policy beginning in 2003, the last three administrations did little.8 In contrast, the Morales government has proposed a partial nationalization of the mining sector and reasserted the public ownership of the mineral wealth of Bolivia. These proposals have been met with strong resistance by the cooperative miners who suffered through lay-offs and low prices for years. They fear that their increased income as a result of the boom will be taken away by the state and are prepared to defend their interests. It is still unclear how attempts to reshape mining policy will play out, but given the major differences between the various actors in the mining sector could make the not-so-easy nationalization of the hydrocarbons look like a walk in the park. Still, the Morales administration continues to demonstrate a desire to please the cooperative miners. Recently, they invited FENCOMIN leaders to "dialogue and review together" the May 1st decree in response to renewed threats to take to the streets.
1 Anderson, Steven T. "The Mineral Industry of Bolivia," US Geological Survey Minerals Yearbook. 2004, p. 12.
2 President Morales appointed Villarroel minister in return for leading cooperative miners in supporting his 2005 campaign.
3 AIN interview with church and human rights workers and other witnesses in Huanuni.
4 ANF. "El Gobierno le resta autoridad al Tribunal." April 28, 2007.
5 The 1997 Mining Code, following neoliberal economic policies which dictated that state-run companies be sold to private investors, was designed to attract foreign direct investment in the mining industry at a time when mineral prices were half or less than what they are today.
6 Bolpress. "Mas de 20 mil mineros hacen temblar a La Paz:." February 6, 2007. The Complimentary Mining Tax (CMT) is the principal tax paid on royalties in the mining industry. According to the Mining Code of 1997 mining companies pay a Corporate Income Tax (CIT) that is accredited to the CMT. The CMT is like a "prepayment" of the income tax. So, for example, if a company pays $100 CMT and their CIT is $120 then they are credited $100 through the CMT and pay only an additional $20. If the CMT is higher than their CIT then companies pay the total amount of the CMT and do not pay an additional amount for the CIT. See also Ley 1777: El Código Minero, Titulo VIII, Capitulo III, Art. 100. and "BOLIVIA: Mining Industry Sector Analysis 2006 International, U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and U.S. Department of State."
7 The press reported that Dalence, who attended the installation of his replacement and was photographed congratulating him at the ceremony, offered his resignation after returning from an unauthorized trip to Cuba where he met with the mining ministers from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, the other three countries who form the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. President Morales, who ran on an anti-corruption platform and was in the midst of dealing with charges of corruption within MAS, was apparently bothered by the Dalence's failure to go through the bureaucratic process authorizing his trip.
8 Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, president from 1993-1998 and 2002 -2003, owned the majority of 5 concessions and a foundry through his company COMSUR, the largest Bolivian owned private mining company. The 1997 mining code was written during his first administration and approved by him, despite a clear conflict of interest. His successor, Carlos Mesa, had no political base, was consumed with a hydrocarbons law among other things, and thus had no way of addressing such politically volatile issues. After Mesa's resignation in 2005 the head of the Constitutional Tribunal, Alejandro Rodriguez, became interim president until elections were held in December 2005. Also see La Patria. "La minería revivió el 2006 con las buenas cotizaciones de los minerales." March 14, 2007.
Announcement of Ecuador National Uprising Against Mining and Hydroelectric Operations
TO THE ECUADORIAN PEOPLE: JUNE 5, NATIONAL UPRISING!
Press Bulletin of the National Coordination for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty
Ecuador, 22 May, 2007
Considering that today the activities of mining transnationals and private hydroelectric operations are causing social conflicts, threatening the life and environment, displacing communities, appropriating vast amounts of territories, water, biodiversity, and are threatening the security and food sovereignty of the Ecuadorian people. That the national territory, the rivers and basins have been put under pressure, and we find ourselves confronted by a true invasion of transnational mining and private hydroelectric operations.
That previous administrations have handed over on a silver platter our natural resources to the voracity of private firms and transnational corporations. That the Ecuadorian people have observed in the government of Rafael Correa the possibility that our patrimony can truly return to be ours and that the violations committed in anterior administrations be punished.
That the Minister of Mining and Energy recognized that 99% of the mining concessions granted were done without the previous consultation as required by the Constitution.
That the Minister of Mining and Energy has expressed publicly that the spilling of even one drop of blood is not justified to make a mining operation more profitable, that the economy should be at the service of citizens and not citizens at the service of the economy.
That the President Rafael Correa has said that sovereignty is the people and that he will do what sovereignty demands.
The communities and organizations affected by megaprojects of transnational mining firms, of private hydroelectric projects and concessions, in exercising our rights as citizens, demand to the National Government:
The immediate withdrawal of mining and hydroelectric projects from our communities.
That through executive decree all mining, hydroelectric and water concessions should be nullified, in application of Article 272, for having violated Articles 86 and 88 of the Constitution, and that Ecuador declare itself a COUNTRY FREE OF LARGE-SCALE MINING.
Demilitarization and withdrawal of paramilitary and armed groups from the zones of conflict.
That there be investigation and punishment against the violations of human rights committed by the transnational mining companies, in particular the Aurelian Resources, Corriente Resources, and Ascendant Copper, who have been operating with the support of armed and paramilitary groups.
To put an end to the criminalization of the social and environmental struggles that are being carried out in trials and "legal" processes against the leaders and organizations who are resisting the extractive industries.
That the Law of the Defense of the Consumer be used against the Chamber of Mining of Ecuador for its fraudulent and mal-intentioned propaganda.
That the liberty of expression be guaranteed through the means of communication to the communities affected by mining and hydroelectric projects.
That the national government bring lawsuits against the mining companies and hydroelectric firms for damages and injuries.
That the physical integrity of all participants in the national uprising be guaranteed, and that no reprisals of any kind be carried out against them.
These and other demands have been presented in many occasions to the Government, to the President of the Republic, to the Minister of Mining and Energy, to the Sub secretary of Mining and to other regional officials, and because these demands have not been responded with the urgency which they merit, beginning the day of June 5, we will initiate a NATIONAL UPRISING to extend until the concessions have been nullified, until our very rights are respected and the peace is reestablished in our communities. The uprising will begin on the day of June 5, 2007 at 12:00 midnight.
Social impacts date back to displacement of populations in Tucuruí
By Carlos Mendes, O Liberal
28th May 2007
Centrais Elétricas do Norte (Eletronorte) had to displace some 32,000 farmer and riverbank dweller families in order to flood the 2.430 square kilometers of forest that created the world's second largest man-made lake in Tucuruí. The environmental damage that this caused has never been measured. The social impacts are still felt today. The invasion of the power plant on Wednesday morning by 600 members of the Movement of Populations Affected by Dams (MAB), Via Campesina, the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and other groups was a repercussion of those impacts.
The protest regarding payment of compensation to those who were harmed by construction of the plant - renewed each year and stalled by Eletronorte - in addition to other demands such as construction of schools, health clinics, establishment of land reform settlements and paving of roads in the region that are currently impassable, seem to have become part of a stressful routine.
What had become a normal part of the reality of the troubled town of Tucuruí - demonstrations always ending in shouts and chants of protest in front of the gates of Eletronorte against the historical omission of the federal government in addressing the simple demands of expropriated rural folk even of their rights - suddenly became a weapon in the hands of the leaders of the movement.
On the eve of the occupation, they were informed that the security scheme to protect the hydro plant from any type of invasion was quite feeble, especially at night. The plan to occupy the facilities of the largest fully Brazilian power plant was prepared with high expectations of being successful. At the time of the invasion, in the early morning, the few guards that secured the entrance were taken by surprise by the arrival of 600 people. Some of the furious activists who were in the midst of the crowd knew how to frighten the guards. While activists were pushing against the front gate to knock it down, a member of the movement threw an incendiary device. It was the signal to immediately occupy the area.
Two days later, while leaving the plant with an expression of victory on his face, one of the activists summarized the success of the invasion with a phrase: 'Now the government will learn to respect us'. From the look of things, it hasn't learned nor will it very quickly. Just as in the case of the murder of missionary Dorothy Stang, two years ago in Anapu, any measures, if taken, are too little too late. While Sister Dorothy was being laid to rest, troops of the Army, Air Force, Federal Police and local police searched for the perpetrators throughout the region, promising to make the dream of land reform and sustainable development of the forest a reality. Ministers gave interviews all the time, extolling the nun's virtues, her courage and other hypocrisies of those apparently with guilty consciences for not having avoided the death threats against her from being carried out.
Last week in Tucuruí, less than 24 hours after the activists who had even planned to defend themselves with incendiary bombs from any effort of the Army to remove them had left the facilities, the timid presence of federal government agents clearly demonstrated that Brasilia cares nothing for those displaced by the dam. If it were at all concerned, it wouldn't have delegated the mission of negotiating the peaceful removal of the trespassers to the Army. One has to give kudos to the Army, though, in this respect, as it demonstrated the competence lacking in the government to negotiate with the demonstrators. The problems on the negotiating table between the government, Movement of Populations Affected by Dams (MAB) and the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) are simple and could easily be resolved. It would just require the mobilization of a few federal ministries and agencies.
Inpa reiterates the continuation of negative effects
A study conducted by the National Research Institute of Amazonia (Inpa) indicates the social and environmental consequences of the Tucuruí hydroelectric plant have been and continue to be negative and harmful. To name a few: displacement of the population in the flooded area and subsequent relocation due to an epidemic of Mansonia mosquitoes; the disappearance of fish that had traditionally sustained the population downstream from the dam; effects on health from malaria and mercury contamination; and the displacement and disturbances of the Parakanã, Pucuruí and Montanha indigenous groups.
Almost two-thirds of the energy produced at Tucuruí is used to supply the aluminum industry. The families that live on the islands formed by the power plant's lake, however, are still without electricity, some 20 years after the construction of the dam. The meeting among affected populations, landless farmers and smallholders with the government rekindled hopes for a solution to the problems resulting from the current Brazilian energy model, according to the Movement of Populations Affected by Dams (MAB). The organization showed that the energy model based on hydro production is used in 20% of all energy produced worldwide. This form of energy production has already expelled between 40 and 80 million people from their lands worldwide. In Brazil, 92% of produced energy comes from hydro power, and has expelled over 1 million people from their lands. Brazil has over 2,000 dams built in several states, flooding an area of 34,000 square kilometers.
The country currently uses 61,000 MW (25%) of its estimated 260,300 MW potential. Almost two-thirds of this potential (63.6%) is in the Amazon Region, especially on the Tocantins, Araguaia, Xingu and Tapajós rivers, where environmental impacts and transmission costs are high. Another 20% of this potential is in the south, in the Paraná and Uruguay River basins, where it would impact densely populated areas and would render fertile farmland useless. The 2015 Plan of the federal government includes the construction of an additional 494 hydroelectric plants, with the eviction of an estimated 800,000 people from their lands. 'Hydroelectric power generation has been held to be clean and cheap. But, the dams cause several environmental problems in addition to all of the economic and social destruction they provoke', says MAB.
For example, the trees that remain in the lake formed by the dam decompose. The rotting of organic material leaves submerged tree trunks that endanger navigation and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane and CO2, responsible for global warming. This is what has happened at power plant reservoirs built in the Amazon Region, such as Tucuruí (PA), Balbina (AM) and Samuel (RO).
From these examples, if all of the dams planned for Amazonia are built, estimates are that some 231 million tons of carbon dioxide will be emitted each year. This volume corresponds to 75% or three-quarters of the total net emissions of CO2 gas for the year 1999 that came from burning of fossil fuels - oil, coal and natural gas, in addition to firewood and charcoal from native forests.
Lawmakers in Argentine province uphold mining ban
1st Jun 2007
BUENOS AIRES, May 31 (Reuters) - Mining industry leaders vowed on Thursday to fight lawmakers' decision to uphold a ban on open-pit mining in an Andean province famous for its grape vines and olive groves. Senators in Mendoza voted this week to reinstate anti-mining legislation that had been vetoed by the provincial governor in December on the grounds it was unconstitutional.
The legislation halts open-pit metals mining and the granting of exploration permits due to fears about its impact on the environment. Anti-mining activists say the provincial government has failed to impose environmental safeguards.
Representatives of the region's fledgling mining industry say the senate's decision puts the sector's future development at risk. "We're prepared to fight to the last," Roberto Zenobi, head of the province's mining chamber, told Reuters, adding that the governor's veto could still be backed by the province's house of deputies. That would stop the legislation taking effect.
"We're determined to stop the legislature's activity, while at the same time stressing that we're also not in agreement with the government," Zenobi said.
He said provincial officials have acted too slowly to develop an environmental plan to address local concerns. Mining projects in Mendoza include the Don Sixto gold site, where drilling is being done by Canada's Exeter Resource Corp., and the San Jorge gold and copper property, owned by Vancouver-based Global Copper Corp. and optioned to Coro Mining Corp.
Mendoza is synonymous with Malbec vines grown in the plains below the snow-capped Andes, but rising metal prices have generated increased interest in its mining potential and, in turn, have fueled anti-mining protests.
Argentina is not known as a mining country. But investment in the sector has boomed in recent years, driven by higher global prices and lower costs since the peso was devalued sharply against the dollar during a 2001-2002 economic crisis.
Contratistas de la minería inician nueva etapa de organización: confederación reuniría a cerca de 80 mil trabajadores del sector
La Nación, 28 de mayo de 2007
Por Patricio Ojeda González
Para el presidente de la CUT, Arturo Martínez, "no basta con tener una gran cantidad de fiscalizadores, hay que hacer un cambio en la cultura empresarial". En Codelco, el personal que presta servicios tercerizados anunció paralización nacional si no llegan a un acuerdo con la empresa.
El llamado a "huelga legal indefinida y en la calle" que hicieron el viernes los trabajadores contratistas de Codelco no hace más que dar cuenta de una realidad que vive un gran número de empleados a los que la ley de subcontratación -puesta en marcha en enero del presente año- no le ha resuelto sus problemas. En supermercados, multitiendas, bancos y mineras -incluida la estatal Codelco- el tema de la de la tercerización esta latente.
"Hay una cantidad enorme de empresas que tienen contratistas y no están respetando la ley. Por ejemplo, el mismo BancoEstado no ha querido internalizar a estos empleados y ocupa subterfugios para mantener la situación de antes", comentó el presidente de la Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) Arturo Martínez. Según el dirigente, la promulgación de la ley que regula las labores en régimen de subcontratación no ha sido suficiente para generar soluciones. "Aunque tengamos muchos fiscalizadores pasando multas, de todas formas ocurren algunas cosas. Lo primero es que las empresas están dispuestas a pagar las multas y seguir violando la ley. Además, son tantas las empresas que no dan abasto las fiscalizaciones. Aquí hace falta un cambio cultural del empresario, para que entiendan que los trabajadores tienen derechos que se tienen que respetar", precisó.
Para Martínez, uno de los sectores más complejos es el de la minería. Sólo Codelco cuenta con 28 mil trabajadores contratistas en sus distintas divisiones. Esta cifra se dispara si se incluye a los subcontratados de las mineras privadas, con lo que el total en la industria alcanza los 80 mil empleados externos. "En minería, la proporción es tres contratistas por un trabajador directo. Muchos de ellos trabajan en las mismas faenas y ahí viene la discriminación. En la empresa privada eso es pan de cada día", aseveró Martínez
El caso de Codelco y los problemas con sus contratistas no es nuevo. A comienzos del año pasado, después de movilizaciones, los operarios llegaron a un acuerdo para que se entregara un bono de 500 mil pesos por trabajador, además de condiciones de igualdad con los empleados contratados por la minera. Precisamente la inobservancia de esa negociación es uno de los puntos que alegan los empleados externos de la compañía estatal para llamar a huelga. "No se han cumplido los acuerdos del 2006 que incluyen terminar con la inequidad, la discriminación e injusticia que vivimos los contratistas. Además, queremos que se respete de forma irrestricta la Ley de Subcontratación y solicitamos la entrega de un bono por el aporte fundamental que hacemos al cumplimiento de los objetivos de Codelco", dijo el vocero de la coordinadora nacional de trabajadores contratistas, Cristian Cuevas.
A juicio del dirigente, no hay voluntad de la plana ejecutiva para encontrar una resolución. "La Presidenta Bachelet instruyó a Codelco a instalar una mesa de negociación, pero existe resistencia porque Codelco actúa como un poder fáctico y se ha retardado ese proceso de constitución. Esperamos que se avance y si no hay solución el 5 de junio la huelga se viene con todo en el sector contratista", aseguró el vocero.
En todo caso, los empleados tercerizados saben de la importancia que tienen sus faenas para la estatal y por eso lanzaron una advertencia respecto a los costos que puede traer este conflicto. "Las pérdidas son millonarias. Solamente la semana pasada cuando hicimos esta movilización en la división Andina paramos todo el proceso productivo, a pesar de que para afuera no se dice lo que ocurrió. No sabemos si el Estado o Codelco están dispuesto a perder miles de millones de dólares por no acceder a una demanda tan justa y tan legítima para los trabajadores contratistas y que obviamente tiene sintonía con la ciudadanía, porque no es una demanda desajustada en relación a la deuda que se tiene con otros sectores", señaló Cuevas
Codelco y los subcontratistas ya anunciaron que el próximo miércoles se abre una mesa de negociación en la que intervendrán las subsecretarías de Trabajo y Minería, además de equipos de Codelco. "Hemos dado un plazo hasta el martes 5 de junio para que exista acuerdo o si no se ratifica el llamado a huelga nacional. A nivel de las cinco divisiones de Codelco están atentos la contingencia y preparados para tener una gran convocatoria indefinida", manifestó Cuevas.
A partir de este movimiento, los operarios ya anunciaron la creación de una Confederación de Trabajadores Contratistas de la gran minería del cobre. Una instancia para trazar los lineamientos principales de esta nueva organización será el congreso que realizarán los delegados de las mineras de todo el país en la comuna de Machalí, en la Sexta Región, los días 6, 7 y 8 de junio. "Al congreso llegarán cerca de 250 representantes sindicales de las divisiones de Codelco y de la minería privada y podríamos llegar a reunir a un total de 80 mil trabajadores", anunció Cuevas.
"Viene un sindicalismo muy fuerte"
El relevo en el camino avanzado por la CUT no es un tema que preocupe mucho a Arturo Martínez. A su juicio, las generaciones actuales de dirigentes también pelean por sus derechos e incluso están capacitadas para terminar con los abusos laborales: "Viene mucha juventud con otras expectativas, con más ganas, no tan desgastados como los antiguos que ya estamos muy 'carreteados' y que nos ha tocado períodos muy difíciles. Entonces estos nuevos 'cabros' vienen con muchas ganas y hay que apoyarlos. Viene un sindicalismo muy fuerte con énfasis en que la empresa tiene que ceder. Esto se organiza porque hay abusos", sostuvo Martínez.
El representante sindical ejemplifica de esta forma la nueva actitud de los trabajadores: "El anuncio del nuevo presidente del Metro (Clemente Pérez) respecto a declararla como compañía estratégica, trajo un efecto inmediato y vinieron los sindicatos de la empresa a la CUT para formar una federación y pronto se va a iniciar el proceso", aseguró. Además lanza una advertencia: "Cada vez que se toma una decisión contraria a los trabajadores la reacción pesa. Viene un sindicalismo muy fuerte y si no se apuran o no tienen la voluntad de resolver, se van a generar un conflicto serio. Mi política no es hacer conflictos, pero hay tantos abusos y tan poca voluntad que uno no tiene otra cosa que hacer", concluyó.
El caso del obrero forestal Rodrigo Cisternas que murió por disparos de Carabineros los primeros días de mayo en las afueras de Celulosa Arauco, causó hondo penar en la CUT, pero también sirvió para analizar el accionar de la policía uniformada en las manifestaciones de los trabajadores. Martínez, quien ante esos hechos pidió la renuncia del gobernador regional, dijo que "cada vez que hay una disputa laboral o una huelga los primeros en llegar son la policía, que no tienen nada que hacer en un conflicto legal. La palabra la tiene el alto mando de Carabineros, con quien queremos conversar para fijar las reglas del juego en esta situación. Carabineros no tienen por qué resguardar los bienes de una empresa, ellos tienen que resguardar la seguridad pública", recalcó.
Ordenan a Salud indemnizar a 356 pobladores por contaminación con plomo en Arica
31 de Mayo de 2007
El Mercurio Online
ARICA.- Una indemnización superior a los 2 mil 800 millones de pesos deberá pagar el servicio de salud a un total de 356 personas que resultaron afectadas por la contaminación con plomo del sector los industriales y cerro chuño en Arica, informó radio Digital FM.
La contaminación se había producido por el ingreso de 21 mil toneladas de minerales tóxicos ingresadas por la empresa promel en 1984 bajo el pretexto de procesar oro y plata los que fueron depositados en el sector oriente de la ciudad. El serviu procedió a construir viviendas en ese sector, lo que comenzó a afectar seriamente la salud de los pobladores, comprobándose la existencia de contaminación. Tras ocho años de juicio que iniciaron 366 pobladores en la corte de apelaciones se logró ganar una indemnización de 175 personas. Sin embargo los afectados apelaron a la corte suprema, tribunal que falló ayer beneficiando a un total de 356 pobladores que recibirá 8 millones de pesos cada uno.
FERNANDO DOUGNAC, ABOGADO DE LOS AFECTADOS POR LAS CASAS SOBRE PLOMO Y ARSÉNICO
"Este fallo les devuelve la dignidad"
El fallo llegó tarde para los afectados. Vivir en un suelo de plomo y arsénico vale más que los ocho millones de pesos de indemnización, dicen. Aunque tal vez alcancen para cubrir los exámenes que vienen. O el shampoo y el jabón que usarán de por vida...
Por José Miguel Jaque - La Nación
Viernes 1 de junio de 2007
Débora Arancibia cuenta que a su hijo José Manuel le gustaban los monitos. Pasaba tardes enteras viendo animé en la tele con su hermano Emanuel. Tardes gratis, porque vivió doce años desahuciado. Nació con una malformación a la columna y problemas crónicos en los pulmones. Nunca pudo caminar. Balbuceaba algunas palabras. Hasta que una insuficiencia respiratoria y una cifoescoriosis cerebral le pasaron la cuenta.
El fallo de la Corte Suprema que condena al Servicio de Salud de Arica a pagar cerca de 8 millones de pesos a 356 personas que viven sobre un depósito de residuos tóxicos, llegó tarde para Débora. Ya no está su hijo, que ni siquiera aparece en la lista. "Para él no hubo justicia", dice indignada. "No sabemos cuál fue el criterio para dejar a gente fuera de beneficiados. Eso me frustra".
La mujer vive en la calle Curacaví de la Población Los Industriales 4. "Frente a Promel, donde estaban los tóxicos. Éste fue el pasaje más afectado". En su casa contaminada la acompaña Emanuel, porque cuando nació su Josesito, como lo llama, "el papá me dejó, porque no fue capaz de llevar la enfermedad del niño.
Ella sí fue capaz. "Soy su mamá", repite una y otra vez. "Mi hijo estuvo seis meses en el hospital y me dijeron que no podían hacer nada con él. Los médicos no me daban ilusiones... pero a veces con el amor alcanza. Yo no tuve más opciones. Los que vivimos acá no teníamos más opciones".
Débora dice que el doctor no fue claro con la enfermedad de su hijo. "Me decía que era extraño que hubiera nacido con problemas porque yo era una mamá joven y sana. Pero nunca quiso reconocer que fueron por culpa del plomo. Él trabaja en el hospital, depende del Servicio de Salud. Ni siquiera pude acceder a retirar la ficha del hospital cuando la requirió un neurólogo de Iquique".
Poca plata, mucha dignidad
La suma de desgracias es grande. "Han muerto al menos unos 20 niños desde que estamos acá", asegura Silvia Encina, representante de Los Industriales en la demanda. "Algunos por leucemia, tumores cerebrales y también hay muchos abortos espontáneos. Pero ningún médico se atrevió a dar el diagnóstico real. Querían eludir la responsabilidad".
Tan caros son que no se los han realizado todos. Según Encina, los estudios del Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Sernageomin) dicen que además de plomo, arsénico y cobre, en el lugar había mercurio y cadmio, que son cancerígenos, "pero nadie ni siquiera ha planeado la posibilidad de que se hagan exámenes para medir su presencia en el organismo. Sólo han medido plomo en sangre y arsénico en orina".
Silvia Encina no se deslumbra con la plata. "Parece una suma estratosférica, pero un examen de pelo vale como 300 mil pesos y para la plumbemia (que mide la concentración de plomo en sangre) ni siquiera hay una máquina en Chile. Imagínate."
Fernando Dougnac, abogado de la Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente, entrega más datos. "El arsénico produce erupciones en la piel. Para tratarse esas afecciones necesitan un jabón y un shampoo especial. Sólo el jabón vale 5 mil pesos y lo tienen que usar toda la vida. Imagínese que esta gente que vive en extrema pobreza va a poder tener la oportunidad de cubrir esos gastos".
Dougnac dice que el Serviu sabía desde el principio que el sitio estaba contaminado. Lo mismo el Servicio de Salud de Arica. "Pero no hicieron nada y construyeron en el sitio contaminado. Estas casas están intrínsecamente contaminadas". Por eso tira sobre la mesa una idea. "La Presidenta perdonó las deudas de las casas mal hechas y debería hacerse lo mismo con estas personas, que además de todo tienen deudas por esas casas".
La gracia de este fallo, según el abogado, es que se restablece la dignidad de las personas. "Nadie les había tendido una mano. Este fallo los devuelve a la vida, les devuelve la dignidad. Por lo menos han tendido el poder de luchar contra el Estado, un Estado que debería protegerlos y que por nueve años se opuso a darles una indemnización".
Levantamiento nacional contra mineras e hidroeléctricas en Ecuador
AL PUEBLO ECUATORIANO: 5 DE JUNIO, LEVANTAMIENTO NACIONAL! BOLETIN DE PRENSA DE LA COORDINADORA NACIONAL POR LA DEFENSA DE LA VIDA Y LA SOBERANIA
Ecuador, 22 de mayo, 2007
Considerando que en la actualidad las actividades de las transnacionales mineras y de hidroeléctricas privadas están causando conflictividad social, que amenazan la vida y el ambiente, desplazan comunidades, se apropian de extensos territorios, de las aguas, de la biodiversidad, y van en desmedro de la seguridad y soberanía alimentaria del pueblo ecuatoriano. Que el territorio nacional, los ríos y cuencas hídricas han sido festinados y nos encontramos frente a una verdadera invasión de las transnacionales mineras e hidroeléctricas privadas.
Que los regímenes anteriores han entregado en bandeja de plata nuestros recursos naturales a la voracidad de las empresas transnacionales y privadas. Que el pueblo ecuatoriano ha visto en el Gobierno del ciudadano Rafael Correa la posibilidad de que realmente la Patria vuelva a ser nuestra y de que los atropellos cometidos en anteriores gobiernos sean castigados.
Que el Ministerio de Energía y Minas reconoce que el 99% de las concesiones mineras no cuentan con la consulta previa como lo establece la Constitución.
Que el Ministro de Energía y Minas ha expresado públicamente que no se justifica el derramamiento de una sola gota de sangre por más rentable que sea el proyecto minero y que la economía debe estar al servicio del hombre y no el hombre al servicio de la economía.
Y que el Presidente Rafael Correa ha dicho que el soberano es el pueblo y que él hará lo que el soberano demande.
Las comunidades y organizaciones afectadas por los megaproyectos de las transnacionales mineras, de hidroeléctrica privadas y concesiones hídricas, en ejercicio de nuestros derechos ciudadanos exigimos al Gobierno Nacional:
La salida inmediata de las mineras e hidroeléctricas de nuestras comunidades.
Que mediante decreto ejecutivo se deje sin valor las concesiones mineras, hidroeléctricas e hídricas en aplicación del Art. 272, por haber violado los Art. 86 y 88 de la Constitución y se declare a Ecuador PAÍS LIBRE DE MINERÍA A GRAN ESCALA.
Desmilitarización y retiro de paramilitares y grupos armados de las zonas en conflicto.
Que se investigue y sancione la violación de los derechos humanos cometidos por las empresas mineras transnacionales, y en particular la Aurelian Resources, Corriente Resources Inc. y Ascendant Copper S.A. con apoyo de las fuerzas armadas o grupos paramilitares.
Poner fin a la criminalización de las luchas sociales y ambientales que se expresa en los juicios y procesos "legales" en contra de los dirigentes y las organizaciones que resisten a las empresas extractivas.
Que se sancione mediante la Ley de Defensa del Consumidor por la propaganda engañosa y mal intencionada de la Cámara de Minería del Ecuador.
Que se garantice la libertad de expresión de las comunidades afectadas por las mineras e hidroeléctricas a través de los medios de comunicación.
Que el gobierno nacional demande a las empresas mineras e hidroeléctricas por daños y perjuicios.
Que se garantice la integridad física y no se tome represalias de ningún tipo contra los participantes en el levantamiento nacional.
Estas y otras demandas han sido presentadas en varias ocasiones al Gobierno, en la persona del Sr. Presidente de la República, del Ministro de Energía y Minas, del Subsecretario de Minas y de funcionarios de las regionales, por ello de no ser atendidas con la urgencia que ameritan, el día 5 de junio iniciaremos un LEVANTAMIENTO NACIONAL hasta que las concesiones sean nulitadas, se hagan respetar nuestros justos derechos y se restablezca la paz en nuestras comunidades. El levantamiento se iniciará el día 5 de junio a las 00hs.
Nota del editor: Las empresas de aluminio Alcoa, Alcan, y Nippon Aluminium se han beneficiado largamente de la energía generada por la represa de Tucuruí en Pará, Brasil.
Militantes ocupan represa en el estado de Pará
23.Mayo 2007 - BRASIL - Adital
Traducción: Daniel Barrantes
Cerca de 600 familias integrantes del Movimiento de Damnificados por Represas y de Vía Campesina ocuparon hoy, a las 3:30h, la Represa de Tucuruí en Pará (región norte de Brasil). La acción es parte de la jornada de luchas nacional del día 23 contra la actual política económica, el modelo neoliberal y en defensa de la soberanía de Brasil. De acuerdo con el Movimiento de Damnificados por Represas, la policía reaccionó violentamente, tirando balas de goma contra los manifestantes, dejando varios heridos. El militante Aildo tuvo que recibir cuidados médicos urgentes y fue trasladado al hospital. Después de la confrontación, los damnificados consiguieron entrar y, en este momento, ocupan tres salas del centro de comando de la represa.
Los damnificados reivindican las pautas de la campaña de la energía: 100kw gratis para la población, un proyecto de desarrollo para las comunidades damnificadas con electrificación y asfalto, y también educación, entre otras. La represa de Tucuruí fue construida durante la dictadura militar y está ubicada en el río Tocantins. La obra expulsó a más de 32 mil personas y hasta hoy muchas de ellas ni siquiera fueron indemnizadas. Según relatos de la época, agentes químicos llegaron a ser lanzados sobre la floresta para forzar la salida de la población. Veinte mil personas terminaron refugiándose en la margen del lago y en las islas formadas con el llenado del reservorio de agua, concluido en 1984.
Manifestantes abandonan represa de Brasil rodeada por soldados Jueves 24 de Mayo, 2007
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Los manifestantes que ocuparon una planta hidroeléctrica en la selva amazónica la abandonaron el jueves de manera pacífica, evitando un enfrentamiento con miles de soldados brasileños que rodeaban la represa. Los manifestantes exigían tierras y compensaciones para las familias afectadas por la inundación del lugar hace 23 años.
"Todos salieron de la planta, no hubo incidentes con el ejército," sostuvo Roquevan Alves Silva, líder de la organización de personas afectadas por plantas hidroeléctricas conocida como MAB. Unos 2.000 militares habían rodeado la represa de Tucuruí en el estado de Pará y habían bloqueado los caminos cercanos mientras los oficiales negociaban con los manifestantes, señaló el ejército en un comunicado emitido anteriormente.
El Gobierno envió a las tropas después de que cerca de 600 personas, lideradas por el MAB, tomaron el miércoles la estación hidroeléctrica con una capacidad de 8.370 megawatts. Las familias amenazaron con interrumpir el funcionamiento de la segunda planta de energía del país. Los manifestantes ingresaron por las puertas del recinto, lanzaron una bomba de gasolina y ocuparon temporalmente la sala de control de la planta. El despliegue de tropas situó la atención sobre el debate relativo a la instalación de represas hidroeléctricas en la selva.
El presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva está promoviendo un plan de 250.000 millones de dólares de inversión pública y privada en infraestructura, que incluye dos controvertidas nuevas represas en la selva amazónica.
El Senado rechazó el veto a la ley de minería
Por Lorena Villafañe, Mendoza, Argentina, 30 de mayo 2007
La sesión legislativa que puso en jaque el veto del gobernador Julio Cobos a la ley que suspende la explotación minera, se llevó a cabo entre aplausos y abucheos de los defensores del agua pura, por un lado, y de los trabajadores del sector minero, por otro. Finalmente, el Senado rechazó el veto del Ejecutivo, en medio de un clima de tensión y hasta irrisorio, a raíz de algunas equivocaciones que cometieron a la hora votar tres legisladores de la UCR.
La ley de la cual Jorge Difonso (PD) es autor, suspende el otorgamiento de derechos mineros y explotaciones metalíferas a cielo abierto hasta tanto la Provincia no disponga de un plan ambiental acorde con la ley 5961.
Pero esta normativa fue vetada por el Poder Ejecutivo bajo el argumento de que la ley se entromete con el Código de Minería de la Nación, que es competencia exclusiva del Congreso de la Nación. Por otro lado, se sostiene que la suspensión de esta actividad puede decantar en una lluvia de juicios hacia el Estado, por generar perjuicios económicos al sector privado.
Del otro lado, legisladores como Alejandra Naman (ARI), sostuvieron que la inconstitucionalidad se plantea a la hora de realizar estos trabajos que afectan al medioambiente sin mediar ninguna herramienta de regulación para hacerlo. "Esta es una competencia de las provincias, que tienen la obligación de controlar y evitar que se produzcan daños ambientales. Se habla de seguridad jurídica y ¿cuánto se han preguntado acerca de la seguridad ambiental? Se dice que es inconstitucional y ¿qué hay del artículo 41 de la Constitución que habla del derecho a un ambiente puro?", indagó la senadora. De los 34 senadores presentes, 26 votaron por la afirmativa de anular la prohibición de la ley que había impulsado Cobos, a la que además adjuntó un proyecto de ley en el cual -argumentó Aníbal Rodríguez- "pueden convivir perfectamente el cuidado del medioambiente y la explotación minera".
En medio de todo esto, hay que aclarar, tres de los 26 votos se emitieron por equivocación. Los senadores radicales Omar Dengra, Esteban Lobos y Cristina Herades levantaron la mano por el "afirmativo", creyendo que de esa manera apoyaban la postura de Cobos. Mientras que ese voto era para rechazarla. Un cuarto (Rodríguez) casi comete el mismo error y modificó su voto hasta llegar al resultado deseado. Aunque estos votos no eran definitorios, ya que 23 eran suficientes.
De esta manera, la ya llamada "Ley Difonso", que el demócrata defendió a capa y espada, dio un paso adelante en su aplicación. "Aquí corre peligro el agua. Lo dije desde un principio. Y encadenado a eso también corre riesgo la producción primaria. Pareciera que el Estado es promotor de intereses privados y del interés y el derecho de todos los mendocinos", apuntó Difonso.
Los votos dieron para que se tratara este tema y también para rechazar el veto de Cobos. Esto generó la alegría de los activistas y la rabia del sector minero. "Usted es un irresponsable y un soberbio", le lanzó a Difonso uno de los miembros de la Cámara de Minería. Hoy o el próximo miércoles será tratado en Diputados. Si allí no han cambiado de opinión desde la última vez que votaron la ley, deberían rechazar al veto de Cobos y la ley deberá ser cumplida.