MAC: Mines and Communities

Fears that Alumbrera Mine has contaminated Alpachiri drinking water

Published by MAC on 2005-04-27

Fears that Alumbrera Mine has contaminated Alpachiri drinking water

Primera Fuente News Agency

April 27, 2005

Tucumán - The government of the Argentine province of Tucuman has expressed grave concern about the suspected contamination of drinking water in the zone of Alpachira (13 kilometers from Concepcion) by the mining company Minera Alumbrera. The alert worsened with the discovery of the mineral malachite in soil samples taken last week. And yet another fear has recently arisen, with the detection of a cluster of cases of leukemia and immunologic illness in the communities near the mine.

Sampling Alumbrera at mineWhile awaiting results of the soil testing performed last week in the Villa Lola reservoir (see photo) to see if Minera Alumbrera has contaminated this areas with toxic wastes, the government ventured to admit that there exists a fear that the mining company has contaminated the water treatment plant of the town of Alpachiri (13 kilometers from Perla del Sur in the department of Chicligasta).

The Subsecretary of Water Resources of the province, Alfredo Montalbin, appeared worried by the situation. "The worst thing would be that they have dumped toxic wastes above a pipeline which takes the river water to the water treatment plant for the Alpachiri region," he alerted. Furthermore, he released a letter already sent to the company urging them to respond to allegations that during the 1990's the company had deposited toxic wastes in the Villa Lola reservoir, located 25 kilometers from Perla del Sur.

In addition, engineer Hector Nieva, author of a thesis about environmental contamination supposedly caused in the river Vis-Vis by Minera Alumbrera, said that "already there has been a die-off of animals in the ecological impact zone of the mine," and stated that "local residents have already or just about to present a claim to the environmental authorities about the deaths of red foxes in the region."

Nieva said that this report adds to the claims already in Federal courts by the Flores family, who live near the Vis-Vis river, where according to Nieva there are no controls over the releases of toxins which filter down from the tailings piles. The family had to flee before all their animals, mostly cows upon which they depend, died. "If they say that there isn't any contamination, then we can show reports done by an Australian consultant which state by 2009 there will be a zone of contamination 1,700 meters around the site of operations at Minera Alumbrera. If there is no possiblilty of contaminates filtering out, I ask, why then are there 14 or 15 reverse pump wells, and if there hasn't been contamination, why are they using them in the river; it's clear that they are hiding something," he said.

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