MAC: Mines and Communities

Minera Alumbrera Accused of Co-Responsibility in Pollution of Río Hondo Reservoir

Published by MAC on 2005-10-06

Minera Alumbrera Accused of Co-Responsibility in Pollution of Río Hondo Reservoir

Thursday October 6, 2005

La Gaceta (Photos Analia Jaramillo)

A new legal action has been started against Minera Alumbrera (the biggest mine in Argentina) by Santiago del Estero province.

A week ago some 3,000 people "painted" a dramatic plea for help with their bodies and raised their hands towards the sky as a passing airplane captured the moments image: An S.O.S. sign that appeared to come to life. Over 10,000 people participated in the protest which took place Wednesday at midday, at the edges of the reservoir El Frontal, to call attention to the serious problems of pollution which affect the reservoir and it's surroundings.

Protests against Minera AlumbreraThe community of Termas de Río Hondo, in the Province of Santiago del Estero, fears that their economic lifeblood, tourism, is threatened by the industrial effluents discharged from the north by the sugar industry through the Salí-Dulce river system. This situation has provoked a legal conflict between the provinces of Tucumán and Santiago del Estero.

To make matters worse, the amount of chemical wastes has risen now for some years because of the introduction of contaminants used by the mine of Bajo La Alumbrera: wastes produced in Tucumán after the treatment and drying of mineral ore concentrate which is then transported train to the city of Rosario in Sante Fe.

The Governor of Santiago del Estero, Gerardo Zamora, has stated that the government of Tucumán should be compelled to begin a program of clean production for the sixty companies which have not done so already. Zamora also charges that Minera Alumbrera is contaminating the huge reservoir with toxic waste, and says that the provincial government is attempting to put a brake on the pollution through legal efforts. "It is a grave situation which we are trying to stop," he says.

The Public Defender of of the province of Santiago del Estero, Darío Alarcón, complaintant in the case against the mining company (controlled by the global miner Xstrata Plc) in the provincial courts, said yesterday that the company "is attempting a cover-up" by affirming that it has not contaminated the reservoir of the Río Hondo.

Alarcón stated that the results of water analyses made in August in the Canal DP-2 as well as birds-eye and land photos, will show "convincing proof," submitted to speed up the legal process.

He further stated that the federal Public Defender of Argentina is ready to accompany his judicial presentation. Alarcón also said that he is going to travel to Andalgalá in the province of Catamarca, the site of the mines, to talk with residents there, because they are also affected by the contamination.

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