MAC: Mines and Communities

The communities of Belén, Andalgalá and Santa María (Catamarca province, Argent

Published by MAC on 2005-08-10

The communities of Belén, Andalgalá and Santa María (Catamarca province, Argentina) know very well about the impacts of large-scale mining, from their experience with the Bajo La Alumbrera mine. Promises of jobs and economic development don't seem to convince them any more. Now a new copper project, Agua Rica (proposed by the Canadian mining company Northern Orion) is being rejected along the Calchaquíes Valleys, in northern Argentina.

Spirited demonstration against Agua Rica operations

Wednesday August 10, 2005

El Ancasti Newspaper, Catamarca, Argentina

Protests on Agua RicaSome 800 persons marched yesterday afternoon through the streets of the center of the city of Santa María, located in the heart of the Calchaquíes Valleys, in the province of Catamarca, Argentina, expressing a round rejection of both the exploration and construction of the mining operation Agua Rica in the region and "to whatever new mining operations that in one way or another are granted the right to help themselves directly or indirectly to the water resources of our department."

"No to the Plunder of Agua Rica," "For a Santa Maria with Water and Without Pollution," "For the present and the future of our children," "For a Provincial Government Which Protects the Interests of the People and not Foreign Capital," "For the Preservation of our Natural Resources," were some of the banners in the demonstration.

The copper mine Agua Rica is located in the department of Andalgalá, in the mountains about seven kilometers from the border of the department of Santa María. Canadian company Northern Orion Resources, owner of the project, plans to construct a tailings dam and reservoir, waste mineral dumps, and processing plant in Campo del Arenal, located in nearby San José, directly above an aquifer which provides the underground water supplies for the entire region, used for both human consumption and irrigation. Local authorities yesterday decried the risk of contamination that this signifies for the region.

With the march, the people of Santa María showed their total rejection of the construction of the Agua Rica mines. "Our position is the preservation of natural resources, the water and the soil, and to protect our lives and the future of our childen. We are not opposed to mining itself, but rather to the development of this activity without governmental control, and to the impoverishment of the villages and people that are witnesses to the plunder of their mountains and the death of their own brothers and sisters under the impassive gaze of our government officials," said Juan Cáceres, of the Autonomous Community group. "The Campo del Arenal acts as a water tank that one would have above their house. To put a tailings reservoir and a waste dump would be like putting toxic waste inside your water tank, putting the present and the future of our childen at risk."

The aquifer of Campo del Arenal feeds the river Santa María which in part is fed also by the runoff from the mountains of El Cajón, Chango Real and El Nevado de Aconquija. "We will protect our water and soil until the end," said Elvira Pastrana, of the indigenous community Amaicha del Valle.

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