MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Who administrates natural resources? Public introduction of the Project for a Protected Area of Tuc

Published by MAC on 2005-03-02


Who administrates natural resources? Public introduction of the Project for a Protected Area of Tucumán Valleys in Argentina

Tucumán, March 2nd, 2005

By Luis Manuel Claps

Tucuman Conference ValleysLast February 26th, an assembly dealing with “Social-Environmental Responsibility” was held in Tafí del Valle (Tucumán), organised by the Environmental Federation of Tucumán and the Tafí del Valle Inter-sector Commission. Underthe proposed slogan "Threatened valleys of Tucumán!", all the community sectors and invited speakers gathered together in order to carry out a public discussion about a project to create a Protected Area of the Tucumán Valleys and about the serious environmental situation that the region is undergoing because of mining activities.

The project concerning the new Protected Area was submitted to provincial legislators last year and it is still being considered. One of the aims is to elaborate a Management Plan for the area to be comprised within the reserve. As part of the restrictions it would impose, the plan would exclude the possibility of mineral exploration or mining.

One of the most important mining companies that have an interest in the region is the Swiss-English company Xstrata, who owns “Bajo la Alumbrera”, the largest open-cast mine existing in Argentina. As a consequence of operating that mine, the company has legal actions initiated against it by four Argentine provinces: Tucumán, San Luis, Santa Fe and Catamarca, in which the mine is located. Last year the giant mining operator announced an exploration plan that alarmed the various valley community organisations.

With the presence of more than 400 participants, the assembly came to an end when the environmental minutes were signed. Among the lectures relating to the Protected Area issue, two were especially interesting: one was presented by Bárbara Manesse on the 'Tucumán Valleys Bill: focus and importance' and the other was presented by Marcos Pastrana on 'Biodiversity. Agreement on Biological Diversity, Sect. 8 J.' Pastrana noted that “it is through their singular and traditional relationship with nature that communities may find a way to manage natural resources in the best way. We should not say this land is mine, but I belong to the land…” .

In the afternoon, when lectures about the mining activities in the region took place, the Federal public prosecutor of the province, Gustavo Gomez, reminded the national law-makers who had attended the meeting that “in order for this project not to result in a dead letter, it is absolutely necessary that criminal regulations be created so as to send all those who commit the crime of contaminating the environment directly to prison”.

With the main objective of realising the project for the Protected Area of Tucumán Valleys, the Environmental Federation of Tucumán and the Tafí del Valle Inter-sector Commission, as well as all the representatives who attended the meeting, have promised to continue insisting on the passing of the project by the legislature.

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