MAC/20: Mines and Communities

ARGENTINA: Mining companies act against nature reserve expansion

Published by MAC on 2005-12-12


ARGENTINA: Mining companies act against nature reserve expansion

By Pablo Icardi

12th December 2005

The mining scandal in Mendoza province (Argentina) seems to be escalating. While transnationals defy Mendoza´s sovereign right to administer its territory, regional organisations groups have now started to push for an anti-cyanide law.

Mining Companies Act Against Expansion of a Nature Reserve in Mendoza, Argentina

Mining company officials have begun their counter offensive against the Province of Mendoza, after the state approved a law expanding the natural reserve Laguna del Diamante in San Carlos, a law which prevents the continuation of mining exploration in the zone. Three firms which had prospecting rights and permits in the area denounced the government's decision before the Supreme Court, arguing that the action expanding the natural reserve was unconstitutional. The foreign companies located in Argentina are seeking gold and copper deposits. One of them is Anglo American, which is mining Cerro Vanguardia in Santa Cruz, the home province of President Néstor Kirchner.

In the region of the Laguna del Diamante, all eyes have been upon the companies for some time now. In 2003 the miners began the first exploration work, on foot and by helicopter. The government had even authorized the transit of vehicles throughout the park to carry out prospecting work, and had evaluated the Environmental Impact Report (produced by consultants AWS) for the prospecting.

But as the exploration works expanded, opposition from the residents of San Carlos also grew. This year it exploded in demonstrations and strong demands against the mining activities. The fear of contamination of the water was the key issue propelling these demands. In the face of these pressures, the Legislature, supported by the Executive branch, approved a law which expanded the Reserve to 170,000 hectacres, prohibiting minng activities in all parts of the Reserve. The controversies surrounding the issue resulted in the resignation of the provincial Director of Mining, Carlos Monjo (former Anglo American employee). Now the mining operations have been halted in San Carlos. The mining companies are demanding that the law expanding the limits of the Reserve be declared unconstitutional, and this is only the first demand. The companies are also demanding from the State compensation for supposed economic damage.

* See previous posting on this site: Argentine province aims to block Canada miner Tenke 7 September 2005; http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press732.htm

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