MAC: Mines and Communities

NO to the Navidad Silver-Lead Gold Mine!

Published by MAC on 2005-12-27

NO to the Navidad Silver-Lead Gold Mine!

by Assembly of Esquel

27th December 2005

Statement by the Assembly of Esquel Self-Organized Neighbours for a "NO" to the Mine, Chubut, Argentina.

One of the dirtiest battles is now underway for control of a silver-lead proyect in Patagonia Argentina (Chubut) province. It is being fought between two CANADIAN mining companies, IMA and Aquiline, for control over one of the largest silver-lead deposits in Latin America. But the fight is occurring, not in Argentina but in the Canadian province of British Columbia at the provincial Supreme Court level.

The case is evolving completely above the heads, and in total contempt, of the Argentinean peoples' sovereign right to control THEIR, nation's natural resources and THEIR right as part of a free and open, democratic society to be informed about this crucial case. Yet the court case proceeds gingerly as if they - the citizens of a major democratic nation in the Americas - are not concerned at all. The Navidad project is just one of the many gold and silver mines now in operation, or planned, that have caused terrible environmental harm to human and eco systems in Patagonia and Argentina as a whole. These highly destructive mines use toxic cyanide mining to process the plundered precious metals, often resulting in the contamination of groundwater and the poisoning of plant and wild life, as well as humans in the affected areas.

Another bizarre and perhaps somewhat sinister aspect of this case is that little attention has been paid to it so far by the Argentinean media. This international case - which will have a tremendous impact on the nation and on how foreign mining companies will conduct themselves in Latin America in the future - is totally absent in the political arena.

It is all going on as if it were totally normal and an everyday event: this fighting for control over a huge tract of land in a foreign court room, while absolutely ignoring a functioning judicial system in the state where the dispute originates.

This is a veritable litigation involving only the two companies' interests and in absolute disregard for the interests of those most concerned by the case - the citizens of Argentina.

The IMA and Aquiline tussle evokes flashbacks to long-gone, old colonial times. But we are in 2006 and this is going on today, in contempt of the rule of law in Argentina. The IMA vs. Aquiline affair is a flagrant example of the utter scorn shown by most foreign-owned companies, who are aided and abetted by diplomats representing their home country.

The people of Patagonia have the right to be represented at all the legal proceedings, yet they are not. They must be heard! This matter is of vital concern to them.

So far, news from the Navidad site in Chubut province indicates that there is growing local opposition to the planned mine. Yet the proposed Navidad - Calcatreu project is still in the works, even as the court case and the litigation challenging the ownership of the mine site proceeds in a business as usual fashion.

Back in Canada, the threat to the companies' images have prompted their legions of corporate lawyers to seek an "amicable gentlemen’s' agreement" to exploit the mine in joint fashion, agreeable to both parties and their nervous investors.

[Thanks to Michael Werbowski for this English summary of the Communities' statement, which has been slightly edited]

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