After many years of contamination by mining companies of one of Bolivia's most important rivers, thePublished by MAC on 2005-10-20
After many years of contamination by mining companies of one of Bolivia's most important rivers, the government is going to act. However, it has apparently precluded from prosecution Comsur, the company formerly controlled by disgraced ex-president "Goni" Lozado and Rio Tinto (33%). In 1996 the dam at their base metals mine on the Porco river burst, spewing out 400,000 tonnes of toxic wastes and contaminating the Pilcomayo 300 kilometres downstream.
Mining Companies Charged by Judge with Poisoning the River Pilcomayo, Bolivia
October 20, 2005
Twenty-four Bolivian mining companies will face charges of having contaminated the headwaters basin of the river Pilcomayo, a river which begins in Bolivia and passes through Argentina and Paraguay. The State Prosecutor of Chuquisaca presented the indictments against 24 companies in Potosí after "having discovered indications of responsibility for the pollution of the waters of the Pilcomayo," declared the prosecutor Mario Uribe to the press yesterday.
The indictments were presented Wednesday before a judge in Sucre, the historical capital of Bolivia, located south of La Paz, "after five months of investigation and collection of samples in the contaminated sites," said the prosecutor. Uribe said that the accused alrady have been notified and believes that that their number could increase as the process advances.
This is the first time that charges have been filed for the contamination of the river, despite numerous complaints of campesinos and indigenous communities who live within the basin of the river Pilcomayo. According to testimonies, mortality of cattle is increasing in the region and agricultural harvests have plummeted.
The prosecutor said that the accused, the majority small mining companies, will be charged under the Penal Code and the Law of the Environment, which outlaws the "contamination of river basins, the poisoning and tainting of waters above permitted limits, and the discharge and release of wastewaters and/or chemicals."
The Director of Natural Resources and the Environment of Bolivia, Eysin Artunduaga, said that the presentation of the Mitigation Plan for the mining contamination will be made in La Paz, and will have representatives from Potosí, Chuquisaca and Tarija.
Authorities say that it is impossible to stop 100% of the pollution of the river Pilcomayo, but they assure that the levels of contamination in the river will need to drop in a dramatic manner.
For some time now there has been much attention in the department of Tarija by campesinos from Potosí and Chuquisaca, where the serious problems stemming from the pollution of the river are already well known.