MAC: Mines and Communities

Company Officials of "El Desquite" Mining Company Wanted by Authorities

Published by MAC on 2005-10-28

Company Officials of "El Desquite" Mining Company Wanted by Authorities

Press Release - Assemby of Vecinos Autoconvocados de Esquel (Self-Organized Community Members of Esquel)

October 28, 2005.

Esquel, Chubut, Argentina - Local authorities have issued a warrent ordering officials of mining company "El Desquite" to present themselves before the law, for criminally disobeying an environmental stop order, handed down by the Chubut courts, an order brought to court by the Esquel Public Prosecutor.

Public prosecutor Martín Zacchino has ordered Gonzalo Fernando Tufino, identified as the President of the mining firm "El Desquite," Edward Colt, company Vice President, Darcy Edward Marud, Chief of Exploration and Mónica Mariaca Pando, Chief Environmental Officer, to appear before local courts because "there is sufficient cause to suspect that they participated in the incidents under investigation."

The local judge stated that the company officials were ordered to present themselves as accused before the court on September 29. The date passed and they did not present themselves. Thus, prosecutor Zacchino filed a new order last week setting another date for the judge to file formal charges against the suspects.

According to court sources, some of the company officials have now left the country, which might mean that international arrest warrants will be issued, in case they do not present themselves before the local authorities.

In December 2002 a young Esquel resident filed an environmental claim which was upheld on February 19, 2003 by a Civil, Commercial and Labour Judge, Dr. Claudio Petris, who ordered that "the immediate halt of all operations and intention to carry out work in the mining area of Cordón Esquel on the part of the mining company El Desquite S.A., which includes the prohibition of new projects or associated works, and of work in all stages of the project, until it is proven that said works can be done within the limits established by law."

Among arguments put forth, the Prosecutor maintains that the cited company chiefs and officials "deceitfully and unlawfully disobeyed the judicial order," that is, the environmental stop order in place since February 2003, "through carrying out of certain works done by employees of the company and in other occasions through other subcontractors," added the prosecutor Zacchino.

Authorities will present proof that the mining company defied the court order by continuing with activities for the carrying out of the mining project, knowing that the judge had ordered the halting of all activities, such as:

* The setting up of meterological measuring equipment, as well as panels and machinery to measure the flow of rivers and streams on the grounds of the mining project

* Carrying out hydrogeological studies for which at least 22 wells were drilled, as well as continued geological mapping and charting activities

* Continued drilling to obtain rock, ore and soil samples, as well as the analysis and evaluation of the samples

High court sources predict that the case could go to a public trial on a criminal level; on conviction the penal code stipulates jail terms which range from 15 days to one year.

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