MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining Company Caught Prospecting for Gold and Copper in a Protected Reserve

Published by MAC on 2005-07-07

Mining Company Caught Prospecting for Gold and Copper in a Protected Reserve

Diario Los Andes, Mendoza, by Pablo Icardi and Nicolás García

Thursday July 7, 2005

There are suspicious tire tracks, 11 kilometers long, in the protected natural reserve of Villavicencio. They were left by trucks from mining company Canadian firm Tenke Mining Corporation, owner of the concession of gold mine Paramillos in the Argentine province of Mendoza, who are scouring the region for gold and copper deposits. A park ranger noticed the incursion and discovered that mining engineers had set up a system of cables and equipment streching over 5 kilometers inside the natural reserve. The actions by the explorers left tire tracks and damaged the habitat of wild animals.

Tenke Mining subcontractor Quantec Geoscience, who illegally entered a zone of highest protection in the reserve with two trucks and equipment, will be sanctioned, according to the Commision of Natural Resources of the province.

Paramillos is a gold and copper mine which has operated since colonial times, but has been inactive for more than two decades. After some litigation, concessions were granted to Tenke Mining of Canada, which paid U$780,000 to explore for four years, with the option to buy rights for U$13 million. The mine is located on the boundary of the private natural reserve of Villavicencio, property of French company Danone (owner of mineral water company Villavicencio). The Commission of Natural Resources of Mendoza declared the 160,000 acre region alongside the mine a natural reserve in 2001. Villavicencio is the third-largest protected area in the province.

The charges made by park ranger Celso Boccolina illustrate a conflict of international actors: Villavicencio belongs to French company Danone, one of the largest food industry companies in the world, and the largest seller of bottled mineral water. Last year Danone earned $13.7 billion euros. The natural reserve is a key component in the corporate image of Danone, who tout the purity of the region in their principal product, mineral water. This makes their new neighbor less than welcome, not to mention the incursion of the machinery of exploration into the reserve.

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