Environmental Protest Forces Out Canada's Barrick Gold
Buenos Aires, Argentina
La Nacion, May 16th, ‘07
LA RIOJA - The tenuous fight of environmentalists of Chilecito and Famatina has caused the definitive end to exploration operations which Barrick Gold Corp the Canadian mining corporation was carrying out in the region.
Within twelve days, according a communication signed yesterday by the provincial government, the personnel and machinery of the gold mining giant will be evicted from their operations in the mountainous Famatina Range.
Company access to the mining encampment was cut off in "Peñas Negras" on the road to the La Mejicana mines two months ago by area residents opposed to Barrick's plan to operate an open-pit mine with cyanide. The project put the water reserves of this arid and agricultural region into grave risk. Until now, the route had been "partially" blockaded, the assemblies permitting the two Barrick guards remaining to change shift guarding the camp, every Saturday.
But days ago, the assembly of residents had said that if Barrick did not abandon the project a total blockade would be initiated beginning this Saturday.
Yesterday, the sub secretary of human rights of the province, Domingo Bordón, participated in a meeting with members of the autonomous assemblies of residents and producers of Chilecito and Famatina, "to ensure that the camp is removed and that (the residents) permit the withdrawal o personnel and machinery on part of the Canadians from the Peñas Negras camp."
Chilecito judge Alfredo Ramos informed the environmentalists about the request made by Barrick to lift the blockade, and about the 12-day timeline set for the withdrawal operation. The residents asked the judge to have the company sign an official notice regarding their withdrawal.
Questioned by the La Nation, the company stated that "explorations at Famatina are one of over 100 projects that the company has in exploration around the world, and in this contest, "is not a priority project." Now, except for Barrick Gold's operations in neighboring San Juan, "the rest o the explorations are complementary and not crucial,"
Barrick had set up shop in La Rioja after signing an agreement in April 2005 with the Yamiri, in which the local government had a 20% participation. Many of the details of this agreement were only made public at the beginning of this year, and became the root for a political struggle between the governor Angel Maza and vice-governor Luis Beder Herrera.
Now ex-governor Maza was first suspended and then stripped of his role by a political process, accused of the crime of corruption with State goods (illegally selling public land to the miners). Now Beder Herera is the governor.
In the infamous accord, according to an investigation published by the newspaper El Independiente, Barrick Gold was awarded exclusive rights to exploration and operations in the Famatina range. In return, the company was to pay off $500,000 over five years.
As governor, Angel Maza was a fervent promoter of "responsible mining" in his province, often visiting Canada to attract projects. In April of 2006, Carlos Araneda, Latin American vice-President or Latin America of Barrick Gold, visited the then-governor Maza: "Up to now we are satisfied with results of the Famatina project," Araneda had said, with Barrick already having invested over two million out of a scheduled ten million dollars.
"We have passed the initial stage, and this next stage is crucial for the project," said Araneda at that time, adding that in 2007 the company would decide whether or not the province had "an economically viable level of minerals." This past March 8, the provincial Legislature, dominated politically by Beder Herrera, passed a law demanded by the environmentalists: To prohibit the operation of open-pit mines using cyanide.
At the same time, the date of July 29 was chosen as the date of a popular consult in Chilecito and Famatina to decide to reject or accept that law. A investigative commission was created to investigate the relations of Yamiri, and to annul the agreement with Barrick. Maza denied any irregularities in the agreement which favored Barrick so.
On March 10, with movement in the mining zone blockaded by residents, in a tense and highly-charged meeting, a Barrick representative and environmentalists arrived at an agreement: Barrick promised to begin to dismantle the mining camp within seven days. Two months later and eight days later, the environmentalists now want to be certain that the transnational company will keep its word this time.
By Arturo Ortiz Sosa
La Rioja Correspondent
TO SUBMIT an ARTICLE, OPINION PIECE, COMMENTS to the Native Unity Digest, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
AIROS NATIVE NETWORK plays music, news and other great programs from Indian Country - www.airos.org
FOR NATIVE CELEBRITY NEWS - go to www.nativecelebs.com
Visit Vietnam Vet. LARRY MITCHELL at http://www.potawatomivet.com and click on his blog at the site.
NATIVE BIZ LEARNING CENTER - www.learn.nativebiz.com was developed for tribal education specialists serving tribal communities. Any tribal community can register at NO COST.
NAJA ALERTS, POTPOURRI - Every Tuesday when available.