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CHILE
Judge suspends Pascua Lama Project
4/11/2013
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Court rules in favor of indigenous communities that have protested against environmental rights violations by mining company.

For the second time in less than six months, the binational project Pascua Lama has been halted due to environmental violations related to the destruction of glaciers and contamination of water resources. The project belongs to the Canadian mining company Barrick Gold, the largest gold mining company in the world.

Accepting an appeal for legal protection presented by Diaguita indigenous communities of the Huasco Valley, a court from the northern city of Copiapó ordered on April 10 a new suspension of the project, which is being developed in the Atacama region that borders Argentina.

The mining site, located beneath three glaciers that Chile and Argentina share, has 18 million ounces of proven gold reserves and 676 million ounces of potential silver reserves. The open-pit mine has caused fears about the damage it could cause to the glaciers that feed the rivers of the agricultural localities of the area, particularly in the Chilean side of the border.

“The communities of the area have fought for years to stop this ill-fated project that has not remotely guaranteed a complying with basic laws that are in force to protect our glaciers and the environmental patrimony of the area,” said the national director of Greenpeace Chile, Matías Asún. “It is a joy to see that citizens across all of Chile also recognize Barrick Gold’s environmental record and are demanding that the law be followed and justice be made.”

On Oct. 31 of last year, the governmental agency National Geology and Mining Service, part of the Mining Ministry, ordered the temporary suspension of the Pascua Lama project due to a high concentration of fine particles in the air that endangered the health and physical integrity of the people.

Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick welcomed the recent decision, pointing out that “we are not surprised at all and we think it is good that a court has been able to suspend work while Pascua Lama fulfills effectively all of the requirements that the Superintendent of the Environment has previously demanded.”

The cost of the project, which began operations in 2009, is calculated to be US$8.5 billion — initially expected to be $7.5 billion — , of which the company has already invested $3.7 billion. Barrick Gold has estimated that the mine will begin to operate at the end of 2014.

In Argentina on July of 2012 the Glacier and Periglacial Environments Protection Law went into effect, prohibiting mining and the extraction of hydrocarbons in glacier zones. The application of the law, which was approved in 2010, had been halted due to a series of precautionary measures presented before the courts by mining companies, including Barrick Gold. —
Latinamerica Press.


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