Pascua Lama, Mining Gold for future poverty & dereliction

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1997 witnessed the signature dooming the future of Andean watershed region as Chile and Argentina adopted the Mining Integration and Complementation Treaty. This treaty permits investors to explore and exploit mineral deposits that bestride the border between the two countries. A treaty that was clearly tailor-made for Barrick to move forward on the Pascua Lama project.

This open-pit mine would sit at an elevation of about 15,000 feet, yielding an estimated 18 million ounces of gold and 685 million ounces of silver over 20 years. The brainchild of Canada’s Barrick Gold, it would be the world’s first binational mine, and is slated to begin operations in 2009.

What are the fears of Damage to the Environment

Farmers fear that the mine will contaminate the water that feeds their farms.

Cyanide is used in a leaching process to extract gold and silver which will lead to contamination of the water table.
The mountain side is dissected with lots of roads
Damage to glaciers. The glaciers, located 4,600 metres above sea level, are a major source of water for Huasco valley. Located 660 km north of Santiago, this valley is home to 70,000 people, mainly small farmers who grow grapes, olives and other crops

Mario Mautz a farmer stated:

Barrick are attacking our rivers, our glaciers, our ancestral water rights. And that is why I think I should go on fighting them, We are going to write to the United Nations and international courts. We want to tell them point by point that this project is not good for the environment. And we hope that they will intervene.

However the companies glaciologists declared that the ice fields in question were not glaciers, but “ice reservoirs’. Barrick has played up the economic benefits for locals, promising 5,500 new jobs during the construction stage and 1,660 when the mine is up and running

Pascua Lama, Chiles mountain of gold, contains so much of the precious metal it will take 20 years to extract. But what after all the gold is over? What will be the condition of this sensitive eco system? Activists in Chile and Argentina know they will not get far with their own governments when it comes to passing up foreign investment of this nature. The e-mails surrounding the project have raised awareness though have lost the battle but the local people are going to fight to the end!


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