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NEWS: Mining raises concerns over water

Latinamerica Press reports, “‘The extraction of natural resources and the protection of water are not compatible,” said Maude Barlow, a Canadian environmentalist and water rights activist. For Barlow, water is not only a human right but a right for all living things. At the Alternative World Water Forum in Marseilles, France last March, she called for a unified movement to protect it.” The Council of Canadians/ Blue Planet Project is organizing a ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference this Friday June 1 and Saturday June 2 in Vancouver. The conference will highlight the threats posed and damage done by Canadian-owned mining companies to the human right to water in Canada and throughout the Americas and what people can do to work in solidarity with impacted communities and build a movement to defend water justice.

Right to Water and Life march in Peru
The article adds, “In early March, hundreds of people participated in the National March for the Right To Water and Life, an 800-kilometer (500-mile) protest from the northern highland Cajamarca department to Lima to protect the local lagoons from Conga, a giant copper-gold project that is threatening the key water resources. Upon their arrival to Lima, protesters presented constitutional reforms to declare water a human right and prohibit mining at river heads and near glaciers, as well as a ban on mercury and cyanide often used to separate gold from rock.”

Ottawa-based Council of Canadians water campaigner Meera Karunananthan and Mexico City-based Blue Planet Project organizer Claudia Campero Arena sent a message of solidarity to the participants in The March for Water, which was backed by more than 70 Peruvian civil society groups. The statement (in English) says, “The Council of Canadians stands with the more than 200 communities and civil society organizations in Peru who are demanding an end to mining injustice and calling for water to be recognized as a human right within the Peruvian constitution.” We then received this message, “Best regards, we have received the message of solidarity from the Council of Canadians. It will be read at a demonstration today at the closing of the march to be held in the Plaza San Martin in Lima, with an estimated 20,000 people expected to attend. On behalf of the convening organizations for the National March, thank you to the Council of Canadians for solidarity with our struggle.”

Barrick Gold and Pascua Lama
The news report also highlights, “Some recent government decisions on these projects violate water-protection laws. …In Argentina, a glacier-protection law was vetoed by President Cristina Fernández, but it was reinstated and took effect after a long legal battle in October 2010. …In early March, hundreds marched in the northwestern Argentine province San Juan against open-pit mining, to reject the Pascua Lama and Veladero projects, run by Barrick Gold.”

One of the featured speakers at ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ will be Sergio Campusano Villches, the President of the Comunidad Agrícola Diaguita Los Huascoaltinos. His group opposes the Barrick Gold Pascua Lama mine on the Chilean-Argentinian border. In their May 2009 submission to the Parliament of Canada, the Diaguita Huascualtino community stated, “Environmental conservation and mega mining projects are not compatible. …Given that our lands hold the main reserves of fresh water for the Huasco Valley, by preserving the supply of water and ecosystems at the top of our territory, we will ensure the life and livelihood of all who inhabit the bottom of the valley, whether or not they are part of the Huascoaltinos community. …We just want this company to leave and let us develop our projects in peace.”

Protest march in Ecuador
And the Latinamerican Press article notes, “On March 8 (in Ecuador), indigenous protesters marched from Pangui in the southern Amazon, where Chinese miner Ecuacorriente (formerly Canadian owned) has been operating. Despite road blocks that were set up on the route, the protesters arrived in Quito on March 22, numbering some 40,000.” Another news report stated, “Dressed in colorful traditional clothing, they are protesting against the government’s large-scale mining projects, which they say go against (Ecuador’s president Rafael) Correa’s electoral promise to protect the rights of nature, and could impact their access to clean water. …Indigenous leader Salvador Quishpe says there are 227 water sources inside the mining project’s zone, and locals are worried they will all be contaminated through the extraction process.”

Another speaker who will be featured at ‘Shout Out’ is Silvia Quilumbango, the President of Defensa y conservación ecológica de Intag. Her organization, DECOIN, is a grassroots environmental organization seeking to protect the Intag area of northwestern Ecuador from mining.

Be sure to register for ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ at http://canadians.org/shoutout.