The Barrick advertisement in Corporate Knights magazine states, “Culture is just one more part of the landscape that we look after.” With the visuals of an open pit mine and woven fabric, the text of the ad continues, “When Barrick builds a mine, we adhere to stringent environmental regulations. But we also work to protect the cultures around those mines. In Chile’s Huasco Valley, Barrick works with the indigenous Diaguita people to diversify their economy by taking advantage of the area’s unique cultural history. This includes investments in tourism infrastructure, and a plan to create an artisanal village where the Diaguita can sell traditional pottery and weaving, and offer locally-grown foods. The result? Sustainable employment that strengthens a culture that has existed for her for over 1,000 years. And that’s valuable to all.”
Sergio Campusano Villches, the president of the Comunidad Agrícola Diaguita Los Huascoaltinos/ the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous and Agricultural Community in Chile, told another story this past weekend at the ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference in Vancouver.
In their May 2009 submission to the Parliament of Canada, the Diaguita Huascualtino community stated, “Barrick Gold seeks to extend the Pascua Lama project to the top of the Pachuy Ravine, which is located within the grounds of the Community lands recognized by the 1997 domain title. Although the Diaguita Huascoaltinos have decided to deny Barrick entry to our land, the Mining Code requires us to let them take over our ancestral lands. …Although the mining work has not begun to date, there have been roads built by the mining company, and the exploration activities carried out in the high mountains have created severe deterioration of some wetlands and large-scale landscape deterioration. This is especially critical as the landscape determines the drainage capacity of the rock formations and defines microclimatic conditions.”
They add, “Between 1997 and 2005, we had intensive discussions to develop a plan that would allow us to protect the natural balance of our land as our ancestors did, while maintaining our way of life and traditional customs. In 2005, we decided to make our Community lands a Private Wilderness Protected Area. …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. …Environmental conservation and mega mining projects are not compatible. We just want this company to leave and let us develop our projects in peace.”
Council of Canadians Board member Bob Ages helps to hold Diaguita banner as Sergio speaks at rally in solidarity with the Tsilhqot’in Nation in Vancouver, June 1.
Additionally, at the Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2010, Sara Larrain of Programa Chile Sustentable said, “Glaciers are important for Chile. They feed our springs and rivers. Without the glaciers we will be left without recharge for the rivers. Our vulnerability will increase for the cities and the rural areas. …The Canadian company Barrick Gold wanted to destroy a glacier for the Pascua Lama mining project. Mining covers the glaciers with dust which makes them melt faster, but also mining companies destroy glaciers directly. Mining is taking away the future of water. They are climate criminals. They must be sued, taken to the Climate Justice Tribunal.” And in an April 2011 media release, “Friends of the Earth International calls in to question the necessity of the Canadian-owned corporation’s gold mining operations. With the vast majority of gold used for jewellery, Barrick’s gold mines on average use more water than the entire bottle water industry in Canada, and this water is polluted with mining waste products such as cyanide, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, and sulphides.”
The video of Sergio Campusano Villches speaking at the concluding plenary panel – ‘Next Steps: Tools and strategies for community resistance and solidarity’ – at the ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference on June 2 should be available shortly.
To read the Diaguita submission to Parliament, go to http://protestbarrick.net/article.php?id=455.