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UPDATE: Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama mine in Argentina

Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation is the largest gold mining company in the world. It has mining operations in Canada, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Australia, and the United States.

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.” That’s at http://www.foei.org/en/media/archive/2011/barrick-gold-clean-up-your-act-right-to-life-over-gold-profits.

Pascua Lama
While Barrick Gold’s controversial Pascua Lama mine is still scheduled to proceed, its scope may be limited due to a glacier protection law passed by Argentina’s Congress. In October 2010, Agence France Presse reported, “The measure, approved in the Senate by a vote of 35 to 33 with one abstention, prohibits mining near glaciers along Argentina’s 5,000 kilometer (3,100 mile) border with Chile. …Analysts say the law could make it more expensive or even impossible for Barrick to develop its huge Pascua Lama site high in the Andes.” It had been speculated that Barrick “could demand hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from the Argentine government because these mining activities were not banned when they made these investments.” Reuters has reported, “Proponents say it is crucial to ensuring Argentina’s water supplies into the future. The bill, which also bans oil drilling on the country’s glaciers, is aimed at safeguarding Argentina’s freshwater reserves. It sets standards for protecting glaciers and surrounding areas and creates penalties for companies that pollute or damage ice fields.” More on that at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4150.

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.” That can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=2948.

Hemlo Gold Mine
The Hemlo Gold Camp – consisting of two mines, David Bell and Williams – is located on the north shore of Lake Superior. ProtestBarrick.net reports, “Workers at the mines have reported numerous cases of lung ailments at these mines, including some cases of silicosis and sarcoidosis. The company has fought worker compensation claims for these ailments ferociously. The First Nations indigenous community that lives downstream from the mine are the Pic River peoples. In 2000, the community reported having to replace their water treatment plant in order to remove cyanide from their drinking water.” There are also concerns that Barrick’s clean-up plan for when the mines are closed is insufficient. More can be found at http://protestbarrick.net/article.php?id=404.

Barrick Gold also backs the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5395 and was a vocal opponent of C-300, Liberal MP John McKay’s private members bill on mining responsibility http://canadians.org/blog/?p=2672.

The Council of Canadians is organizing a ‘Shout Out for Mining Justice’ this June 1-3 in Vancouver. More on that soon.