Dominican Republic: residents protest new Barrick Gold mine

Residents of the area around the city of Cotuí, the capital of the Dominican Republic’s central province of Sánchez Ramírez, held a protest against the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation on Aug. 8, charging that the company’s giant Pueblo Viejo gold mine was contaminating drinking water and affecting residents’ health and their crops. The residents also complained that the company’s trucks had been causing accidents. Pueblo Viejo, constructed on the site of a state-owned mine shut down in 1999, is scheduled to open this month. Barrick Gold is the largest open-pit gold mining company in the world; it maintains 27 mines, in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Tanzania and the US. (Adital, Brazil, Aug. 8, from TeleSUR; Prensa Latina, Aug. 8)

The company has had two setbacks recently at its massive Pascua Lama mine in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile: dramatic cost overruns and an adverse decision from Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice. Former Barrick CEO Aaron Regent was fired at the beginning of July; his replacement, Jamie Sokalsky, is the company’s third CEO in less than four years.
Barrick’s problems are not unique. The gold mining industry has been expanding rapidly as the price of gold jumped to five times what it was 11 years ago—and protests about environmental damage have increased in parallel with the increase in mining. But gold’s price has only gone up 3.1% so far this year, and the New York Stock Exchange’s index of 16 gold-mining companies has fallen 17%, suggesting that the period of rapid expansion may be over. (BusinessWeek, July 27; Bloomberg News, Aug. 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 12.