Up to 3,000 Dominicans marched in Cotuí in the central province of Sánchez Ramírez on Apr. 3 to protest against the Pueblo Viejo gold mine, which is operated by the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. Many of the protesters were local, but several dozen youths had walked the 105 kilometers from Santo Domingo, starting on March 31. An encampment was set up in Cotuí by the same young activists that successfully demonstrated last year for a suspension of construction of the Consorcio Minero Dominicano’s cement factory near Los Haitises National Park.
The protests against Barrick targeted what the organizers said were irregularities in the government’s contract with the company, which owns 60% of the mine–the Vancouver-based multinational Goldcorp Inc. owns the other 40%. The protesters also accused Barrick of damaging the environment and archeological sites.
Rice farmers joined the protest because of pollution issues; Mauricio María, president of the National Rice Producers Federation, said the rice farmers of the northeast would disappear if Barrick and the government couldn’t control pollution of the water going into the Hatillo dam near Cotuí, a source of water for rice farms. Juan Rodríguez Acosta, director of the Museum of the Dominican Man, has charged that Barrick Gold is dynamiting mountains whose caves contain traces of the indigenous Taino culture.
Adding to the bad publicity for Barrick, 326 workers from the mine’s night shift had to be hospitalized on March 15 for food poisoning—nearly 10% of the operation’s 3,500 employees. Barrick said the problem was bacterial and blamed it on the company that contracts to supply food at the mine, but the Academy of Sciences and the Autonomous University said the cause was a toxic agent of chemical origin. (El Nuevo Diario, Dominican Republic, April 3; El Nacional, DR, April 3; La Raza, Chicago, April 3 from El Diario-La Prensa correspondent; Primicias, DR, April 4; Winnipeg Free Press, March 15 from AP)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 4.