control of water
The campesino communities of Ayavaca and Huancabamba in Peru's northern Piura region held assemblies Aug. 16 and issued a statement pledging to resist recently announced plans by Chinese mining company Zijin to move ahead with the long-contested Río Blanco copper project. The communities cited the need to protect threatened watersheds, wetlands and cloud forests in the high Andean region, noting that they have been officially listed as "fragile ecosystems" under Peruvian law. The local jalca ecosystem, which exists only in Peru's northern Andean regions near the border with Ecuador, is richer in water than the more arid high plains known as punas elsewhere in the country. Read the statement: "Ayavaca and Huancabamba are today more alert than ever and ready to commit our lives for the defense of water for future generations." (Megaproyectos, Aug. 16; CONDESAN)
A landmine believed to have been placed by FARC guerillas exploded Aug. 15, killing an indigenous man and two workers who were repairing an power pylon that had been knocked down last week in an attack also attributed to the guerrillas in a rural area of Tumaco municipality of southwest Colombia's Nariño department. The indigenous man was a member of the Awá people who had been hired as a guide by the Central Naraño Electric company. Tumaco, a city of some 170,000, has been without electricity for five days due to attacks on pylons. (EFE, Aug. 15) One week earlier, Embera and other indigenous peoples up the Pacific coast in Chocó reported that their communities had come under aerial bombardment by army helicopters in the Alto Andágueda area. A statement from the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Chocó (OREWA) said some 360 families, comprising about 1,500 people, were forced to flee the villages of La Palma, Masura, Unipa and Santa Isabel. No casualties were reported, but the statement said the displaced families were "constantly menaced" by forced of the national army, FARC and ELN guerillas. (OREWA, Aug. 6)
In a turn-around in the conflict over the proposed Conga gold mine in Cajamarca, Peru, right-wing fujimorista congressman from the region, Joaquín Ramírez Gamarra, has come out publicly for shelving the project in the interests of social peace. "The suspension of the Conga mining project is the best path to follow," he said. "It will permit us to not only calm the situation, but also to open spaces for dialogue." Breaking ranks with President Ollanta Humala, he added: "The state of emergency should be lifted; the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendín and Bambamarca cannot remain under a state of exception. This would say much about the proposal for an opening on the part of the Executive." (El Mercurio, Cajamarca, Aug. 14; RPP, Aug. 7)
A group of judges from Brazil's Regional Federal Tribunal (TRF1) suspended construction of the Belo Monte dam project on the Amazon's Xingu River Aug. 14, finding that indigenous people had not been properly consulted prior to approval of the project. The ruling upheld an earlier decision that declared the Brazilian Congress' authorization of the project in 2005 to be unconstitutional. The decision finds that the Brazilian constitution and ILO Convention 169, to which Brazil is party, require that Congress can only authorize the use of water resources for hydroelectric projects after an independent assessment of environmental impacts and subsequent consultations with affected indigenous peoples.
More than 500 residents in the campesino community of Tumpa in Yungay province of Peru's central Andean region of Áncash, began blocking roads leading to the local operations of the Mina California company Aug. 6, declaring an open-ended paro (civil strike) to demand a halt to the mine's pollution of local waters. The mine is located near Nevado Huascarán, Peru's highest mountain, and the national park of the same name, which forms the headwaters of several of Peru's major rivers. (Servindi, Aug. 6) That same day, Aymara indigenous residents of Acora community in Puno region announced that a 72-hour paro will begin Aug. 13, to protest President Ollanta Humala's plans to move ahead with the Pasto Grande II irrigation project. The Pasto Grande II project would divert waters from the Lake Titicaca basin for agribusiness tracts on the coast in Moquegua region. The strike, called by the South Puno Natural Resources Defense Front, will also protest contamination of local waters by mining and other extractive industries. (Pachamama Radio, Aug. 10; Los Andes via La Mula, Aug. 6)
More than 100 local residents were sickened by a spill of toxic copper concentrate at one of Peru's biggest mines Aug. 3. The Áncash regional health office said 140 people were treated for "irritative symptoms caused by the inhalation of toxins" after a pipeline carrying the concentrate under high pressure burst open in the village of Santa Rosa de Cajacay. Most of those affected had joined in efforts to prevent liquid copper slurry from reaching the nearby Río Fortaleza after the pipe linking the Antamina copper mine to the coast ruptured last week, said village mayor Hilario Morán. "Without taking into account the consequences, we pitched in to help," Morán told the Associated Press by phone. The people used absorbent fabric provided by the mine but were not given gloves or protective masks, admitted the mine's environmental director Antonio Mendoza. Shortly afterward, people became ill, vomiting, suffering headaches and nose bleeds.
Jamie Sokalsky, CEO of the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, announced on July 26 that major problems were delaying the opening of the company’s controversial Pascua Lama gold and silver mine, located in the Andes on both sides of the border between Argentina and Chile. The project will cost as much as $8 billion, he said, 60% more than previously projected, and gold won't be produced until mid-2014, a year later than expected. Barrick's stocks dropped quickly, although they recovered somewhat, ending the day down by about 4.32%. The mining giant’s shares have fallen by almost 33% since the beginning of the year.
On July 20 soldiers, police and supposed "pro-mining activists" broke up an encampment that environmentalists and area residents had set up at Cerro Negro in the northwestern Argentine province of Catamarca to protest open-pit mining. The environmentalists--who came from Córdoba, La Rioja, Santa Fe, San Juan and Buenos Aires as well as from Catamarca—had camped out at the intersection of national highways 40 and 60 since July 9 to block trucks heading to the massive Bajo de la Alumbrera gold and copper deposit near the border with Chile. The protesters let other traffic pass.