Rejection of open pit mining

Rejection of open pit mining

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By Darío Aranda

A survey by the consulting firm Aresco shows a majority opposition to mega-mining. Among the major criticisms stands out the enormous consumption of water, always in semi-desert areas, which becomes contaminated and becomes irretrievable.

Seven out of ten people reject open-pit mining in the provinces with this activity. This is the figure that emerges from the first survey on extractive activity and confirms the negative generated by large-scale mining in the country. Carried out by the consulting firm Aresco, the study covers six Andean provinces and indicates that only 17 percent were in favor of the activity. With the framework of the approval of the glacier protection law and the sustained mobilization of the Union of Citizen Assemblies (UAC) - a hundred organizations throughout the country -, the research affirms that there is a high conviction about the pollution it produces the activity reveals that the respondents mostly prioritize the care of the environment over the possibility of employment and a broad rejection of the tax benefits of the activity is explicit. Argentina plans the installation of fifteen projects in the short term and publicizes the existence of 400 projects under exploration.

On March 23, 2003, there was a break in the progress of the mining companies and also in the actions of the communities to decide their form of development. In the Chubut city of Esquel, a plebiscite was held where 81 percent voted "no to the mine," which stopped the installation of a gold and silver venture. No other provincial government allowed voting on mining activity. And no company agreed to submit its possible installation to the opinion of the population. Statistical data on the rejection, or acceptance, of large-scale mining activity were never known.

"Study on open pit mining in mining provinces" is the name of the survey carried out last September by the Aresco consulting firm, under the direction of sociologist Julio Aurelio. With a sample of 802 cases, it covered the provinces of Catamarca, La Rioja, San Juan, Neuquén, Chubut and Santa Cruz. Aresco's work highlights that the entire territory of the provinces was covered and not only the areas directly linked to mining exploitation.

Asked about the possible "agreement with open pit mining production at the national level", 76.6 percent said they were "little / not at all in agreement" and only 17.4 percent were in favor. When the consultation is carried out on the activity at the provincial level, 31.3 percent opted for the “no agreement” and 30.1 percent “little agreement”. The provincial rejection thus reaches 61.5 percent. 12.9 percent agreed "strongly" and 14.8 "strongly agreed."

"A large part of the population of the six provinces, given the impact on the environment, does not agree with the development of open-pit mining and with the tax benefits granted to companies", is one of the conclusions of the study . 33.2 percent said they "not at all agree" with the tax advantages of mining, and 33.8 percent opted for the "little agreement." In this way, seven out of ten people questioned the current legislation that promotes the activity.

Since the 1990s, the country has governed a package of laws on large-scale mining, including laws 24,196 (on Mining Investments) and 24,228 (Federal Mining Agreement). National legislation prohibits the State itself (national, provincial and municipal) from exploiting any deposit alone. In contrast, large international companies enjoy fiscal and exchange stability for thirty years, have a limit of only three percent on royalties in the provinces (it is calculated based on the value of the mine head, under a simple affidavit of the own company and without state control), have exemption from the import duty for equipment and machinery, VAT refund on exploration and exemption from income taxes.

Since 2007 the mining activity has withholdings on exports. Five percent for processed minerals and ten percent for concentrates. "Mining companies tend to publicize the enormous figures on exports, but in truth these figures mean little for the macroeconomy of Argentina because companies do not have the obligation to settle foreign currency in the country," summarized Horacio Machado Aráoz, researcher at the Political Ecology Group of Clacso (Latin American Council of Social Sciences).

The Aresco survey raises a section on mining and the environment: 52.7 percent affirmed that the activity of companies "causes a significant impact on the environment", while 13.3 percent maintain that "it does not cause any impact" . The consultant introduced a dilemma between jobs and environment and asked what should prevail. 72.5 percent stated that caring for the environment should take priority.

Official data from the National Mining Secretariat indicate that the number of mining projects grew by 900 percent between 2003 and 2010. In that period, eight large projects were launched and the installation of the Pascua Lama mega-enterprise, operated by the Barrick company, began. Gold. The Secretariat affirms that in the coming years another fifteen "mining projects of international magnitude" will be built.

At the last Fair of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the largest business meeting in world mining, the Secretary of Mining, Jorge Mayoral, announced that Argentina "will be one of the main mining producers in the world" and He specified that the country went from having twelve mining projects "to more than 400" under exploration.

“We come for the ninth consecutive year to tell the world investment community that Argentina is the new mining frontier that the world has to expand and develop. We are happy to be able to carry it out, "Mayoral said before an audience of foreign businessmen and predicted that, by 2020, the country aims to be" the great mining player in the world "in terms of copper, gold, silver and lithium, among other minerals.

Asked about the absence of surveys on acceptance or rejection of mining, Federico Aurelio, director of Aresco consultancy, contributed hypotheses: “It is very strange that, given the controversy generated by mining and the economic importance of the sector, studies are not carried out newspapers on the opinion of the population should even be mandatory. I believe that it is also possible that these studies exist, but they contain information that should not be disclosed ”.

Aurelio explained that his consultant carried out the study at a request from the television program Bajada de línea (by Víctor Hugo Morales), stressed that a subsequent survey should expand the sample in each province to be able to make detailed readings of each city and affirmed that the study “ it is indicative of a floor in terms of the rejection generated by mining ”.

Mining companies use, internationally and locally, two words as synonyms for good business practices: “social license”. This is what mining companies call the support that communities give to companies in their mineral exploration stage. It is during this period that they communicate their promises to the community and practice seduction strategies towards the surrounding populations, often through donations to schools and hospitals.

It is the rule of the international and local mining sector to promise that they will advance in construction and extraction if they obtain the social license of the community. The president of the Argentine Chamber of Mining Entrepreneurs (CAEM), Manuel Benítez, participated last April in Expomin 2010, the sector fair held in Chile and attended by all large companies. In his speech, he celebrated the momentum of mining in Argentina, the advancement of companies in search of lithium and uranium, and recalled that the social license is "essential for mining development."

The Citizen Assemblies (UAC) reject mega-mining due to the social, economic and environmental consequences. The UACs agree, unanimously, in not granting the social license to mining companies. The survey by the consulting firm Aresco also questions the alleged social license of mining companies and, for the first time, contributes quantitative elements to one of the historic slogans of the Assemblies: “Water is worth more than gold. No to the mine "

A continental mobilization

The indigenous peoples of twelve countries called for a continental mobilization on June 21, 2011 in defense of life and the full exercise of their rights in the face of the impact of mining. Around a hundred indigenous leaders from Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru and South Africa also agreed to establish a continental platform to fight against extractive policies, to which they oppose causing pollution in the territory they occupy. The final declaration of the Forum of Indigenous Peoples "Mining, Climate Change and Good Living", held from November 18 to 20 in Lima, reiterated its emphatic refusal against transnational mining and demanded the immediate repeal of the mining titles and concessions "unconsulted ”. Indigenous peoples demand from United Nations agencies that natural assets be declared the patrimony of the indigenous peoples who host them.

The Andagalá case: Neither vote nor surveys

The department of Andalgalá, northwest of Catamarca, was one of the first regions in the country to learn about large-scale metalliferous mining. In 1994 the installation of Bajo la Alumbrera began there, a mega-exploitation of copper and gold that arrived with promises of work, well-being and local development. Shortly after operating, the population began to denounce the breach of the promise and cases of contamination. Faced with the approval of a new project, and the massive mobilization of the population, private pollsters toured the city, but the results were never released. Last June, the newspaper El Ancasti leaked the result of the survey: seven out of ten inhabitants reject mining. The mayor, José Perea, in tune with the provincial government and the companies, managed to suspend a binding plebiscite where the population would express their opinion on large-scale mining.

The government of Catamarca approved in 2009 the start of the Agua Rica copper, molybdenum and gold project. It is advertised as three times bigger than Alumbrera, it is located only 17 kilometers from the city of Andalgalá, where the rivers that feed the population with water are born. Last December the neighbors cut off the community road that leads to the place where Agua Rica is built. There, the El Algarrobo Assembly was born, which was harshly repressed on February 15 by the provincial police.

The repression was followed by a massive mobilization in the center of Andalgalá and the temporary suspension of the project. On March 11, the Deliberative Council approved the holding of a binding referendum for the population to decide whether to accept the installation of Agua Rica. The municipal government appealed to the Judiciary because it considered it “unconstitutional” for the population to express itself democratically. The plebiscite was suspended in court. Yamana Gold is the Canadian company in charge of Agua Rica. He had rejected before this newspaper the possibility of a vote in Andalgalá, he considered it "unconstitutional".

The Neighbors for Life Assembly replied: “The people of Andalgalá have already voted in the demonstrations and rallies in the square. The people have already said no to mining ”.

Weeks before the plebiscite was suspended, the residents of Andalgalá were surprised by pollsters who came to rural homes and also in the main square of the town. When they asked who the study was for, they always got the same answer: "A consultant." The final data was never made public, until on June 17, the newspaper El Ancasti, of recognized support for mining activity, published an editorial where it leaked the negative figures for mining: “According to a survey recently conducted by a prestigious national consulting firm , in Andalgalá, seven out of ten citizens are against mining operations (...) The resistance to mining, palpable throughout the provincial territory, is more intense in the western departments, where the largest deposits are located (... ) it is clear that it is not possible to develop mining without social consensus ”. The statistic was not denied by the government or by the companies. The editorial, signed by the newspaper's owner (Silvestre Zitelli), urged Governor Eduardo Brizuela del Moral to take urgent measures to reverse the situation.

Dario Aranda, Page 12, Argentina.

Video: My open pit Mine - Minecraft (July 2022).


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