From Socialist Voice, March 2010


Resistance to exploitative mining in Argentina

Throughout the developing world, mining companies have long been associated with exploitation, corruption, violence, environmental devastation, human rights abuses, and impunity.
     Socialist Voice has regularly reported on the violence and intimidation being used by largely Canadian mining companies in such countries as El Salvador, Bolivia and Guatemala in the past. In the last year a new confrontation has begun, between Agua Rich, another Canadian mining company, and residents in northern Argentina.
     Despite the usual bully-boy tactics being used by the mining company, local movements are rising up to resist and to create another front in the opposition to exploitative mining in Latin America.
     It should be mentioned that Agua Rich is a subsidiary of Yamana Gold, a major Canadian gold producer with a notorious record in refusing to comply with environmental laws.
     In the town of Andalgalá in the province of Catamarca in northern Argentina the new mine has been opened. It is perched high in the Andes mountains in an area associated with great natural beauty. The River Andalgalá flows through the area, creating conditions that fill the area with olive groves and peach orchards, as well as mineral deposits. The actions of this transnational mining company now threaten the environmental balance.
     If gold is discovered, as expected, and the open-pit mining site goes ahead, the entire population of twenty thousand in the area will be displaced and will have their livelihood destroyed.
     A mine already in operation in the area, though only a third the size of the proposed new mine, is responsible for using up to 1 billion litres of water a day. This is seriously depleting the water supplies in the region, as well as causing pollution and health problems.
     What has followed is a popular uprising of local residents, with a simple but strong message: “No to this mine.” However, the popular resistance has been met with police repression. The police have operated in a fashion tantamount to being private security for Agua Rich.
     At one protest more than sixty people were injured and almost fifty arrested when the police used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters, who included many women and children. Indeed the local mayor has gone as far as to say that “if it is necessary we would kill the people maintaining the blockade against Agua Rich.”
     Mining companies in Argentina have to pay only 3 per cent in royalties on minerals extracted from the country. There are no laws to stop the pollution of the environment with chemicals such as cyanide, which is widely used by mining companies.
     The popular uprising against Agua Rich has forced the courts to issue an order to stop the mining temporarily. However, it is almost certain that this is just a temporary measure to allow the mining company and its stooges in the police and government to regroup in order to force their plans through.
     Community groups are continuing to organise and will meet with fierce resistance all attempts by Agua Rich to exploit their area.

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