ALERT: Water More Precious than Gold, Stop Chile's Pascua Lama Gold Mine
Canadian-based Barrick Gold plans to soon launch a gold mine in a remote Chilean valley that will destroy regional water supplies and devastate local sustainable agricultural practices. The Pascua Lama mining project is 80 miles south-west of the Chilean city of Vallena, and involves mining a very rich field of gold and silver in the high mountains between Chile and Argentina at an altitude of over 4,500 metres. The proposed "Pascua Lama" mine will devastate community water rights and indigenous farmers - leading to the destruction of glaciers and contamination of the purest of water sources necessary for Chile's well-being.
As is typical for gold mining, the project will use cyanide and other toxic materials to extract small amounts of gold from huge volumes of mined ore. Toxic chemical waste including cyanide will be removed via drainage into nearby rivers, seriously polluting marvelously pure glacial fed rivers, and causing long-term environmental impacts for local peoples. In a first, glaciers abutting and partially covering the proposed mine will be destroyed, posing a threat to the ecosystem and further contaminating the source of local water supplies, seriously harming agriculture and quality of life in the region.
Recently Barrick Gold won approval from the Chilean government to proceed with the $1.5 billion project, though continued protests and litigation are expected. Based in Canada, the Barrick Gold Corporation is the world's largest gold mining operation, comprising 22 mines on four continents. Former U.S. president George H. W. Bush joined the company's advisory council in 1995. Barrick Gold wants to commence building on September 2006 with extraction operations beginning in 2009. The company will contribute little to the local economy, making substantial profits at great expense to the ecological sustainability of those living near the mine and depending upon local water sources that will be devastated by toxic poisons.
A dedicated group of local campaigners have fought against the proposal for a decade and despite recent approval by the Chilean National Environment Commission (CONAMA) intend to file further lawsuits, as well as pursuing existing lawsuits filed by indigenous rights groups who contest Barrick's ownership of the property. A chain email campaign of unknown origin brought the situation to the attention of a much larger international audience. It is hoped the matter will be examined by the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
With rising gold prices and most major mines exhausted in over-developed countries, there has been a surge in major mining operations in the developing world. Such cash poor but resource rich countries have less strict environmental standards and are rarely able to negotiate favorable deals that equitably contribute to national development without severe environmental costs - i.e. the Pascua Lama mine will operate on a tax-free basis. It is time to confront once and for all the global mining industry which wastefully produces mostly unnecessary consumer products at great expense to the biosphere and local ecologically sustainable development potential.
Lack of global access to freshwater is the biggest immediate environmental threat to hundreds of millions of people. Global warming and deforestation are worsening this water crisis. Water is more precious than gold, and its accessibility must be a global human right that surpasses all other considerations. There can be no further destruction of natural water systems upon which humanity is utterly dependent upon for life. Let's draw the line at Pascua Lama.