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Urgent Action: Campaign against Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama mining project and the “moving” of two glaciers.

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

Support the people of the Huasco Valley in northern Chile by sending e-mails (see text below) to:

The President of Chile opinion(at)presidencia.cl
The Chilean Parliament and Senate: presenst(at)senado.cl, presicam(at)congreso.cl

This campaign will end January 6, 2005.

In Northern Chile: Glaciers to be "moved" to allow gold mining

After a visit by Chilean congressmen Horwath and Prokurica to the location where Barrick Gold is planning to exploit a gold and silver deposit, both members of parliament endorsed the “transfer” of Andean glaciers to give way to the mining operation that will be located on the very site where the rivers that bathe the fertile Huasco Valley are born. Among other substances, the company will use large quantities of cyanide, which will be transported through serpentine roads to the high mountain, along the rivers that make agriculture possible in that northern and otherwise dry region.

The communities of the Huasco Valley are aware that mining produces serious pollution and frequent accidents. This is the reason for their opposition to the sacrifice of a fertile agricultural valley and their refusal to accept the nightmare lurking behind the gold and silver mining venture. The glaciers are a valuable patrimony of the valley and they sustain the ecosystem of the high mountain and of the whole valley – reason enough for the communities to consider those glaciers untouchable.

OLCA (Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales), Santiago, Chile, December 2004

Open letter from the communities of the Huasco Valley to the President of Chile, His Excellency Ricardo Lagos Escobar, to the members of the Congress and to the regional and national authorities

We are the inhabitants of the Huasco Valley, Third Region of Chile, from different political, religious, cultural and ethnical origins, who have been affected by the mining activities in the high Andes Mountains.

We consider that the risks involved in these mining activities threaten the economical, social, cultural and environmental sustainability of the valley, to the quality of life of its inhabitants and to their traditional activities.

The threats to the ecosystem, to the life and the plans of the present and future communities of the valley, lead us to reject with determination any mining activity that has been proven to be non compatible with agriculture, the health of the people, the water quality and the conservation of the ecosystems in the middle and the long term.

We live in an agricultural valley that has proved to be viable, economically profitable and with a promising future for the population. We will defend this sustainability against the aggressive activities that threaten the valley and its people.

Mr. President, we state once again, after you made a commitment with us, that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we cultivate have more value than the gold coveted by the multinationals Barrick Gold, Noranda and the others that will come behind them, in he hope of increasing their wealth in this Chilean mining paradise.

We will never rest until the safety of the valley and its people is ensured and we will fight for it. The people chose you to protect the interests of all the inhabitants of Chile, not for the benefit of the multinational mining companies. Mr. President, our interest is to protect the valley, please respect it, promote it, and safeguard it.

Do not forget that the state has invested in irrigation projects (Santa Juana dam, for which, by the way, we farmers have to pay), in training programs and in technology for the agricultural sector (INDAP [the National Agricultural Development Institute], INIA [the National Agricultural Research Institute], and the Irrigation Act). All this has brought prosperity, jobs and hope to the people. We pay our taxes and we contribute to the growth of the country. Do not destroy what has been done so far and please take steps to foster our development.

Mining at the headwaters of the river basins will pollute our water and will destroy our invaluable glaciers, while the mining agreement with Argentina tries to tie our hands. We will no longer be able to export our products, and trade agreements will be of no use for us.

Chile is trying to elevate its name in the international community but the destruction of our valley will do the opposite. We and all our future generations need you, Mr. President, as well as all the elected officials, to assume your mandates with ethics and responsibility.

We will remain alert and ready for action, exercising our rights to democracy and participation. We will not allow our lives and our valley to suffer the consequences of bad political practices and the abuse of mining companies willing to increase their profits at any price, even at the expense of our ecosystems and our people.

Signed:
Comunidades del Valle del Huasco
Asociaciones de Agricultores
Comunidades Cristianas de Base
Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales
Asociaciones de Regantes

Alto del Carmen, November 28, 2004