In July, 2019, a representative of the organization Putaendo Resiste met with MiningWatch Canada's staff to present them with an "Open Letter to the People of Canada: Canadian Los Andes Copper Ltd. Destroys, Kills, Exterminates, Lies and Bribes in Putaendo, Chile."
The project, Los Vizcachitas, is owned by Los Andes Copper (TSX: LA), a Canadian company headquartered in Vancouver. The concessiones are within the Comuna Putaendo and has been controversial since community members became aware of the company's ongoing activities. According to Carmen Perez, a member of the Putaendo Resiste organization, "There was never any communication or knowledge that the company was working there initially until one day we noticed the roads and the buildings...they never asked - people in the region were shocked."
Putaendo is a commune of agriculturalists and livestock producers - products like necatrines, grapes, nuts, avocados as well as milk production, are abundant.
The mountain where the mineralization occurs is a rock glacier, and, as such, the local water springs depend on its integrity. Rock glaciers in Chile are also very important for containing desertification. Communities are concerned that, due to the limited quantities of rain the region receives on average, any disruption may negatively affect their abilitiy to access water. They already note that their people living close to where exploration activities have been occurring have noticed a difference in the water quality, and, the open-letter denounces that "field research done by environmental organizations have shown increasing levels of heavy metals produced by mining activities which bring a major problem to the people, farm animals and agricultural activities in the area."
Putaendo Resiste's slogan "Without water there is no valley" is a clear reflection on the risks that this project poses to all the downstream communities.
The organization has won many significant battles, and they note a need to celebrate significant wins against the company since 2015. Some of the successes they highlight are:
- "The complaints we filed in 2016 have prevented Andes Copper to continue operating and exploring since 2017, and, to date we are making them spend millions of pesos in lawyers and consultants."
- "The environmental consciouness and knowledge of our peoples has grown, as well as our love for our land and heritage."
- "Many youth, adults, workers, professionals, women and artists have joined the resistance and contribute their love for life."
An important and significant win came in March 2019, when the Supreme Court ordered that the company's camp be dismantled and that they pay a fine, since it was determined to have been constructed illegally without the propre licences. The camp has yet to be demolished. This represents a continued threat to communities in peaceful resistance to Los Vizcachitas. The company did not report on this decision.
Despite the ongoing resistance from the communal and municipal level, constant protests, and community efforts to inform the government of the grave risk to glaciers and their water sources that the project poses, the Declaration of Environmental Impact was approved in April, 2019. Puteando Resiste notes that they are not surprised by the decision, but that the battle is not over: "it does not mean that they are authorized to construct or operate a mine...we are atentive, organized, and mobilized."
The letter urges the Canadian public to denouce Los Andes Copper and help the organization in their efforts to ensure the company cease its operations.
You can find the letter that we received attached in Spanish and English translation.
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