Citizens' Tribunal to Pass Judgment on Barrick Gold

Santiago, Chile: Social organizations, public personalities, and environmental defence groups will make a "judgment" of the transnational company Barrick Gold Corp., "to demonstrate how the operations and penetration of that corporation in Chilean territory take place through the systematic violation of human rights, labour rights, and the environment."

Barrick is developing the Pascua Lama mining project, which seeks to exploit gold and silver deposits in the Third Region. According to the organizations of the Huasco Valley and environmentalists, the project puts at risk three natural glaciers and th natural resources of the region. They also fear possible negative effects for the area's indigenous communities (Diaguitas) and farming sector.

The "citizens' tribunal" will be part of the Chilean Social Forum that will take place on November 25-26, 2006, and will have a panel of representative judges of environmental and civil society groups that will determine responsibilities and emit a verdict on the corporation's activities. The tribunal is being organized by a coalition of environmental organizations, led by the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts.

Called "Tribunal on Transnational Mining: The Case of Barrick Gold Corporation in Latin America (Chile, Peru and Argentina)", the process will consist of a plaintiff who will present testimony to support the accusations against the company, and Barrick personnel who will be invited to present their defence; if they reject this option, say the organizers, a representative for the defence will be appointed by the court.

The tribunal is modelled on the so-called "Russell Tribunal" that investigated crimes in Vietnam in the 1970s, and later, in a second version, the violation of human rights in Latin America.

Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA)(Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts) - Chile