The controversy around Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama project in Chile has gone global. Thanks to a chain letter that has “gone feral” on the Internet, literally millions of people around the world have learned about this ill-conceived mine that will endanger entire watersheds on both sides of the Andes.
The chain letter itself has some inaccuracies and exaggerations, and like all chain letters will have no impact on its own - no decision-maker will take letters or petitions seriously unless the signatures can be verified. However, people soon discovered that the case is real, and the opposition to this project in Chile and Argentina is also very real. The chain letter quickly made it into the Snopes Urban Legends Reference Pages among others, and Barrick felt compelled to post a web page responding to “misleading and inaccurate statements” with some of its own, for example stressing that 95% of the ore is NOT underneath a glacier, and neatly avoiding having to acknowledge that the company will pay no tariffs or royalties on the project and is not required to post any form of closure bond - or even file a closure plan!
Unfortunately it’s too late for the public to intervene in this case; the CONAMA decision (see our web site) is being challenged in the courts and the validity of the Additional Specific Protocol to the Treaty of Mining Integration between Argentina and Chile is being challenged following Barrick’s loss of two of the Pascua Lama mining leases (see our web site for details).
Meanwhile, it seems Barrick will have to renegotiate its controversial $60 million deal with the Huasco Water Users Cooperative after the agreement was declared invalid by the General Directorate of Waters of the Public Works Ministry because it had been signed by the Cooperative executive and not brought to a vote by the membership. As far as we can determine, the Cooperative received no money from Barrick, although the protocol certainly served Barrick’s purposes as one of the most important groups affected by the mine did not participate in the environmental assessment.