On January 25, 2006, 48 people were arrested when Chilean federal police (Carabineros) broke up the blockade that had been in place since the night of Monday, January 22, to prevent the passage of heavy trucks and mining machinery. After the arrests, the local community returned to re-take the intersection. According to the protesters, the peaceful occupation and blockade will be maintained indefinitely.
The blockade was mounted at the conclusion of the “Water Carnival” (“Llamado del Agua”) that was held in Conay, in the upper Huasco river valley, on January 20-22, and is blocking access to the Tránsito valley by half a dozen transnational mining companies with projects in the area, including the Barrick Gold (“Responsible Mining”) Pascua Lama project.
The communities of the upper Huasco Valley have become increasingly frustrated with the inability of the Chilean Environment Commission (CONAMA) to control exploration activities in the region following its approval of the Pascua Lama project and its failure to enforce a ruling preventing heavy mining equipment from using public roads that are not suitable for such heavy loads.