Barrick Gold mining in Argentina. Photo via xla40

The “Jáchal No Se Toca” Assembly has recently presented the findings of an investigation commissioned by Canadian mining company Barrick Gold before Argentina’s Supreme Court. The study – the results of which were never made public by the San Juan Government – confirms the extent of the environmental damage inflicted within the Rio Taguas basin by the Pascua Lama mining project.

This is by no means the first time Barrick has found itself caught up in controversy, of course. Its Veladero mine in Argentina’s San Juan province was closed for almost a month last September following a cyanide spill – the second one to have taken place within a year.

Diego Seguí, the lawyer representing the assembly in their case against the Canadian multinational company, contended in court that the mining project, which straddles the border between Chile and Argentina, is still causing significant environmental damage.

His presentation also included the report commissioned by Barrick from consulting firm Knight Piésold, which substantiates claims that the venture has produced severe adverse effects for nature in the area.

The report focuses in particular on the acidification of water due to the presence of heavy metals, including copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. Knight Piésold’s ecological analysis of the vegetation located in the low-level land prone to flooding from the Las Taguas River, the main tributary of the Jáchal River, shows a “severe effect on the plants” and that this “substantially modifies the physicochemical conditions under which the vegetation grows.”

“They were causing harm without even having started activity,” the lawyer stated after analysing the firm’s report, adding that the San Juan province’s Ministry for Mining “never released the study.”

The lawyer asserted that this is now the second precautionary measure that the assembly has presented to a court – the first one was about three years ago. He reminded the judge that in Chile, “with much less evidence than what we have presented here, the same court, the neighbouring Supreme Court, suspended the project for having affected the glacier.”

Ricardo Vargas, a spokesperson for the “Jáchal No Se Toca” Assembly has explained to Página12 that water has been falling from a six-kilometre tunnel that links the Chilean and Argentine sides “at a rate of 79 liters per second since 2009.”

He continued in saying “the treated water leaves the soil orange and the mud that is produced as a result is declared to be hazardous waste by the province of San Juan. Lime is therefore added to the water to change the destructive pH level and, since 2009, they have spent fortunes on doing this. There are five million litres of extremely acidic water [being produced] each day and this has happened because they drilled into a periglacial area that is supposed to be protected by law.”

Regarding this most recent lawsuit against the Canadian mining company, Vargas said that “the process has been delayed for years,” and noted that the jury’s still out in a parallel case on the violation of the law concerning the glaciers.

Could this be the blow that finally does some damage to Barrick Gold or is it really as indestructible as it seems?

Ground breaking stuff, right?