Canada-based mining company Barrick Gold has recently admitted to yet another incident involving the Veladero mine. This time, company representatives reported that yesterday a pipe transporting gold and rocks ruptured, spilling its content in the San Juan Province.
Although this registers at a lesser magnitude, this is the third incident the company has had in the last year and a half, and prompting environmental organizations to reiterate their requests to have the government — both at the national or provincial levels — to foreclose the mine, arguing the company is violating Argentina’s 2010 glacier protection law by operating on periglacial ground.
“There are no more excuses, we demand the Veladero be closed immediately. We are demanding the governments [provincial and nationals] do this, but we will also go to the courts to make it happen,” representative of “Jáchal No Se Toca” organization leader Enrique Viale told Infobae.
In September 2015, the company caused the largest environmental disaster in Argentine history, when it spilled over a million liters of cyanide solution in different rivers of the province that are close to the mine. A year later, Barrick had to suspend its operations in another one of its mines, called Pascual Lama, after admitting to a new spill of toxic water onto land within San Juan. As a result of this, it had to shut down a bi-national tunnel it set up to transport rocks from Chile to Argentina, also due to polluting “peri-glacial ground.”
Despite all of this, the company’s authorities continue to downplay the incidents. In an interview with a TV show from San Juan, the Veladero mine’s General Manager said that “the only important environmental accident, which was a spill, was the one from 2015 and it had no environmental consequences.”
“What happened last year, in contrast, was an extremely minor issue which was handled very poorly by the company,” he said.
The residents of the Jáchal district, located close to the mine, begged to differ. after the news of the second spill surfaced, thousands of people gathered in the city square to protest against the multinational mining company. After burning car tires and holding banners for an hour, they chased officials and attacked Mayor Mario Vega, who had to seek shelter in a police station.
Back then, San Juan Governor Sergio Uñac warned the company “what you’ve done already is more than enough.” From now on, their performance has to be flawless, and I’ve told them so,” he said. Only time will tell if this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.