Barely a year after spilling over a million liters of cyanide solution in different rivers in the San Juan Province, Canadian-based company Barrick Gold today owned up to a new spill of the kind that took place last Thursday in one of its pipes located in the Veladero mine.
In a press release, the company noted that, according to “preliminary investigations,” the spill was caused by the impact of ice on a pipe, but clarifies that the solution “didn’t come into contact with water courses nor cause damage to the health of the workers, communities nor the environment.”
Despite the assurances, San Juan Governor Sergio Uñac immediately ordered all mine operations be paralyzed “until we have absolute peace of mind [that there’s no environmental damage or danger].” Moreover, he said that officials will travel to the mine, located 250 kilometers away from the provincial capital to evaluate the situation and inform the population about the details of the spill.
Harmful or not, residents of the Jáchal district, located close to the mine, had enough with the company’s screw-ups. After the news surfaced, thousands of people gathered in the city square to protest against the multinational. After burning car tires and holding banners for an hour, they chased officials to their homes and attacked Mayor Mario Vega, who had to seek shelter in a police station.
Jáchal citizen assembly’s twitter account, which has repeatedly called for the company to be shut down, noted that assembly members will set up camp outside the city hall until they are allowed to take part in the committees in charge of controlling the mine.
La asamblea Jáchal No Se Toca y pueblo jachallero en general EXIGE al Ministro de Minería de la Provincia:… https://t.co/G9OB5IzDkc
— Jáchal No Se Toca (@asambleaxjachal) September 15, 2016
Environmental organizations have been protesting Barrick’s presence in the region for years, arguing the mining company is violating Argentina’s 2010 glacier protection law by operating on periglacial ground — i.e. close to glaciers.
— Greenpeace MDQ (@greenpeacemdq) June 9, 2016
U.S. environmental expert Robert Moran presented an investigation to the Senate in April that agreed with the activists. “The Veladero mine is ciolating the glacier law: all local rivers [on which the cyanide-solution were spilled] are born where the mine is operating: periglacial environment,” Moran said.
“The largest problem during my investigation was getting real information, images about what really happened,” Moran added about the last year’s spill. Nine Barrick Gold executives were indicted in March this year due to the spill.
In a press release issued in April, Barrick gold acknowledged it had “disappointed the people of San Juan,” and committed to work with the greatest care to “recover social approval.” Well, it seems like they just took a couple of steps back on that front.