Canada-based mining company Barrick Gold recently admitted to spilling toxic substances that polluted the environment in San Juan Province. Ever since it first spilled over a million liters of cyanide solution in different rivers in the province close to its Veladero Mine — one of its ventures — in 2015, the company has been embroiled in numerous scandals happening close in time to one another, leading many to associate the company’s name as almost being synonymous with pollution.
The latest episode began last week, when the “Jáchal No Se Toca” assembly presented an investigation before the Supreme Court revealing extensive environmental damage caused by one the company’s projects, called Lama. Today, Barrick Gold admitted to a new spill of toxic water onto San Juan soil and announced it will shut down a bi-national tunnel it set up to transport rocks from Chile to Argentina, due to polluting so called “periglacial ground” — i.e land close to glaciers — violating Argentina’s 2010 glacier protection law.
According to Infobae, Lama is part of a larger project called Pascua Lama: a bi-national mine which, however, was brought to a halt by the Chilean judiciary after it was proven that mining dust was making it to nearby glaciers.
“Barrick gold set up the aforementioned tunnel there, but even before it started working, its walls started leaking water with extremely high levels of toxic substances, an event that caused a serious amount of environmental damage. The pollution was incredibly denied by the [San Juan] province’s Direction of Environmental Mining Evaluation,” the outlet reports.
However, and as same as it has happened on prior occasion, Barrick downplayed the spill’s consequences and issued a release saying “it’s entirely false” there was environmental damage. But at the same time, in another release in which informed the public that there was “an event in Lama,” the company announced that “during the following weeks it will begin work to seal the tunnel, something that will take approximately four months.”
Moreover, it said that the totality of the water it used to transport mining byproducts is not reaching the tunnel as “to not exceed its capacity.” In other words, that the toxic water is going to the environment. The release, however, also claims that this water that ended up seeping into San Juan’s soil “didn’t have any consequence for the environment of the company workers’ health.” The pictures of the cyanide spill which the company claimed didn’t pollute either surely beg to differ.
The “Jáchal no se toca”— Jáchal is the closest town to Barrick’s mining ventures — took to Twitter to reiterate its request to have the company kicked out of the province’s land.
¿Cuantos derrames tenemos que esperar para echar a Barrick Gold?
En este caso, fue en el proyecto Lama, del cual… https://t.co/NCBfqUxuoz
— Jáchal No Se Toca (@asambleaxjachal) January 13, 2017
“How many spills do we have to endure to kick out Barrick Gold? In this case, it was in the Lama project,” reads the tweet.
Following the last spill in the Veladero mine, 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 to their homes and attacked Mayor Mario Vega, who had to seek shelter in a police station.
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.