Ever since its last spill of cyanide solution in several rivers in San Juan province, both the federal and San Juan administrations vowed to double down on Canada-based company Barrick Gold to avoid another environmental disaster of the kind from happening again.
But while the San Juan government has taken concrete measures to move forward along those lines — it suspended the company’s activities and a judge ordered it to take extraordinary measures before it would be allowed reopen — it would seem like the federal government, despite having pressed criminal charges against Barrick, is not only failing at keeping up the pace with its provincial counterpart, but doesn’t seem very eager to move forward at all.
- Read more: Silver Lining: Barrick Admits Cyanide-Solution Spill Was ‘Serious’ But ‘Much Better’ Than Last Year’s
The evidence is in the numbers. The special committee in the Lower House in charge of overseeing mining activity has failed to reach quorum three times in a row to discuss the spill. To be fair, it’s perfectly normal for a congressional session to collapse due to a lack of lawmakers present. It happens more than often in special committees and sessions in both chambers in Congress.
In this case though, it seems particularly noteworthy because it appears that different party caucuses within the committee essentially took turns to not attend the session, notes La Política Online. Moreover, the caucuses that did show up could have reached quorum with their own lawmakers, but also failed to get them all together in one room at the same time. In the last attempt to hold the session, which took place on September 28, Victory Front (FpV) lawmakers were the ones who didn’t attend the session, although the representatives from the Renewal Front (FR) and the Justicialist Caucus (PJ) were nowhere to be found either.
“It’s unfortunate that many lawmakers weren’t present to discuss an issue as sensitive as this one, because people deserve immediate answers,” committee president, Cambiemos lawmaker Eduardo Cáceres said after the last failed session.
Cáceres conveniently failed to mention, however, that Cambiemos could have obtained the necessary quorum if only one of its four lawmakers from the committee who didn’t show up would have done so.
Moreover, representatives from other caucuses told La Política Online that last week Cáceres suspended a meeting on Tuesday that was set to discuss summoning Environment Minister Sergio Bergman to talk about the spill.
On the other end of the spectrum, San Juan Judge Pablo Ortija is taking more extreme measures to try to ensure Barrick takes all necessary safety measures to prevent another spill. Even though the company said it had carried out the additional requirements ordered by the judiciary, Ortija said the company still has to tighten some screws before it can operate again. The most important are:
- Reinforce pipes transporting the cyanide solution.
- Constant monitoring of the lixiviation valley: where the cyanide solution is sent to separate the gold from other elements.
- Clean the snow close to the pipes (the spill happened because a block of ice hit one of the pipes).