Barrick Gold disgraces Canada in Chile, too

Part II of a program I posted here yesterday.

This episode takes us to the Atacama Desert of Chile, the driest place on Earth, and the nearby Valle del Huasco, a small strip of green farmland in an arid region. We meet a local priest, who calls citizens to protest against Barrick via his radio show. He can see from the belfry of his church the damage the Pascua-Lama project has already done, and he can foresee what it’s going to do in future. It doesn’t take a geologist; just living there, watching the damage grow from day to day, is enough.

The Pascua-Lama project, on the Argentina-Chile border, is three times as big as the Veladero one in Argentina. It will affect three glaciers–Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza. Barrick Gold proposes to move these glaciers to the Guanaco Glacier, but this is bullshit, as the second segment shows:

Since when can glaciers be moved by dump trucks? And does anyone take them seriously when water is so important to the extraction of gold? Those glaciers aren’t going to be moved, they’re going to be stripped.

A sensitive environment like the Andes cannot bear human meddling on such a scale. Five rivers originate from the glaciers in question, and people downstream depend on them for the crops that sustain their lives. Even in such an arid part of the Chilean Andes, there are people who farm for a living, and who don’t want Barrick in their backyard–not only for the unsightliness of its open pits, but for the depletion of the glaciers that provide water for their crops, and for the poisoning of whatever water is left–again, with cyanide.

Barrick doesn’t much care about this; they present themselves as “socially responsible”, but their actions speak louder. They have no problem making a mockery of local indigenous people in the name of public relations. Even more disturbing, they don’t have the environmental permits they are required to have by the government. I guess, if you can get the president of Argentina to veto a protective law passed unanimously by both houses of parliament, little things like permits, along with borders, don’t matter anymore.

And neither do little things like local people.

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