The closing of Pascua Lama could last until 2020 due to doubts in optimizing the project
The National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) approved the suspension for the two years requested, but made it clear that it is likely to be extended based on what the law on site closure allows, that is, three more years.
In a 16-page resolution, it noted that given the uncertainty of the time it will take to carry out the Pascua-Lama optimization plan, the suspension of the initiative until 2020 is not an unlikely scenario. Of course, if you request an additional period of temporary closure, the firm will have to have an additional amount of guarantee equivalent to 30% of the total amount.
“Compañía Minera Nevada SpA has requested a period of two years (…) for the partial temporary closure of the mining site, however, and because there is no certainty of the date on which Compañía Minera Nevada SpA will complete the optimization study of the Pascua-Lama project, it could request an extension ”, says the Sernageomin resolution.
In the first instance, the reactivation of the project should be on September 29, 2017, but, in addition to the time it will take for the environmental authority to review the changes to the initiative, there are doubts about the price of gold.
“This condition is aggravated by the costs associated with the activities that are currently being carried out in Pascua-Lama. Added to the above is the fact that in the last two years the metals market has suffered a downward trend that has been reflected in a significant decrease in its prices, with the consequent impact on the economic indicators of the project, everything which has generated the need to design and develop a process to optimize it in all its aspects, ”Barrick said in the letter requesting the stoppage.
"The project is in a condition of uncertainty as to when it will be able to restart its activities," they add. It also informs that the infrastructure for the plants and operations are just over 40% complete, while the prestripping of the mine - which marks the operating capacity - does not exceed 15%.
Declaration of the Valle del Huasco Communities after the closure of Pascua Lama Assembly Guasco Alto Comunicaciones
After receiving the Resolution of the Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) of the 2 sanctioning processes against Barrick Gold with its Pascua Lama project, as communities of the Huasco Valley that have been resisting said project for more than 18 years, we say to public opinion:
1. We celebrate this great victory, which is the result of the tireless and constant resistance that we have led as a community since we learned of the installation of this project at the source of our waters and on our glaciers. It is the result of our supervisory role to the company, a role that we assumed before a State that abandoned us when it approved this unviable project and that later remained silent after the first tests of contamination and irreparable damage in our valley.
2. This Resolution corroborates what we said from the beginning: this project is unfeasible and would contaminate us. Today no one can say that Barrick Gold and its Pascua Lama project exercise responsible mining, but rather that they are criminals, this has been evident in the more than 33 infractions that were analyzed in these sanctioning processes, of which six have been verified as very serious, even determining the existence of two very serious irreparable environmental damages: affectation of high Andean plains, (fragile ecosystems, kidneys of our mountain range) and contamination of our waters with heavy metals. Also others as serious as the fact that the monitoring of our glaciers has not been carried out, thus making it impossible to see the impact of the company on them.
3. Barrick with its project has put our health, that of our children and neighbors at risk. This is confirmed by the SMA in this Resolution: "the existence of a significant risk to the health of the population due to exposure to Manganese has been determined, for the adult and child age ranges" and alarmingly deepens: "the risk to the health of people for the child age range between 0-4 years, whose hazard index is of high importance, not only due to the level of exposure to non-carcinogenic pollutants such as Manganese, but also due to the high vulnerability presented by this age group due to their low weight and poor maturity of the detoxification mechanisms that humans develop with age ”. For this there will be no forgiveness or forgetfulness, neither for this company nor for the authorities who have put our lives at serious risk and especially that of our children.
4. We review the SMA's judgment regarding Barrick's previous conduct and its Pascua Lama project: “it remains to conclude that CMN SpA has negative prior conduct that is particularly reprehensible, since it has not only been previously sanctioned in numerous proceedings administrative offices in environmental as well as sectorial headquarters, but it has also been an offender who has incurred on two occasions, in breaches associated with demands that are related to one of the most sensitive environmental components in the area of influence of the Pascua Lama project, such as glaciers".
5. Barrick, again trying to confuse public opinion at a communicational level and trying to reduce the negative impacts that this Resolution brings to it, has announced that it celebrates that the SMA has not revoked its environmental permit (RCA), seeing this as a victory, but it is necessary to clarify that the SMA did not estimate this sanction since “although it implies ending the execution of the project, it also implies ending the validity of the entire environmental variables monitoring system that allows keeping under control the negative effects associated with it, and in particular the damages that have been determined in the framework of this sanctioning procedure. In turn, the loss of validity of the RCA also supposes the fall of the normative foundation that makes the execution of some environmental mitigation measures required for the project closure stage, which are fundamental to ensure the control of environmental risks and damages. . "
6. We regret that the amendment made to the Pascua Lama RCA (Resolution 094) in June 2016 regarding the increase in the permissibility of heavy metal levels in the waters of the Estrecho River remains in force since it allows to hide the true contamination produced by the project and has made it possible to obviate the health risk from arsenic (a carcinogenic element) in this sanction, which had also been determined by the SMA. Despite this, it is important to note that even with this Resolution tailored to the company, it was not possible to hide all the contamination, since it has been very large. We hope that the Environmental Court, who has the claims for this modification in its hands, will resolve the annulment of said resolution and thus let us see what is really happening: the paralyzed project pollutes every day.
7. Although it is a victory, it is not total. We know that Barrick wants to enter a new project now underground; In a meeting held on Tuesday 16 in El Tránsito they reported that this would be done as long as environmental permits were achieved, there was money and authorization from the territory. The latter will never happen and we will use all the ways to stop this new project which, despite all the corruption and influence peddling that continues to run in its favor, we will not let it advance. We are emphatic that we will continue to protect our territory from these extractive projects. High Andean ecosystems are fragile and do not support the intervention of any mining project of any characteristic. This resolution is conformed as an injection of sovereignty over our ancestral territory, it fills us with strength and community conviction, which gives us more impetus to continue opposing this project and the others that are projected in our mountain range. This resistance is priceless, with money they will not silence us.
8. We will continue fighting so that our mountain range is declared as a biosphere reserve, which allows us to protect our glacial ecosystem, protecting our reserve of fresh water and the sources of our rivers, a fundamental ecosystem for a unique, fertile and generous valley. We will not rest until the installation of any project is prohibited, because it is proven that extractivism destroys the balance of glacial and water ecosystems, pollutes the waters, and affects the quality of life of an entire valley from the mountain range to the sea.
We give thanks to each and everyone who has contributed to us in this long road that we have had to travel, many times we have seen injustice in the crudest way, but we have not lowered our arms, because our valley every day gives us energy we need to continue defending life. What has been achieved with force until today was not by chance, it is the sum of drops and more drops of love for life. We only have words of gratitude to those who accompany us and to those who have already left, because we have been able to continue taking steps when everything suggested that the task undertaken was a lost cause. Knowing that they are there in adversity, understanding this noble cause fills us with courage to get up and add new drops.
Our roots in this territory are deep and we will always protect what our grandparents cared for, because our sons and daughters, relatives and neighbors have the right to live in a fertile valley with clean water, far from any threat and we will not stop until we achieve it.
Huasco Valley, January 19, 2018