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Journalism and Mining

Journalism and Mining

By Jesús Matías Filomeno Ocampo

The common denominator of the multinationals that operate in our country is the use of this methodology: lying, making false promises, giving misleading gifts to the community, influencing the oral, written and television press, persecuting, repressing and censoring members of citizen assemblies and, most seriously, polluting without adequate controls. And if we let them, they will make the city of Andalgalá disappear.


The Foro de Periodismo Argentino, a group of media professionals and journalism professors, motivated by the recent case in which that institution denounced a situation of censorship, when a San Juan newspaper banned the circulation of the Sunday magazine Rumbos because it contained a article where he questioned aspects of the open pit mining boom in the Andean provinces of the whose and north region, held a professional meeting with media journalists from the mining regions to discuss journalistic coverage and the media's treatment of the issues Mining and the Environment; the role of the media in dealing with these issues and the social, economic and political conflicts associated with them.

The meeting took place in the capital city of La Rioja on Friday, December 11. The National Deputy Eduardo Pastoriza, author of the book “El Gran Despojo”: “State of the mining situation in Argentina, participated as panelists. Mining exploitation and environmental impact ”; Cecilia Matta, from the Association of Environmentalists of La Rioja: ”The vision of environmental organizations (La Rioja); Dr. Silvia Villalonga from the Fundación de Ciudadanos Independientes (FUCI): "The vision of environmental organizations (San Juan)"; Geologist Jorge Romero from La Rioja: "Mining and environmental conflict zones"; Eng. Héctor Romero, La Rioja Mining Director: "The role of the State in mining and the environment" and Accountant Julián Rooney: "The vision of mining companies (Minera La Alumbrera, Catamarca)".

I participated invited by Ing. Pastoriza. As a member of the Chilecito Citizen Assembly, I asked two questions to the Director of Mining of La Rioja, Ing. Héctor Romero, a member of a family from Santa Cruz, Famatina, La Rioja. What equipment and how many personnel does the Barrik Gold company in Famatina (La Rioja) have at this time? His response was: “He has neither equipment nor personnel. The issue is in justice ”. Law 8139 created an Investigative Commission provided for in Article 94 of the Provincial Constitution: What are the conclusions of that Commission on everything related to the Agreement signed on April 29, 2005 between YAMIRI S.A. and the Multinational Barrick Argentina SA, through which it is granted exclusive rights to explore and exploit the "Famatina Project" and if it has clarified the steps that were followed for the State to transfer its mining rights from a Mixed Economy Company to a Limited Company, which has now sold its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange in Canada ?. His answer was: "The case is in the courts."


I suggested to Ing. Romero, taking into account his statements in relation to the fact that the Mining Directorate is open to the community, that they put all the information related to mining and environmental protection activities on the website of the La Rioja government. environment, since there is nothing about it, with a deliberate intention of concealment, such as that implied by the confidentiality clauses of mining contracts.

The exposition of the members of the company that exploits La Alumbrera by concession of the Aguas del Dionisio Mineral Sites (YMAD), became a propaganda monologue, full of false data, of "the great benefits" that the exploitation of the richest deposit produced of the world. When the journalist from San Juan, a lawyer, Ernesto Lloveras, pointed out that Catamarca is poorer and more polluted after the twelve years in which the entire deposit valued at more than 44 billion dollars was taken away, according to data provided by Eng. Pastoriza, Rooney He replied that as a member of the company he could not explain this situation, but that, at a coffee table, he could give his personal opinion, hinting at the corruption of local governments.

I have said full of false data. Let's see, Rooney said that Argentine mining legislation is similar to that of neighboring countries. False: The current laws on mining promotion (Mining Investment Law No. 24196/93, with the modifications introduced by laws Nos. 24296, 25161/99 and 25429/01; Federal Mining Agreement - Law No. 24228 and concordant ones of Menem, Cavallo , Maza and Kirtchner) have an exception treatment for the activity that, given the extraordinary change in the prices of the main minerals in the last ten years, an increase of 1114% for copper and 257% for gold; of 829% for oil, leads metal mining to obtain unattainable profits from other economic activities.

The participation of the subsidiaries of foreign transnational companies in the total Argentine mining production is 100%, a figure that is only found in African countries such as Gabon, Ghana, Guinea and Mali; and in some peripheral Asian countries. This contrasts with the situation in Brazil, where the participation of external capital in large-scale mining is just over 10%. With regard to oil, the situation is similar. The participation of foreign affiliates in oil and gas production was approximately 80% in Argentina and only 2% in Brazil. In Chile, since 1950, the exploitation of copper has been done 100% by the State.

Rooney and his collaborator consistently refused to give figures for the amount of water used and what they pay for it. Ing. Pastoriza did give the precise data: for each ton of material a thousand liters of water are consumed. Faced with the photos provided by Eng. Pastoriza of the deposit before and after exploitation, the dimensions of the well that remained, of the tailings dam that, due to the leaks, forced the construction of a downstream lagoon to stop contamination and water wells. pumping, the answer was that the dam was built as a filter. Totally false: no dike anywhere in the world to store polluting compounds is built filter.

A slide showed the amount of gold and copper that was mined in 2008. Iron is not listed at all. Pastoriza denounces in her book that the iron was taken without declaring it, as contraband. Rooney showed figures for the dollar values ​​of the minerals mined and the taxes paid. False figures: Who controlled these figures if the separation of metals was made, as S. Rooney said, “near the places of consumption”, China? Canada? Where? Not in our country? From a ton of material, how much gold, how much copper, how much xx, was obtained? Which member of the AFIP of Argentina knows it or controlled it?

The common denominator of the multinationals that operate in our country is the use of this methodology: lying, making false promises, giving misleading gifts to the community, influencing the oral, written and television press, persecuting, repressing and censoring members of citizen assemblies and, most seriously, polluting without adequate controls. And if we let them, they will make the city of Andalgalá disappear.

Meanwhile, journalism shows disinterest in deepening and disseminating the problems arising from mining activities and their socio-economic consequences and gives relative importance to the protection of the environment, water and land.

The members of the citizen assemblies, following the example of Esquel, continue to say that not everything is worth to have gold, silver, that there is something more important, to have water, land, life and our landscape. And we continue to say enough to the dispossession of our non-renewable mineral resources and the contamination of our waters and our lands. From Chilecito I hopefully maintain: THE FAMATINA IS NOT TOUCHED.

December 2009

Jesus Matías Filomeno Ocampo - Telecommunications Engineer - Professor UNLP. Professional CONCET - Citizen Assembly of Chilecito (La Rioja) Argentina.


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