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Historic ruling condemns mining contamination in Argentina

Historic ruling condemns mining contamination in Argentina

By Violeta Vásquez

The mining company Alumbrera Ltda., Which exploits a deposit in the center-west of Argentina, lost a historic lawsuit due to contamination, from a lawsuit filed by two local residents who had their lands affected in Alpachiri, in the province of Tucumán.

The sentence handed down by Judge Eduardo Dip Tártalo determines that the mining company must carry out “all the necessary actions for the comprehensive recomposition of the environmental damage caused by the activity it carries out until the total disappearance of the soil and air pollutants, from surface and groundwater ”, reported Tucumán Noticias.

Likewise, the magistrate of the Concepción Judicial Center ordered the deforested areas without vegetation to be restored "to their previous state" due to the opening of roads, locations, ditches, quarries, mineraloduct and other activities that have caused the loss of the vegetation cover.

The mining company Alumbrera Ltda. Is a transnational company that exploits copper, gold and molybdenum. Since 1997, it has been managed by Glencoe -a Swiss company-, who has 50% of the shares, in addition to Goldcorp -a Canadian company that owns 37.5% - and Yamana Gold -with 12.5%. The Bajo de la Alumbrera mine is located in the province of Catamarca, 320 km from San Miguel de Tucumán.

The exploration and exploitation rights belong to Yacimiento Mineros de Agua de Dionisio (YMAD), which is a company made up of the province of Catamarca, the National University of Tucumán and the national state. YMAD has formed a "temporary union" with the company La Alumbrera, for which it receives 20% of the profits, reports the official website of the company.

The same website indicates that the company is dedicated to "caring for the environment" by protecting "the natural environment of the deposit area and neighboring communities." It indicates that they seek to mitigate the environmental impact of mining activity, working under a scheme of "sustainable development" and exercising "efficient use of natural resources", which even rehabilitates the soil, reduces waste and protects biodiversity.

However, the Aranda brothers detected in 2004 that the Bajo de la Alumbrera mineraloduct - which runs for several kilometers - was polluting the soils, air, rivers, surface and underground waters with spills that contained dangerous remains of metals, among they cyanide, mercury and uranium. This has been the most serious concern of the Aranda family and the towns surrounding the mine.

The plaintiffs demonstrated through studies and analysis by laboratories in Argentina, Canada and England, that the mining company was involved in the contamination of the water in the towns of Alpachiri and Concepción.

Carlos Aranda, one of the plaintiffs along with his brother Miguel, commented that the magistrate's decision “is very clear; Alumbrera mining company pollutes, it is an exemplary ruling and establishes a historical jurisprudence in our country, ”reported Primera Fuente newspaper.

In this way the forecast that the Aranda brothers had when they started the lawsuit in 2006 was fulfilled, since then they already sensed that the case would have a “happy” ending and “society, life and the conservation of resources ”, as they said in an interview with the local newspaper Primera Fuente in February 2013.

The judgment given by the judge also determines that the Ministry of Health of the Province of Tucumán investigates "the toxic impacts on the population in the basins of the Medina, Chirimayo and Gastona rivers and if there are negative effects on health, medical attention is determined immediate ”. It also urges state agencies to respond to "issues of social implication" and related environmental issues.

Finally, in his ruling, the magistrate requires the Sociedad Aguas del Tucumán (SAT. SAPEM) to report on the state of water in the city of Concepción and in the town of Alpachiri.

Company lawyers appealed the ruling, reported Tucumán Noticias. From the company, they argued that the judge "assumed the competence and powers that the Constitution does not provide by forcing Minera Alumbrera to perform tasks outside the object of study."

The Epoch Times


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