By Leandro Vesco
Barrick Gold owns San Juan and does what it wants in the province, after at least two large spills of cyanide water occurred at the Veladero mine, in the last hours the report that a consultant hired by the company itself The company confirms that a stream and a river were contaminated at the Pascua Lama mine, flora and fauna were destroyed, and a periglacial environment protected by law was modified.
The consulting firm Knight Piésold in its reports, to which the newspaper Infobae had access, points out that “the analysis of vegetation in the plains located in the Las Taguas river show a metal poisoning in the plains, these metals are copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. Vegetation has very high toxic concentrations, which generate lethal physiological effects on plants "
The water that Barrick spills in Las Vegas has “an acidification that translates into an increase in the availability of some metals, such as Mn, Zn, Cu, Fe and Al, which are absorbed by plants. The environmental impact is of high intensity, although its extent is partial. Regarding the soil, the pH of water negatively affects the development of the vegetation ".
The confirmation of the new case of contamination once again puts Barrick Gold and the government of San Juan in the center of attention, the first that, with these reports in its hands, does not produce any action to remedy the contamination, and the second by not control the activities of the company in their province.
The Pascua Lama mining project is developed in Chile and Argentina, but both in one and the other territory it is based on very sensitive natural territory where there are glaciers or periglacial zone, in the case of Chile, the Justice of that country stopped the activity of the mine to consider that Barrick with its explosions to penetrate deep into the mountain released dust and rock particles on the Toro 1 and Esperanza glaciers.
To carry out this huge open pit mining project Barrick Gold planned to build a belt from Pascua (Atacama, Chile) to the Argentine side of the mine in the Lama Department, this belt was to transport 45,000 tons of rock per day. The rocks would leave Chile and would be crushed and processed in Argentina. But Barrick, in its race to leave the greatest environmental impact on its mines, decided to make a tunnel that penetrates through the valleys of four kilometers in length, which is 6.50 meters high by 5.50 wide. The bulldozers with the stones are moved there. What is not seen does not exist, according to the reasoning of the company, therefore with its activity underground, the project was totally viable.
But in the middle of all this, nature rules and it tries to express. When Barrick opened the tunnel, it began draining 30 to 170 liters of water per second down the tunnel walls. Once the glacier was broken, the water had to find a place to exit, the tunnel was that place. The water that drains through the tunnel has a very high degree of acidity, therefore the environmental impact it produces in this protected area is total.
The government of San Juan, in its only intervention, forced the company to build two huge pools to treat the water and then from there, pour it into the environment. All this water is channeled directly to the Las Taguas River, producing immediate contamination. According to the Infobae investigation, Barrick Gold would be adding an immense amount of lime to the water to modify its pH and hide the contamination.
Barrick Gold, faced with the pressure it began to feel due to the visualization of this new pollution produced in nature in San Juan, issued a statement in which it states that:
“The waters that drain from the Marcelo tunnel –the tunnel he built-, in the Lama project, are naturally acidic, with a pH of around 2 to 3. Barrick treats these waters, so that when it is discharge -in the Turbio river- the waters have a pH located in the range of 5 to 8 -that is, a notably lower acidity level. This complies with what is requested by the provincial authorities, which carry out regular inspections. "
"As a result of the treatment process of these waters, a sludge is formed that has been qualified -previous physical-chemical analysis- as a non-hazardous material, and that therefore is dried and could be used in the project as a construction material for filling or in improvements in the road bearing layer, given its granulometric texture ".
"The existing plains upstream and downstream of the Las Taguas River do not show changes in their natural parameters, in accordance with the environmental monitoring program that the company develops each year and presents to the competent authorities."
The curious thing is that the very environmental impact report that the company sent to the consulting firm Knight Piésold says completely the opposite. Pascua Lama violates the Glacier Law and pollutes the waters of rivers and streams that until the company's intervention were sources of pure and mineral fresh water. Barrick's pollution is doubly harmful because it destroys areas that are protected by law and, most reprehensibly, it pollutes the sources of water that feed rivers and streams that the inhabitants of small towns then use to drink and irrigate their crops.