By Federico Soria
The Hierro Indio mine is located in the Province of Mendoza, in the Atuel River basin, a few kilometers from said channel. According to the Provincial Mining Cadastre, the mining rights of the project are located in the vicinity of the Felipe and Paraguay streams, near the mouth of both with the Atuel; According to the company's website, the project is located in the sources of the Arroyo Colorado, a tributary of the Atuel.
In both cases we are in the Department of Malargue, but just 4 kilometers from the border with San Rafael, approximately 30 kilometers from the town of El Sosneado.
The access road proposed by the company passes through the vicinity of the Laguna Blanca, one of the most important wetlands in Malargue, recognized as a nesting site and stop for migratory water birds.
The company that is developing it is Hierro Indio S.A., based in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires; its website is relatively new, which, to date, is incomplete and offers quite concise and limited information on the project and its headlines. For example, it does not say how much water they are going to use and where they are going to get it from, nor does it explain the separation techniques to be used (those that apparently would comply with Law 7722), nor does it explain what they are going to do with the impurities and other contained elements. in the mineral that have to be separated, some of which can be toxic, such as phosphorus and sulfur. Nor is it mentioned what destination will be given to the traces of valuable minerals found in the rock to be processed, such as titanium, if these are going to be extracted, if they are going to be declared and therefore pay royalties, or as usual. occur in these cases, they will be taken away without paying them, declaring that they are impurities of the concentrates (remember that in order for them to be taxed, individuals must be forced to report their discovery).
The mining rights involved are two small mines, with which they would be in a position to carry out mineral exploration and exploitation, in accordance with the requirements of the Mining Code, unlike the Cerro Amarillo project, where it is intended to carry out exploration advanced in mining concessions for exploration, without having previously processed the manifestation of discovery of the minerals that they say they are going to explore, nor registered such a novelty in the Provincial Mining Register.
Violation of current environmental legislation
The Government of Mendoza has issued a resolution of Declaration of Environmental Impact, in favor of the company Hierro Indio S.A. (environmental approval document that authorizes the company to start the exploration of the deposit), without having carried out the instances of Environmental Impact Study, Public Consultation of the files and Public Hearing, minimum budgets in force throughout the territory of the Nation Argentina, according to National Law 25675 and Article 41 of the National Constitution.
Let us also remember that the Mining Code itself is subordinated in its application to environmental legislation, since article 233 of the same, conditions its regulation on compliance with the provisions established by virtue of article 41 of the National Constitution, which neither more nor less, It is regulated by national law 25675.
The Legislature, before dealing with the projects, must return them to the Executive Branch so that it complies with these mandatory instances by law, it should also promote criminal actions for officials who did not comply with the general environmental law, issuing the DIA without complying with these instances. .
Violation of the Glacier Law
The Hierro Indio mining project is located in a mountain area, where the existence of glacial and periglacial environments protected by National Law 26639 is possible. Although at first glance, it seems that it is located outside this type of environment, it would be necessary for the authority of application of said law (the IANIGLA) rule in this regard, after verifying that the signing officials of said State agency are not linked to private mining projects, as was already detected in previous similar situations (Espizua cases in the Cerro Amarillo mining project , and the Rubinstein case in the La Cabeza, Anchoris and Santa Clara mining projects)
What should the Legislature do in this case: return the file to the Executive Branch so that it can be sent to IANIGLA, so that it may rule on the matter and prepare the corresponding zonal maps, determining the glacial and periglacial areas within all the mining concessions of this and the other projects that walk in dance, taking the precaution referred to in the previous paragraph.
Violation of Provincial Law 7722
Provincial Law 7722 (art 2 and 5) requires that all municipalities involved in the watersheds rule on metalliferous mining projects before they are sent to the Legislature for approval. In the case of the Hierro Indio Project, since it is in the Atuel River Basin, the procedure must have the approval of Malargue, San Rafael and General Alvear, as far as it was known, only the Malargue opinion is in the file, with which, the DIA was granted in violation of Law 7722.
In this case, the Legislature must return the file to the Executive Power, so that it requests the corresponding opinions from the municipalities of San Rafael and General Alvear. Likewise, you must request that the officials who violate Law 7722 be punished.
The use of water from the Atuel River
According to the company's website, the extraction techniques of the mineral would be of conventional mechanical type, without giving too many details of said methodologies. Subsequently, the firm's spokespersons explained that it is a magnetic separation method, with two techniques, one in dry and another using water. The amounts of water to be used are not specified either. It should be remembered that the company must process its quota, which must also be authorized by law, as was done with the Potasio Río Colorado project.
Let us also remember that the Atuel River currently has a water deficit, where even pre-existing local activities (such as tourism) have already been affected by the lack of water. This situation would not allow adding uses to it, added to the conflict that the Province currently has with its counterpart in La Pampa for the use of it.
The other thing that is not clarified is where and how the effluents from the separation process are going to be disposed of, how they are going to be treated and what their chemical composition should be, without these specific data, with detailed numbers, there is no possible sustainability .
It should also be remembered that the most recent experience in the country with regard to iron mining is in the Province of Río Negro, where the exploitation of the Sierra Grande Mine, after a few years has ended up drying up all the streams region of
The legislature should return the files to the executive branch, so that it clarifies all the determining questions regarding the use of water from the Atuel River and / or its tributaries, and after that, authorize only the magnetic separation method that does not use Water.
In addition to the use of non-clarified water, there are also no details regarding the use of energy necessary for the procedure that the company intends to develop on site: how much quantity it needs, where it is going to get it and how and where it will lead it to the reservoir.
The Laguna Blanca wetland
The map on the company's website shows that the Hierro Indio mine is located about 20 kilometers west of the Laguna Blanca, which according to the Mendoza Government itself, is an important wetland in the Department of Malargue, since it is nesting site and stop of migratory birds. From what is observed, the streams near the project do not discharge into it, however there is the possibility that the particulate material generated by the mechanical methods of iron separation may be transported by the wind and deposited in it.
The other detail is that the access road proposed by the company does pass near the shore of the lagoon, being a risk in the event of accidents.
It is unknown, due to not having had access to the file, if the company or the state has suggested that a security protocol should be established for this case, being necessary to move the access path as far as possible and that the separation of the iron is carried out in closed environments and without any type of fumes.
In this case, the Legislature should return the files to the executive branch and if these points are not clarified, demand that the DIA approval procedure be carried out again with these points.
The Laguna Blanca is a wetland of ecological importance recognized by the Mendoza Government itself, it is also a site of interest for tourism that has not yet been used and could represent an important economic benefit for the local population.
The Hierro Indio mining project It presents a series of irregularities that the Legislature cannot and should not allow to be ignored (unfortunately the executive branch has already done so). That is why you must return the file and demand that:
a) The DIA issued is annulled and the Environmental Impact Study, Public Consultation of the files and Public Hearing procedure is carried out, as required by National Law 25675, the minimum budget in force throughout the territory of the Argentine Nation, according to the Article 41 of the National Constitution, also remembering that article 233 of the Mining Code, subject its application to compliance with the provisions emanating from this article. Only by complying with these instances and if they are favorable, the EIS can be granted.
b) The complete project file is sent to IANIGLA, so that it can be determined within the project area if it exists and which are the areas covered by glacial and periglacial environments protected by national law 26639. Only once returned with the corresponding opinion and in case this type of environment is not involved, a DIA could be granted.
c) The complete file of the project is sent to the municipalities of San Rafael and General Alvear, so that they can rule in accordance with what is required by Provincial Law 7722.
d) It is established what will be the consumption of water from the Atuel River or its tributaries, both in the exploration and exploitation stages. In addition, it should be explained empirically how it will be done to grant a water quota to the company in a context of water crisis and with a conflictive situation with the neighboring province of La Pampa, establishing with specific parameters the equation of quantities and flows to serve each need and demand that this river currently presents.
e) The protection measures of the adjacent Laguna Blanca wetland are established; and determine the protocols to carry out to avoid the transit of dangerous cargo in its vicinity or its feeding area.
In addition to all this, legislators must request that the officials who violate the aforementioned laws be criminally investigated: national 25675 and 26339, and provincial 7722.