The Star, July 18, 2007
Gold mine controversy awaits PM in Santiago
by Allan Wood, Toronto Star
SANTIAGO, CHILE–A good-news trip of trade and closer ties with Latin
America will encounter the first signs of controversy this morning when
Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits a Canadian mining operation that
critics say will hurt the environment and local people.
A group of protesters led by the Latin American Observatory on
Environmental Conflicts, a group that opposes Barrick Gold's Pascua-Lama
mining project, is expected to meet Harper when he visits the Canadian
corporation's Chilean base. The protesters argue that the project will
displace the local indigenous population and cause environmental harm.
Harper said he is aware of the controversy surrounding the giant gold
and silver mine, which sits high in the Andes and straddles the
Chile-Argentine border. But he gave it his backing yesterday in a news
conference with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. "Barrick follows
Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility," he said,
referring to ethical guidelines for companies operating abroad.
"It will, of course, follow all rules that are in place in this
particular project, and ultimately, any decision in that regard is for
Protesters demonstrate outside the offices of Barrick Gold during a visit by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Santiago on Wednesday.
(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
Barrick is still seeking permits to get the multi-million-dollar project
underway, but already it is accused of severely eroding three glaciers –
a vital source of water for indigenous locals – by up to half of their
A number of lawmakers have called for an investigation into Barrick's
exploratory operations, and have threatened to reconsider the project
all together. The local indigenous population has filed a complaint with
the human rights arm of the Organization of American States arguing
Barrick's operation threatens to make their land uninhabitable.