Statement of the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous and Agricultural Community, ChileApril 28th, 2010
Presented at the Barrick Gold Annual General Meeting by:
Idolia del Carmen Bordones Jorquera
Jaime Nibaldo Ardiles Ardiles
María Inés Bordones Jorquera
Daniela Guzmán González (interpreter and advisor)
We have come from the Huasco Valley in Chile, representing the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous and Agricultural Community. We are the direct heirs of the Native People of Huasco Alto, and we have inhabited this land since time immemorial. Our Community consists of 250 families of indigenous peasants, farmers and herders; we are the only Diaguita community that remained organized after the Spanish colony in Huasco Valley and we also have title to our lands.
Huasco Valley is the last unpolluted valley of northern Chile. Our lands guard important natural and cultural resources, and they hold the major fresh water reservoirs of this valley. That is why in 2006 we decided to make our Community territory a Natural and Cultural Reserve. This is incompatible with Barrick’s Pascua Lama and future Pachuy megaproject.
Barrick Gold, without respect for our traditions, our plans and our right to self-determination, wants to force us to accept the mega mining in our Reserve. In 1998, Barrick Gold seized about 124,000 acres of ancestral lands that belong to our Community. Then, Barrick installed a locked gate that prevents the passage of herders through our own land. This gate is illegal as this road is public, but Barrick continues to refuse public access.
The Pascua Lama project was approved by the State of Chile in 2001 without permission from our community. So we sued the State of Chile in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rigths, and this demand was admitted for processing in February of this year.
Although the project officially began this year, Barrick exploration has led to the degradation of the glaciers near the Pascua Lama project. In 2005, the General Directorate of Water of Chile issued a report that blames the company for the loss of 50-75% of glaciers in the area. Recently, on November 11, 2009, the Chilean Government fined Barrick Gold for, among other things, continuing to damage the glaciers, drawing water from unauthorized sites and breaking occupational health and air quality commitments.
Now, Barrick has illegally extended its work to other sectors of our domain title. In those areas, we can already see the destruction of wetlands and forests, and the extraction of water from unauthorized sites, among other damages. These actions have led us to bring two lawsuits against the company in the courts of Chile which are now being processed.
Also, in seeking to better its image, Barrick Gold, in conjunction with the National Indigenous Development Corporation of Chile, has promoted the creation of Diaguita Communities with no territorial base. With financial support from the company, Barrick has manipulated and corrupted our culture. They have denied that we, Huascoaltinos, are an indigenous people, they have raised false community leaders, and they have brought professionals to teach the Huascoaltinos about our own culture. What right do you have to come to teach us about our own traditions? What right do you have to manipulate our traditions, inventing costumes, dances, forms of weaving and pottery that are not our own? With this, the company has divided and confused the identity of our people, and has caused us great damage.
We have always been aware that in the land of Huascoaltinos there is great mineral wealth, but our real wealth is its landscapes, the pure water rising in the Andes, with its unique animals and plants. It is our responsibility to protect this precious legacy, as a mark of respect to our ancestors, as a gift to our children and grandchildren, and also as a contribution to the care of Mother Earth and the heritage of all mankind. Therefore, as Huascoaltinos, we are going to defend the Valley. We will not allow Barrick to destroy our land and our culture. We will not allow you to appropriate the legacy left by our ancestors. Today, we come here to order the closure of Pascua Lama. Shareholders, if you continue to mine in our lands, you will remain complicit in the pollution and destruction of our culture and you will be enriched in return for the death of our people. We are here to tell you again that we do not need your money to develop and we are not seeking compensation, because there is not fair compensation for the death of our Mother. We just want you to leave our lands and allow us to live in peace.