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Barrick Gold Secretly Building Roads to Attack Mt. Famatina in La Rioja, Argentina

by David Modersbach, Rosario, Argentina

On the one-year anniversary of the road blockade in Peña Negra and "ouster" of Barrick Gold from the Famatina mountain range, it has been confirmed that Barrick Gold, with the complicity of the national and provincial government, has been secretly constructing a new entry road into the backside of the mountain.   This new road enters through Potrero Grande near Vinchina, avoiding the widespread public resistance on the east side of the range, and links Barrick Gold’s Famatina project with the uranium projects under exploration along the southern border of the neighboring province of Catamarca.

Barrick’s Famatina project was an open-pit gold mine to be located upon the higher flanks of the Famatina Range.  Barrick’s insertion into the beloved mountain was carried out silently and secretly during the past few years until 2006, when residents found out and began a grassroots campaign of education, outreach and resistance  In March 2007, residents began a round the clock peaceful blockade of the only road entering into the mountain and Barrick’s mining camp.  In an astonishing turn of events, widespread anti-mining public opinion led to the ouster of corrupt provincial Governor Angel Maza,  a province-wide “prohibition” of open-pit mining, and the scheduling of a public referendum.  Confronted with turmoil and resistance, Barrick Gold announced their “withdrawal” from the Famatina project in April 2007.

Owing to Barrick Gold’s history of lies and misrepresentations, nobody believed them.   Sure enough, in the past year, new governor Luis Beder-Herrera reneged on his promises to stop the mining exploitation:  First he blocked the scheduled public referendum, claiming that it was unnecessary because there were already laws in place to prohibit open-pit mining -- months later he claimed that these very laws he had signed were non-binding because they had never been subject to a public referendum!  The Governor has been negotiating secretly with mining companies, including Barrick Gold,  to pave the way for their return. 

The access road to Famatina has remained steadfastly blockaded by neighbors throughout the year.  And now Barrick Gold and the province of La Rioja are now confirmed to be constructing a new road to try and insert out the view of the firmly anti-mining residents.  The truth came out in February when a truck carrying unknown chemicals plunged off a cliff near Potrero Grande, killing the driver contracted by a subsidiary Barrick Gold.  It still remains unannounced what chemicals were spilled in the tragic accident.

One thing remains certain:  The Famatina mountain range provides the water which supports the lives of all the people and ecosystems in the region.  La Rioja is an arid province which depends upon the runoff from the mountain peaks, their only source of water and life.  And the people of this region remain steadfast in their opposition to large-scale mining projects, be they gold or uranium. 

The “self-organized neighbors” (vecinos autoconvocados) of Famatina, Chilecito, and La Rioja have called upon their neighbors on the other side of the mountain range (in the towns of Vinchina, Jague, and Potrero Grande)  to come forth and prevent further construction of Barrick Gold’s cowardly rear access road.   Sure enough, on March 12, 2008, neighbors have followed their example, carrying out a first blockade of the highway in the town of Patquía.

Self-Organized Neighbors of Famatina In Defense of Life
Coordination of Citizen Assemblies of Chilecito
Self-Organized Neighbors of Pituil,
Self-Organized Neighbors of  Chañarmuyo
Self-Organized Neighbors of North Famatina
Self-Organized Neighbors of La Rioja capital.

To donate funds to help the popular resistance against Barrick Gold and other large-scale mining projects in the Famatina Range, you can donate money to this account:
Autoconvocados de Famatina
Cta Banco Nación Sucursal Famatina Nª 5940122759

For More Information: Autoconvocados de Chilecito Site of Anti mining movements in Argentina Anti Pascua Lama Chile-Argentina anti-mining movements Argentina Latin American Mining Conflicts world mining conflicts


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