La Rioja, Argentina
Legislators have repealed a year-old law which had prohibited open-pit metals mining in the province of La Rioja, Argentina. Provincial laws Nº 8137, 8138 were passed in March of 2007 in a widespread struggle carried out in La Rioja against a Barrick project in the Famatina mountain range in this arid agricultural province. In that struggle, citizens blockaded mining roads, stopping Barrick Gold from carrying out exploration activities. At the same time, a province-wide movement against open-pit metals mining activities led to Barrick Gold’s withdrawal, the downfall of the corrupt pro-mining governor, the passage of the laws prohibiting open-pit mining operations and the scheduling of a province-wide referendum regarding mining.
Although new governor Beder Herrera had initially aligned himself with anti-mining citizens, his promises soon proved empty. Beder Herrera cancelled the scheduled provincial referendum in August of 2007, and he and his staff continued to carry out behind-the-scenes negotiations with mining companies, throughout the world, inviting and supporting exploration efforts for uranium and other metals mining.
This August 7, 2008, in a tense climate, provincial lawmakers voted to repeal laws Nº 8137, 8138 and “whatever norms which oppose the present,” and created a new Environmental Commission to evaluate and approve future open-pit mining operations. As lawmakers prepared their votes, citizen assemblies present in the chambers were abruptly removed by police, and supporters of the mining prohibition were not allowed into the chambers for the voting.
After the mining prohibition was repealed by a majority vote, citizens gathered in front of the Capital to denounce the action. “Repealing this law mocks the decision taken by the entire province, as it is certain that new mining operations are harmful to all citizens of La Rioja,” said assembly member Marcela Kraft. Well-known musician Ramón Navarro, who has received threats and reprisals for his opposition to mining activities, denounced Beder Herrera, as having turned his back to his discourse of 2007 and now is showing his true pro-mining intentions. Navarro played an audio tape of governor Beder Herrera telling citizens in 2007, “Do you know how much money Barrick came to this town with? They came to Chilecito, here with $50,000 to spread around. How did we stop Barrick? We wouldn’t have had a chance to stop them if it weren’t for the citizen assemblies.” Navarro stated that Beder Herrera had “told us he would defend the environment, and now he has repealed the law and opened the doors to Barrick Gold and big mining in La Rioja,”
Community assemblies have declared that they will continue to resist with organized struggle, as they have for the past three years, against the complicity of the government and mining firms.
Assembly of Citizens for Life, La Rioja: www.ciudadanosporlavida.com.ar