(Non-isolated) “incidents” with chemicals: Barrick Gold & PetroPerú

Last week, Barrick Gold acknowledged yet another incident in their operation in San Juan, Argentina. According to newspapers, this is the third leak of substances, in this case cyanide, in an 18-month period, the previous one considered serious, taking place in September 2016. Nevertheless, there are conflicting reports because even though the company denies that the latest incident has caused contamination, it is still taking steps as a result. It has decided that a binational programme that aims to join Chile and Argentina through a tunnel to transport rock is to be halted. But this move does not reflect Barrick´s own volition, rather it has been propelled by a ruling from the Chilean judiciary where it was stated that dust coming from the mining operation had covered glaciers.

Locals in San Juan have been active in protesting as a result of the incidents. The police has been active too, but in using force to suppress such protests in December 2016 and October 2015.

In Peru, last year the news and images of children in the north of the country, who had been “paid” cents to help clean up the river after an oil leak, circulated among some news´sites. Still, the same did not happen when there was yet another leak some weeks later. It seems to have become commonplace, for in 2016 alone some 13 leaks were reported. In several occasions, the government has carried out investigations, the company promised compensation, and received a fine. No further action has been taken as to assess the safety of operations.

Early this month, it was announced that an investigative commission is to visit the affected areas, where coincidentally, native groups live and have suffered the brunt of these incidents.

What will 2017 hold for these operations? Let us hope proper assessment of the safety of operations is carried out. Because even though these companies are always offered a reprieve, the resources tainted do not.

 Photo: Jesica Sotelo


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