Around the Region

Nicaraguan law aims to boost mine investment

Nicaragua has enacted a new mining law in hopes of bringing foreign investment to an industry that hasn’t seen a significant new project since the 1970s. Currently, Nicaragua is home to three major mines, where Canadian companies are extracting gold and such construction ingredients as sand and limestone. Government officials say the new law, enacted Aug. 13, gives investors more security and flexibility by allowing companies to buy and sell concessions and to move from exploration directly to production without need for a new contract. “We hope that in five years we have a significant new find and a better idea of Nicaragua’s mineral reserves,” says Jorge Préndiz, Executive Director of the non-governmental National Office for Geological Resources. Environmentalists worry the law will make...

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Fined, Petrobras now to face criminal trials

Brazilian judges agreed last month to try the state oil company Petrobras on criminal charges in connection with two separate oil spills last year. In Paraná state, Federal Judge Bianca Georgia Arenhart accepted a lawsuit filed by the Brazilian Attorney General’s office, a watchdog agency. The suit cites environmental damage from a July 2000 refinery spill that dumped 1 million gallons (4 million liters) of crude into the Iguaçu River in southern Paraná state. In Rio de Janeiro state, Federal Judge Juliana Pedras accepted a separate suit filed by the Attorney General’s office in connection with a pipeline break that sent 340,000 gallons (1.3 million liters) of fuel oil into Rio de Janeiro’s famed Guanabara Bay. Both judges’ decisions were grounded in the Environmental Crimes...

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OCP pipeline project wins two legal tests

Opponents of Ecuador’s effort to build a second major crude-oil conduit, the so-called Heavy-Crude Oil Pipeline (OCP), were stung last month by two legal decisions in favor of the project. On Aug. 17, the country’s Constitutional Court rejected a request by seven organizations that it halt work on the line. Then on Aug. 21, Ecuadorian Attorney General Ramón Jiménez ordered the Ecuadorian Amazon canton of Lago Agrio to permit construction there of a key component of the project—a crude-oil storage facility adamantly opposed by Lago Agrio’s mayor. Raúl Moscoso, the attorney representing pipeline opponents before the Constitutional Court, says that with their legal options in Ecuador exhausted, his clients will likely bring their case before international tribunals. Those backing the...

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CEC advisory committee wants advice from public

The panel advising the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) wants public input on the tri-national agency’s program and budget plans for 2002-2004. The Joint Public Adisory Committee (JPAC) planned to hold a public discussion this month in Tucson, Arizona and to issue a first round of recommendations soon after. It expects to make a second round of recommendations based on written comments it receives by Nov. 15. Discussion of this second round of recommendations is slated to take place at a Nov. 30 JPAC meeting in San Diego, California. The CEC, formed under a side accord to the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), addresses regional environmental concerns affecting Nafta signatories Canada, Mexico and the United States. Its Program Plan and Budget for 2002-2004...

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Brazil hit by unusually severe wildfire season

Wildfires last month scorched portions of the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park in the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, providing further evidence—as if any were needed—that drought conditions this year have boosted fire danger nationwide. Flames blackened 21,119 acres (8,550 hectares) of the 81,510-acre (33,000-hectare) national park and another 39,866 acres (16,140 hectares) in an environmental-protection area surrounding the park, says Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency. The fires, which occurred in the state’s premier tourist region, were probably the result of arson, says Leonce Pinheiro da Silva Filho, an Ibama official in the state capital of Cuiabá. The region’s savanna vegetation usually can recover a few years after being burned, says Eliana Martinez, coordinator of the Environment Recovery and...

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