Around the Region

Critics of Andean mine project file complaints

Chilean opponents of plans for a massive gold mine straddling the Chilean-Argentine border filed a raft of administrative complaints last month, hoping to reverse a regional environmental body’s conditional approval of the project. Residents of northern Chile’s Huasco Valley joined the Santiago-based Latin American Observatory for Environmental Conflicts (Olca) and the international marine-protection group Oceana to file 70 complaints with the country’s lead environmental agency, the National Environmental Commission (Conama). The valley residents, most of them farmers, assert that the US$1.5 billion project by Barrick Gold of Canada will cause water shortages and toxic pollution in the fruit- and vegetable-producing Huasco region. Chilean Senators Nelson Avila, an independent, and Alejandro Navarro, of the Socialist Party, also filed complaints with Conama...

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Canadian company might build dam in south of Chile

The Canadian mining company Falconbridge announced March 31 that it is studying a plan to build a US$600 million hydroelectric dam on the Cuervo River in southern Chile’s Aisen region. The 740-megawatt facility would be erected, possibly as early as 2010, on some of the land previously intended for the ill-fated Alumysa aluminum-plant project. Alumysa was shelved indefinitely by the Canadian firm Noranda in Sept. 2003 after it drew strong opposition from environmentalists, the salmon-farming industry and, ultimately, then-President Ricardo Lagos. In June 2005, however, Noranda was acquired by Falconbridge, a top world producer of copper, zinc and nickel. Falconbridge now appears determined to make use of the Patagonian water rights Noranda had held for the three hydroelectric dams...

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Ecuadorian official weighs oil drilling in national park

Ecuadorian Environment Minister Ana Albán says that by mid-year she will decide whether the state-owned Brazilian company Petrobras can resume its controversial project to drill for oil in Yasuní National Park, a highly biodiverse portion of Ecuador’s Amazon region. Petrobras suspended preparations for the project last August, after Albán ordered the company out of the park pending a review of its plans. Petrobras had begun work on a road and pier in Yasuní and planned other support infrastructure. It has indicated that it would halt construction of the road permanently, locate its support facilities outside the park and transport all materials to and from its Yasuní well sites by helicopter. As of mid-April, however, Petrobras had not submitted a revised environmental-management...

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