The Gold of Esquel

The Gold of Esquel

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By the Chubut Antinuclear Movement

The National Ecological Action Network (RENACE), disseminates this report that deals with the project to exploit the Cordón Esquel gold mine, its consequences and environmental impact, and denounces the intention of developed countries to extract the mineral resource base from the underdeveloped nations.

The National Ecological Action Network (RENACE), disseminates this report that deals with the project to exploit the Cordón Esquel gold mine, its consequences and environmental impact, and denounces the intention of developed countries to extract the mineral resource base from the underdeveloped nations.

On September 7 of this year, a debate talk was held in Esquel on the "Management of Natural Resources in the province of Chubut". It was organized by a score of active citizens and the same number of onlookers who concluded by bringing together some two hundred self-convened around a generic Esquel Neighborhood Assembly.

With this objective in mind, environmentalists from the "Andean Region" and from the coast were invited, including the Ornithological Association of Lago Puelo, Lemú Project, Chubut Antinuclear Movement (MACH), Vuquipura Mapu de Alto Río Senguerr, Corcovado Ecological Protection , The Mapuche Eleventh October Commission, the Comodoro Rivadavia Ex-workers Commission of YPF, the biologist L. Pizzolón, the lawyers Macayo, from Esquel and Cristian Hendrikse, from the Andean Region, among other professionals and university students present. The invitation had been conclusive: "The installation of a mining treatment plant with cyanide for the exploitation of gold located in the Cordón Esquel just crossing the paved road that separates it from the airport and only 7 kilometers from the city, has motivated the need to to convene in an assembly to start working outside the agenda of the government, the university, the mining company, etc. to collectively and autonomously build a different opinion regarding the way in which the natural resources of the province are being squandered.

All Resources

That is why before we start talking about the mining company, we want to show how the same people who are responsible for the destruction of the forest, water, soil and those who generate unemployment and hunger, are now telling us to trust them and that here it is not going to be contaminated and that the lack of work will be solved. "

With these words, residents of Esquel called the debate that had good participation despite being ignored by most of the provincial journalism.

The globalizer is coming for the gold

Meridian Gold is a Canadian multinational based in Reno, United States. In a few hours, it acquired control of the British Brancote Holdings, whose main asset was the Esquel gold mine project. Brancote Holdings and the mining company El Desquite S.A. from the national group Bemberg-Miguens were absorbed by Meridian Gold, which will finally have some "five million ounces of gold in reserve", in similar importance with the Cerro Vanguardia deposit in the province of Santa Cruz.

According to Guillermo Hughes, General Director of Mines and Geology of Chubut, "more than 40,000 meters of mountain have been drilled in an advantageous deposit due to its low production costs in relation to others since it is located only 7 km from Esquel, with the airport opposite and without the need for expenses for the camp infrastructure ", and with the mine workers who will sleep in the middle of the city and move on asphalt. The Cerro Vanguardia from Santa Cruz, on the other hand, spends 8,000 dollars a month maintaining roads.

Unfortunately, these advantages will only be for Meridian Gold and the United States, since in Argentina there will not be a single ounce of gold left after emptying this and other mountains, while the valuable metal will accumulate in the coffers of the northern country for its greater economic growth. . Here we will be left with the disastrous contamination of soils and rivers and irreparable damage to one of the most emblematic protected areas on the planet, Los Alerces National Park, where millenary species live and a chain of water mirrors and glaciers dominated by the "big lake "(Futalaufquen, in Mapuche) that perhaps suffers from the morbid chemical compound that separates gold from rock and other metals.

An exemplary text, mandatory for university students and teachers in the United States, Ecology and Environment by G. Tyler Miller, Jr. is very clear and forceful: "Companies based in developed countries ultimately obtain most of the profits and, In the process, they often cause strong natural degradation and environmental pollution in underdeveloped countries. Economic growth in these mineral-exporting countries is negated when they borrow money from developed countries to buy high-priced imported finished products manufactured with the minerals they had to sell at too low prices. " This ironic equation recognized by the North American intelligentsia itself marks the paradigm of underdeveloped countries that pay 43,000 million dollars every year in interest on their debt despite having invaluable resources that they do not know how to defend or value. In the universities of the northern country these contradictions are studied with incredible perplexity. The same book by Tyler Miller says that "each year the United States economy needs more than 4.8 billion metric tons of minerals, fuels and non-fuels. This means that every twelve months 19 tons of mineral resources must be obtained for each US citizen, just to sustain their current standard of living, unless the country changes from an economy of waste and waste to one of sustainable Earth. "

Meanwhile, the concentration of more economic power in the countries of the North continues at the expense of the plundered South. This is due to the need for these countries to store critical and strategic minerals, including gold, reserves that "must be large enough to sustain a conventional war for three years", even the weight of a great world war. The waste of the United States forces this nation to a systematic global robbery of the inputs of the underdeveloped world.
And lo and behold, knowing this, this underdeveloped country allows its largest creditor to ship its gold mountains in exchange for a few dozen jobs, practically non-existent royalties and a ridiculous royalty, even bearing the eventual contamination of its native forest mass, the largest reserves of water it has and its unique biodiversity, decimating even the quality of life of its inhabitants, in this case Patagonians, who will have to endure the toxicity of sodium cyanide, sulfuric acid and other lethal compounds.

Here, we say, not a single ounce of gold will remain, but there will be tons of waste contaminated by sodium cyanide and toxic metal compounds such as lead, arsenic and cadmium, among others, that we will describe later and that will circulate through the layers. and waterways, even when mining is successful.

An open pit mine

With satellite technology, developed countries have a complete mining survey. The Esquel gold deposit and its easy "open pit" exploitation were known from the beginning, but Meridian Gold executives announced the possibility of "mixed extraction." This last system includes the underground. Is that the company handles technical and economic parameters according to the price of an ounce of gold of 325 dollars, and of silver of 5 dollars. "Based on the cost per ounce, the most probable is that the exploitation will be" mixed "because the sterile mineral that they would extract would be much less. But if the value of gold rises - they said - it would be convenient and faster the exploitation" at pit open. "It was mentioned to take 15 years to empty the mountain, but it would take only 10. At the rate of 10,000 kilos of metal per year, for a decade, with an announced investment of 150 million dollars. The speed of exploitation would also increase the risks of contamination.

We must not forget that thousands of tons of rock and sodium cyanide will have to move to the bowels of the millenary larch of the National Park because, for the landslides of the eventually contaminated aquifers, there will be no limits or respect for the declared intangibility of the Futalaufquen ecosystem .
In the same mountain range, large and important veins were detected; in the Cholila area, behind the "La Hoya" ski resort and up to 100 kms. further north, in the foothills of Epuyén, where the treaties with Chile would enable border exploitation on both sides. For now there is silence, only the exploitation of the Esquel gold that would begin the first week of January of the following year, 2003, is official.

Meridian Gold explanations magnify the benefits in jobs. For these merchants, Chubut would already have sufficient income as the high and alarming unemployment fell by 262 employees. This humiliating and insignificant offer is the new extortion of the men of the North. But be careful, of that amount of labor to be employed, 25% or 30% will not be from the area, since they require specialized professionals that Esquel does not have. Furthermore, if it is done "open pit" they will do without 62 workers: they will use only 200.
The demand for sources of work aims to hide the real depredation of the resource in the framework of unsustainable production, although they want to convince the people that the use of cyanide will not be questioned on this occasion, as happened with the legendary Mine Angela, at 60 kms from Gastre in the north-central province of Chubut and almost on the border with Río Negro, on the way to General Jacobacci.

The imitation of that gold mine is today in court questioned by contamination of aquifers and its entire trophic chain compromised. The use of cyanide, they explained, will be done in a closed circuit that will prevent any toxic leakage, a claim that is not very credible because it comes from a specialist from the supplier company Dupont and because the same technology is applied in other fields with dire results. However, Gonzalo Tufino, General Manager of Meridian Gold for the El Desquite mining company insists that "the system to be used does not require a tail dam, where the liquid with the used cyanide is usually concentrated and where leaks can occur," in addition to studying options that allow the destruction of the cyanide used during extraction.


It is highly toxic and will be used in the Esquel gold mine in large quantities: 2.7 tons per day, at a rate of 900 grams. per ton of material.
It enters living organisms through the RESPIRATORY, DERMAL, CONJUNCTIVE and DIGESTIVE route. LETHAL DOSE: 150-300 mg NaCN. SIGNIFICANT dose: 50 mg NaCN.

SYMPTOMS OF ACUTE INTOXICATION: Irritation of mucous membranes, burning of the mouth and pharynx. Headache, dizziness, confusion, anxiety. Nausea, vomiting, seizures. Tachycardia, chest tension, pulmonary edema. Alternating rapid breathing with slow and panting. Bright red or pink skin coloring.
CHRONIC EFFECTS (according to NIOSH: United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Criteria Document: Hydrogen Cyanide and Cyanide Salts p.190 (1976)
RESPIRATORY: irritation and tension in the chest NEUROLOGICAL: headache, vertigo, fatigue, alterations in appetite and sleep.
GASTROINTESTINAL: Nausea and vomiting
DERMATOLOGICAL: dermatitis, scarlatiniform outbreaks and papules
ENDOCRINE: enlargement of the thyroid gland, thyroid dysfunction in the metabolism of vitamin B12.
REPRODUCTIVE (in animals): resorption or malformations in hamsters. Degenerative changes in rat testes.

Cyanide natural decomposition process

Mining companies report that cyanide, in the presence of oxygen and sunlight, decomposes into non-toxic products that are carbon dioxide and nitrates.

CN- + O2 NO3- + CO2

We have other knowledge that would allow us a deeper analysis of the subject:

Reaction conditions are the conditions necessary for the process to take place.
Cyanide needs a neutral medium and sunlight for decomposition to occur.

* Influence of the Medium (pH)

in an acid medium: CNH THE PRODUCT OF THIS REACTION IS HIGHLY TOXIC in a basic medium: it does not transform
in a neutral medium: the reaction occurs

* Influence of Light In lakes and ponds there are many dark areas, factors that affect the speed of the process.

The speed of chemical reactions depends, among other factors, on the amount of reactants in contact. Potential streams, ponds or polluted lakes would only have oxidation at the surface level (the area of ​​greatest contact with the air) in relatively warm seasons, since in winter the ice or snow on the surface would prevent it. Therefore, the decomposition rate of cyanide will depend on how aerated the contaminated water is.

Reactions do not always occur in one step as they are theoretically outlined. In this case the appearance of intermediate products (highly lethal) confirms this.
Several intermediates have been found: Cyanogen, Cyanates (they remain for a long time) Thiocyanates (trout mortality detected. Thiocyanates (trout mortality detected) Chlorocyanogen. Ammonium (highly toxic).
In other words, the total reaction does not fully inform us about the risks to take into account.
The long-term permanence of these intermediates puts organisms at risk.

The reaction mechanism and intermediate products

In a report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) they do not know the extent of photolysis, even if it occurs to a large extent. On the two occasions in which the report mentions photolysis, it uses the expression "may also be" "could be" and ends by saying that the scope of this reaction is unknown.
Studies by Geochemist Robert Moran demonstrated the presence of cyanide in several mg. per Kg. in:
Missouri (25 years after mining).
Auschwitz (45 years after the use of CNH gas in the extermination chambers used by the Nazis).

The Environmental Impact

Mining is from an environmental point of view one of the most damaging activities. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of surface mines remain unrestored on the planet and a good number of underground mines were never imitated.

Waste was never taken into account in mining. Between the "ore" that contains the desired mineral and the "gangue" that is the waste material, there are thousands of tons of residues that should be removed and disposed of as the so-called "tails".

The mining system that will be applied in the Cordón Esquel will destroy the surface of the land, creating huge contaminated craters, but will also deform roads and landscapes. Areas of land that will be above the boreholes or in the immediate vicinity have to collapse. Erosion from wind and rain will do the rest: sediments generally become contaminated and run off in solution. The area, typical of a rainy ecosystem, is much more concerned about the drainage of acids that will destroy aquatic life and irreversibly damage water reserves. The exploitation of Esquel's gold involves other chemical compounds that will circulate through landslides or will dissolve from the waste, such as radioactive uranium or toxic metals such as lead, arsenic or cadmium, present in many minerals in the mountain range.

So far we have only mentioned a small part of the mining impact due to mineral extraction. We do not count the irreparable toxic damage of the smelter that will have to separate and obtain the final mineral. Nor the gold rush that will put the city and surrounding towns into crisis, with a very high social and cultural cost.

We do not doubt that the business criterion of profitability in the shortest time possible will be applied. As happened two decades ago in Brazil, they used the cheap and humiliating labor of 50,000 miners in the Amazon basin. Once the gold was mined, huge craters were flooded and the toxic mercury used to make the gold poisoned the soil, the water, and all life there was downstream in the streams and streams.
In a report prepared by Zoe Hartley on November 2, 1995 on the Omai case in Guyana, it is mentioned that 2.59 trillion liters of cyanide-contaminated wastewater spilled through a breach in the slag pond of the mine. Omai gold, containing about 800 parts per million (ppm) of this poison that ran into the Omai River, a tributary of the Esquibo, carrying heavy metals that contaminated the entire basin.

This is so because cyanide separates the gold and silver from the mineral and "separates and mobilizes heavy metals such as arsenic, antimony, cadmium, chromium, mercury, nickel, pyrite, selenium, through the earth until reaching the groundwater. thallium, zinc, common metal sulfides, and sulfuric salts. Heavy metals occur in a range of concentrations in ore. Cyanide leaching releases these metals from the parent mineral and releases them or releases them to the surrounding environment. These heavy metals they are the waste from cyanide leaching and are problematic because they contaminate cyanide solutions and components of machinery used for treatments.

Metals altered from their natural state have higher concentrations, are more resistant to decomposition, and are not easily reintegrated into the chemical cycles of the natural world: decades or centuries are required. By virtue of their weight, heavy metals are deposited as sediment. The strong current of a river can churn up sediment and release heavy metals, as happened in Omai. "
This example is very useful because the case of Omai was not more serious because the river largely diluted the concentrations of cyanide that quickly went towards the mouth of the sea. At this point our concern lies since in Esquel are the lakes, underground aquifers and streams that are the receptors of the toxic solution. Mostly closed basins that surround the entire ecosystem. A case like Omai's would wipe out wildlife and force pharaonic human evacuations.

Some examples to highlight:

Open pit gold mines
An extensive and detailed work, prepared by Miguel Marsh, allows us to analyze the most significant cases of contamination due to gold mining.
These are accidents (a term of doubtful application) that left a balance of immediate deaths and illnesses, and hundreds of kilometers of rivers in the United States, Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America, poisoned.
A single case in Romania, in January 2000 liquidated 100 tons of fish and disabled the drinking water of 2.5 million inhabitants when a sodium cyanide dam began to discharge its liquids into the Tizsa river, the second largest in the country. The presence of heavy metals in 80 kms. of the river called in the World Health Organization (WHO)

A truck transporting cyanide to a mine crashed off a bridge in the Asian country of Kygyzstan and spilled more than 1,700 kilos of cyanide into a river, resulting in two deaths, nearly a hundred people hospitalized and a thousand residents who had to be treated for different health problems.
These accidents happen in all countries, even in highly industrialized ones.
Cyanide and heavy metal leaks killed all aquatic life along 17 miles of the Alamosa River in Colorado, USA, in 1992, spending more than $ 150 million to clean up the area.
In Spain they spilled 1.3 billion gallons of acidic waste mixed with cyanide, destroying thousands of hectares of crops and the fish fauna of the place.

The risks of cyanide are being questioned by the international community, despite the fact that the strong interests of multinationals operate to prevent legislation to the contrary. But in Turkey, the country's highest administrative court issued a ban against the use of cyanide in open-pit mining, arguing that "the present risks undermined the comprehensive health and environmental protection guarantees of the Turkish Constitution. While In the United States, Montanans voted to ban cyanide after suffering dozens of toxic leaks over many years.

However, misfortunes with cyanide shake the entire planet. In Papua, New Guinea, a ton of cyanide was released from a helicopter transporting it to a gold mine. 150 kilos are believed to have been lost in a tropical forest and the consequences are still being investigated after two years.
In South Dakota, USA, almost 7 tons of sodium cyanide waste ended up with the marine life of the river in the Whitewood Creek. A similar case occurred in Nevada, at the Cantera de Oro Mine. While in South Africa a dam at the Harmony mine that was abandoned, produced a significant leakage of sludge contaminated with sodium cyanide, flooding a housing complex and causing the death of ten miners. In Bay, Nevada, nearly a thousand birds were found dead after drinking cyanide-laced water from one of the mine's pools. Birds often fall into the lethal trap of these immense pools or dams that contain the sodium cyanide solution in gold mines. In South Carolina, on the other hand, 11,000 fish succumbed in an important stretch of the Lynches River, near the Brewer gold mine.
At the Richmond mine, cyanide fell on 10,000 trout that were found floating in a river in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

This brief list of the ravages caused by cyanide in the exploitation of gold mines is only an insignificant summary but it places us before the lacerating socio-environmental problem with the announced exploitation of the Esquel gold mine that will alter the life of a city, will have a marked influence on the annual tourism of the entire ecosystem, winter sports, lake activities and above all because toxic mining activity will erase the pristine image that will cease to be an indelible seal, a brand, of the city of Esquel and of the Andean Region.

It is these reasons that force us to make comparisons and crude analyzes of similar situations:
Parallels or Antagonisms

We have read with amazement an article that appeared in WRM Bulletin No. 39, October 2000. It deals with concern about the pollution of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. We believe we are watching an MGM film with the mountains, savannas, forests and jungles of the vast territory after Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged, whose first syllables gave rise to the name of Tanzania. 6% of the country's total area is occupied by lakes, with the imposing Lake Victoria, the second largest in the world for its 69,490 km. square in area, and one of the largest reserves of fresh water. Agriculture, fishing and lake boat yards are the most significant activities on the lake. However, degrading factors coincided to affect the region: the indiscriminate felling of the vegetation that surrounds it, the ichthyological predation due to the boom in exports, the disappearance of several species of fish, the eutrophication of the body of water and its contamination by spillage. of industrial effluents, the installation of exotic crops such as coffee, tea and sugar that devastated the jungle and native swamps, providing chemical products for their production whose sequel ends in the lake, the great landfill.

Once the carrying capacity of the now fragile ecosystem has been exceeded, it must still support millions of liters of effluents and industrial waste from textiles and tanneries installed in the vicinity of the lake.
Despite this highly condensed picture of unsustainable development, a new polluting activity has begun in the area: gold mining.
Two companies operate in the place, one from Ghana and the other from South Africa that operate for multinationals from developed countries, to be joined by the president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, who intends to continue opening gold mines in the vicinity of Lake Victoria and continue with the same extraction system: sodium cyanide.

We thought this testimony about Lake Victoria and the human effort to destroy it was important. We believe that there are references that raise the central problem. Both nations are the South, but in this Patagonian latitude their rocks have not yet been drilled. Consequently we must face the cyclopean task of defending the few pristine places that still remain on the planet. The first world does not stop, it comes for more, it comes for everything. Curiously, the water mirrors in Patagonia keep the liquid, sweet, drinkable gold, whose reserve the dominant North claims when shortages and droughts are announced that add to polluted basins and waterways.

Below we attach to this report an article that is essential to read and that helps the announced purposes. It belongs to Dra. Teresa Ana Maknis (*) on:

"The National Parks and the Mining Treaty with Chile" "The scope of application of the Agreement between Argentina and Chile on Mining Integration and Complementation contains national parks without any clause that preserves their integrity. The mining treaty was signed on December 29, 1997 and its complementary protocol on August 20, 1999 , without any clause that preserves the
integrity and ecology of parks and reserves, both provincial and national, and of other tourist areas that are in its scope ...

The treaty allows investors the exploration and exploitation of existing mining resources and the use of natural resources for this, within the scope of application without any type of restriction, applying the principle of national treatment and granting border facilitations that can be extended. through specific additional protocols, that is, the transit between Argentina and Chile will be for them without restrictions, with the danger of developing illegal activities under their protection. The integrity of the National Parks and other tourist areas will also be affected by the existence of a 1993 Protocol that refers to the facilitation of aerial work activities, that is, open-air exploitation that leaves a crater as the final result.

This treaty is not the first on the subject to be signed with Chile. It is part of the Economic Complementation Agreement, where this activity is agreed in several successive protocols until 1993, supplemented by the 1991 Treaty for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments. The Bases and Foundations of a Treaty of Integration and Mining Complementation of 1996. The Memorandum of Physical Integration and Border Facilitation. The action of the Parliamentary Commission has been all behind the backs of the Argentine people, who were not duly informed by the media.

The scope of the treaty covers the entire western area of ​​our country, close to the border with Chile. Of great tourist development. On the other hand, in Chile it is very narrow that does not affect its national parks or other tourist areas.

From North to South, it affects the following provincial parks and national reserves, and national parks:
Provincial Park and National Reserve of Ischigualasto (San Juan) and of Talampaya (La Rioja).
National Parks:
Laguna Blanca (Neuquen), Lanín (Neuquen), Nahuel Huapi (Río Negro), Lago Puelo (Chubut), Los Alerces (Chubut), Perito Moreno (North of Santa Cruz).
Hot springs: Fiambalá (Catamarca), Pismanta (San Juan), El Sosneado (Mendoza), Copahue and Caviavue (Neuquen).
Reservoirs: Nihuiles I, II and III and Valle Grande on the Atuel river, Los Reyunos on the Diamante river, Agua del Toro, all in Mendoza.
The rivers on which the dams and reservoirs were built, are born and flow in the area of ​​application, with a certain danger of contamination of the basin and the reservoir due to mining activity if there are no clauses
that exclude these areas.
Tourist areas: Valles Calchaquíes (Salta), Uspallata, Cerro Aconcagua, Las Cuevas, Puente del Inca, Vallecito, Los Molles, Las Leñas, Valle Hermoso (Mendoza). Chos Malal, la Pehuenia: Lake Aluminé basin, Primeros Pinos ski field. Basins of the lakes: Ñorquinco, Rucachoroi, Quillén and Tromen (Neuquen).
Lake basins: Winter, La Plata Fontana, Frío, Pico and Chalía (Chubut) Lake basins: Buenos Aires, Pueyrredón and Posadas, San Martín (Santa Cruz) As can be seen, the scope of application affects national parks and highly relevant tourist areas. In full operation and with unbeatable possibilities for the future by expanding its hotel and service infrastructure.

With the acceptance of his treatment in the National Congress with so little left for the change of administration, it has proceeded with great recklessness.
It is regrettable that our Senate approved it. This shows the lack of a careful study of it. Se han engañado ante la expectativa que Argentina y Chile se convertirán entre el 2000 y el 2005 en la región minera más importante del mundo, sin haber analizado cuáles serán las consecuencias de esa actividad para nuestros países y sus pueblos.

Como está planteado, el beneficio será para los inversionistas; y la agresión para nuestro territorio y para su medio ambiente, es decir, para nosotros. Se jactan que no existe otro caso a nivel mundial. Ello es porque ningún país está dispuesto a ceder su jurisdicción sobre parte de su territorio, menos aún cuando éste es vecino a la frontera y de tal magnitud de superficie. Sin considerar las actividades ilegales que pueden darse a su amparo ni las consecuencias no deseables de la actividad minera que puedan ocurrir. Se podría haber probado en la Puna de Atacama, es decir, un área menor y menos desarrollada, pero también en ella, excluyendo las áreas turísticas y moderando las facilitaciones.

El tratado de minería fue acordado en base a la ideología sustentada por la anterior administración nacional, que hoy no es necesario continuar porque afecta la soberanía y los derechos de los argentinos a disfrutar de esa regiones excepcionales en recursos y bellezas naturales"

(*) La Dra. Teresa Ana Maknis vive en Rosario (Santa Fe – Argentina) es Licenciada en Ciencia Política y Licenciada en Relaciones Internacionales, habiendo realizado estudios avanzados de Abogacía.


El enigma que tendremos que dilucidar surge del planteo de extorsión sobre una población con hambre y con desocupación. También, como dijimos al principio, es el mundo desarrollado con sus acreencias comerciales, su presión económica y el paradigma de vendernos de manera leonina lo que antes se llevó. El tercer segmento lo ocupa el funcionario local, el corrupto, el fácilmente corrompible cuya búsqueda es innecesaria, se halla a la vuelta de cada esquina y de cada casa de gobierno.

Es por ello que creemos oportuno adjuntar al presente informe las conclusiones del público y del panel de expositores de las Asambleas de Vecinos de Esquel que debatieron sobre el oro de Esquel. Resumidas, son las siguientes:

La población desconoce los alcances y consecuencias de la minería a cielo abierto. Como así también de la subterránea y de la mixta.
Muchas opiniones advierten un alto costo para la calidad de vida en Esquel.
Los organismos públicos retacean la información que permitiría mayor y mejores conocimientos del pueblo.
La información sobre los estudios de prefactibilidad se entregó con un año y medio de atraso y de manera inaccesible para quien no tenga una computadora con lectora de CD, y aún así sin explicaciones didácticas puesto que presenta mapas, textos y figuras, de manera aislada, que obliga a interpretación profesional. Con todo, deja dudas si la información corresponde literalmente al documento impreso original. La población fue ignorada.
Una llamativa conclusión advirtió que "habiendo tanto oro para extraer no fue previsto un mínimo de fondos para hacer copias impresas del documento mencionado y puesto al alcance de todos los ciudadanos".

Exigir la presentación de copias impresas de toda la documentación relativa a las diferentes etapas del emprendimiento, con certificación de autenticidad por escribano público para que queden depositadas en la biblioteca de la Universidad y en las bibliotecas municipales de la ciudad de Esquel, Travelín, Cholila y de otras comunidades potencialmente afectadas.

En ocasión de estas conclusiones, en el marco universitario y de asambleístas, se dio a conocer el robo de aproximadamente 10 cajas de disquetes y de informes impresos producidos por el Laboratorio de Ecología Acuática, conteniendo datos, en gran parte inéditos, sobre los ambientes acuáticos del noroeste de Chubut. Estos hechos se produjeron aproximadamente hace dos años.
Se lucha por la información de interés público en general y no sólo acerca de la explotación minera: por los residuos del basurero público donde van a parar desechos potencialmente tóxicos de varias actividades de la ciudad como por ejemplo material de los laboratorios fotográficos, entre muchos otros.

En la oportunidad se concluyó que las conferencias sobre cianuro que organizó la Facultad de Ciencias Naturales se continúen haciendo en los salones de la Sociedad Española para que pueda asistir mayor cantidad de gente. El pueblo debe saber sobre el cianuro de sodio y los alcances y peligros tóxicos que ha de producir esta explotación minera. Tampoco se ha realizado evaluación alguna, un balance acerca del saldo que dejará el emprendimiento minero cuando haya concluido.
Asimismo sobre los aspectos económicos y sobre la cantidad de puestos efectivos de trabajo considerando que en gran parte se contratará a personal foráneo, cosa que no solucionará el desempleo de fondo en la ciudad de Esquel.

Se hace saber que el monto anual de regalías es inferior a lo que pierde anualmente Esquel con el recorte del 13% en los sueldos. La entrega de este recurso es prácticamente gratuito.
Se denuncia también que el porcentaje de canon minero es irrisorio. Se pide que la legislación minera argentina debe revisarse en su totalidad ya que el régimen actual es perjudicial para el patrimonio nacional.
Se exige además la urgente necesidad de cambiar el eje del problema: pasar del concepto de conservación al de desarrollo sustentable. Se discutió y se puso de manifiesto la necesidad de buscar alternativas laborales realmente sustentables.

El código de minería exige una EIA previa a los trabajos de exploración (no sólo a los de explotación). En opinión de los asistentes, la provincia ya estaría en falta porque no consta que se haya realizado en ningún momento.
Se planteó la necesidad de la participación activa de la comunidad y de que esta aplique mejores formas de organización.
Se cuestionó que el municipio de Esquel abriera sus puertas a conferencias de dudosa credibilidad como la realizada sobre el cianuro, a cargo de un representante de la empresa vendedora, al mismo tiempo que se silencian voces que alertan sobre los riesgos e irregularidades de este emprendimiento. Fue la universidad local la que salió a explicar el verdadero peligro del cianuro de sodio.
Se destacó la necesidad de obtener recursos para efectuar estudios independientes que permitan confrontar los estudios de impacto ambiental que presente la empresa.
Se resaltó la necesidad de un pronunciamiento formal por parte del estado para definir el marco legal en el cual se va a realizar la Audiencia Pública. Se exige que se realice en el marco de la Ley Provincial 4032 y que la decisión de la misma tenga efecto vinculante.

Por otra parte, el debate de la Asamblea de Vecinos ratificó los puntos señalados e hizo hincapié en las múltiples campañas que debieron realizar los grupos ecologistas en los últimos veinticinco años para impedir depredaciones, contaminaciones de ríos y lagos, enajenaciones de masas boscosas, talas indiscriminadas, la acción de funcionarios corruptos, devastación y depredación de especies nativas; asimismo generaron áreas protegidas, proyectos sustentables, mientras denunciaban planes de manejo ilegales o impedían que la región patagónica se convirtiera en vertedero de residuos tóxicos o en cementerio de escoria nuclear.

La Asamblea de Vecinos de Esquel, además, fijó una clara posición acerca de emplear todos los medios al alcance del pueblo para exigir que se respete la voluntad de sus habitantes. Esto es, exigir una consulta popular mediante el voto directo de los ciudadanos de Esquel sobre si aceptan o rechazan la explotación minera del Cordón Esquel.
En el marco de la exposición "vienen por el oro, vienen por todo", se hizo referencia a las presiones económicas que soporta la nación y puesto que los acreedores internacionales, el Fondo Monetario Internacional y el Banco Mundial le exigen al país avales que respalden los títulos públicos de la deuda externa y de futuras negociaciones, veríamos necesario no desprendernos de minerales críticos ni estratégicos; los yacimientos son patrimonio de la nación y de hecho son respaldo y reaseguro del cumplimiento de sus obligaciones reales.

El presente informe es presentado por RENACE, Red Nacional de Acción Ecologista, con el único criterio de convertir el texto en herramienta de una campaña ambiental que habrá de extenderse por todo el territorio nacional mediante la acción de los grupos ecologistas que la componen. Sostiene el propósito de ayudar y apuntalar a los vecinos y al pueblo de Esquel en su lucha por defender el desarrollo sustentable, una mejor calidad de vida y la estabilidad del ecosistema de la cordillera andino patagónica.

Fue elaborado por el Movimiento Antinuclear del Chubut (MACH) con el valioso aporte de diversos testimonios y opiniones, destacándose:

Asamblea de Vecinos de Esquel, Sociedad Ecológica Regional del Bolsón (SER), Asociación Ornitológica Lago Puelo, Vuquipura Mapu de Alto Río Senguerr, Proyecto Lemú, Comisión Mapuche-Tehuelche 11 de octubre, ExTrabajadores de YPF de Comodoro Rivadavia, Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Protección Ecológica Corcovado, Profesores de la Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia S.J.B. Sede Esquel, Lic. Lino Pizzolon (Facultad de Ciencias Naturales), Dr. Gerosa Lewis (Escuela Superior de Derecho), Dr… Macayo, Dr. Cristian Hendriksen, Uishi (encendiendo conciencias), Dra. Rosa Chiquichano (abogada Tehuelche), Leonardo Ferro (coordinador de las Asambleas), Tomás y Marisa (activa militancia ecológica), y fuentes periodísticas locales: diario El Oeste, Jornada, El Chubut, Crónica de Comodoro Rivadavia, "Miradas Al Sur" ( TV canal 7 de Rawson-Chubut), "Protagonista" ( TV canal 7 de Rawson, Chubut), el programa de noticias de Canal 4 de Esquel Televisora Color y radio "Convivencia" de Trelew, Chubut
Agradecemos los anónimos envíos de documentos y pormenorizados datos que nos permitieron elaborar el presente informe. (mach)

Enviado por: Lic. Silvana Buján [email protected]



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