Argentina: Affected Communities Say No to Osisko
Since January 2nd, 2012, local residents have blocked the entry of Osisko Mining Corporation onto the Famatina Mountain Range in the province of La Rioja, Argentina. Protests began in anticipation of scheduled exploration activities.
In August 2011, Osisko signed an agreement with the provincial state company, Energy and Minerals State Society (ESME by its initials in Spanish). The agreement for the Famatina gold project included a $500,000 USD cash payment to ESME within 15 days of its signing and a commitment to invest $10 million USD within the first year of exploration. The company was expected to begin exploration work yesterday.
During the past two weeks, protests have garnered broad participation from the town of Famatina. The Argentinian press has reported that up to half of the town of 7,000 people have participated, including the mayor and the local priest. Town residents first protested the project immediately following signing of the deal in August.
The local mayor gave statements to the Argentinian press on Monday saying that the town of Famatina “is not interested in discussing royalties or provincial revenues.” Ismael Bordagaray a member of the national ruling party said that “what the town is saying is that it doesn’t want a resource such as water to be contaminated, or to be left with the environmental impacts that large-scale mining will generate.”
“The people don’t see mining as an option for development in the area,” he added.
In another statement to the press, Bordagaray commented, “The town of Famatina doesn’t want mining for our region. Rather they are looking to tourism or the production of nuts, peaches, grapes and pears.” The Famatina valley is the most important viticultural area in the province with award winning vineyards.
Provincial governor, Luis Beder Herrera, also a member of President Cristina Kirchner’s national ruling party, the Front for Victory, supports the project. The governor deployed a special police force to the area leading Nobel Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel to write the governor warning against possible repression and urging him to recognize the population’s right to protest.
Osisko Mining has not issued a statement on the protests and local press reports that neither company representatives in Argentina nor the head office have so far responded to requests for comment.
Protests five years ago led Barrick Gold to abandon the area.
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