|Chilean Protesters Unhappy With Barrick Gold Pascua Lama Project|
|Written by Christian Peña|
|Sunday, 11 May 2008 13:00|
Fourteen of those killed were Chilean, while one was a Canadian pilot who died in a helicopter crash on Feb. 8. The activists spray painted the sidewalk in front of Barrick's office at 222 Ricardo Lyon with the names of the dead workers. Police did not intervene until the protesters began spray painting the company's floors.
Two of the most outspoken demonstrators were Luis Faura, from Alto Del Carmen, and Enrique Gaytan, from El Transito. The two communities are in the valley below the Pascua Lama mine and both men are elected city counselors.
Faura spoke briefly about Barrick's January, 2008, celebration of the fact that 1,000 days had passed at the mining site without an accident. "Then they had a helicopter crash in February, but the event got little or no coverage in the national media.," said Faura. "The newspapers and TV channels are all controlled in Chile."
Barrick's Pascua Lama gold mine project was approved by Chilean environmental officials in 2006, but has not advanced due to unresolved tax issues on the Argentine side of the project.
The company's original plan to remove two mountain glacial ice fields to allow construction of an open pit gold mine was strongly opposed by Chilean environmentalists, forcing the company to opt for tunnel excavation to mine the gold. Still, witnesses like Gaytan report that the glacial fields are already largely destroyed due to preliminary road and development activity carried out by Barrick and unchecked by environmental authorities.
During the Toronto shareholders meeting Barrick's president Greg Wilkins called the mine's progress disappointing. "We are increasing our efforts to push this one over the goal line," said Wilkens. During a conference call to shareholders they again made a promise to begin construction in September of this year.
Communication company Extend, contracted by Barrick to manage its corporate image in Chile, was asked to comment on Tuesday's demonstration, but did not respond. Extend is partially owned by two well connected sisters, daughters of one of Chile's most important Christian Democratic Party politicians - Belisario Velasco, a former Interior Minister to President Michelle Bachelet and a top political operator for the past 20 years.