People Protest Toxic Gold Mining in the Dominican Republic

Digital Journal reports on the double-edged sword presented by two Canadian companies, Barrick and Goldcorps, which will be starting to mine for gold in December 2012 in La Cerca, in the central highlands of the Dominican Republic. The area used to be an unspoiled paradise; it is surrounded by dense rainforest, which is home to endemic species, including the highly endangered solenodon.  Now the Pueblo Viejo mine will require up to 24 tons of cyanide to be used daily for the gold-mining process. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Domingo Abreu of the National Environmental Assembly (ANA) says, “Using cyanide is suicide in installments.” [Juliana] Guzman’s neighbors from the agricultural cooperative have experienced moldy cocoa pods from their harvest, which has been tainted by the highly toxic cyanide used in a trial operation at the Pueblo Viejo gold mine, borne by the rivers into the soil of the region.

The mining project in the Dominican Republic drew sharp criticism from the very outset, as negotiations with the government were not transparent. Also the terms of the contract heavily favor the mining company. As an example, in the first years, Barrick will pay virtually no taxes and will earn 25% more from the mining operation than the Dominican government, who are the de facto owner of the gold. The cash-strapped government and the poor population will not profit from the toxic gold mining at all.

At the beginning of the project, local residents in the mining area complained of illegal deforestation and also contamination of the adjacent waters. Farmers who were relocated to make room for the mine did receive the promised replacement houses, but are still awaiting the promised farmland, on which to make their living. [. . .]  Trade unions are also angry, as the mining companies promised long-term jobs, but they laid off the majority of the workers after the mine preparations were complete.

This problem escalated in late September, with the broad coalition of thousands of Dominicans and organizations demonstrating against the mining operation. The result of the demonstration was that police fired on the protesters, without any warning, injuring 30 of them – many seriously.

This is not the first time there has been a problem with mining in the Dominican Republic. An abandoned mine in the central mountain range also used cyanide in its operations, and in the process, polluted the rivers, ground water and soils of the region, right in the middle of the island’s largest fresh water reservoir. [. . .] Cyanide is particularly dangerous for the aquatic environment and will affect rivers originating in that region. This region also contains the largest freshwater reservoir in the country, which supplies the entire island nation of Dominican Republic.

As part of its mining contract, Barrick has ensured that it cannot be held liable for environmental damage. This is unacceptable to the Dominican population, and a coalition of 100 organizations is protesting and calling for the mining contracts to be annulled. A petition is being run by Rainforest Rescue calling for the annulment of the contracts with the mining companies.

For full article, see http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/337788

Photo from http://dominicanwatchdog.blogspot.com/2010/03/powerful-opposition-to-barrick-gold.html#!/2010/03/powerful-opposition-to-barrick-gold.html

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