Alpaca, Bear Creek Corani, Bear Creek Mining, Bear Creek Resources, Colocolo, Corani, Corani Rock Art, endangered art, endangered monuments, environment, environmental devastation, glaciers, historic monument, Largest Tropical Icecap, Macusani, Macusani Yellowcake, North Andean Deer, peru, petroglyphs, pictographs, pre-historic art, pre-historic monuments in danger, Puma Concolor Incarum, Quechua, Quelccaya Ice Cap, rupestre art, Taruca, Threatened Species, uranium mining, Vicuna
This Post is both a Part II and a split off from the 21 April 2013 Post “Margaret Thatcher…Macusani Yellowcake and Alpaca Genocide” which has posts from 21 April 2013 to 3 May 2013. This post starts with 27 April 2013 (so there is overlap) and ends with 11 May 2013. May 12 is a new post, part III.
Photo by Donkeet, who is not affiliated with Haiti Mining Awareness
Saturday, 27 April 2013
10,000 YEAR OLD ROCK ART SITES IN MACUSANI-CORANI WILL BE DESTROYED BY THE PROPOSED OPEN PIT URANIUM (AND OTHER) MINES
The Macusani-Corani region of Puno is a huge rock painting, in the midst of a “rock forest”. It is said that the rock forests were an army of giant warriors petrified in the first battle between men and gods. A five university project, directed by archaeologist Patricia Vega Centeno, has found almost 200 rock art sites in Corani and Macusani, dating from 8000 BC in an area of 72,530 ha (compare to over 90,000 ha of the proposed mines). The paintings testify to the importance of Alpacas and their ancestors in the area and for the people of the area.
In early April, the Regional Councilman for the Province of Carabaya, where the proposed uranium mines and artwork lie, expressed concern since 90 percent of the territory of Corani is under permit for uranium exploration. In this sense, he said that he empathizes with the feelings and concerns of the inhabitants. The inhabitants have been having trouble finding out information. The President of Central Única Regional de Rondas Campesinas, Fidel Lope, warned of the unfortunate consequences for those who decide to explore without consulting the population and without the required environmental impact studies. Macusani Yellowcake, alone, has about 900km2 of uranium concessions. Bear Creek’s Corani Project has about 50km2 of silver, lead, zinc, and we suspect some uranium, at least as by-products. A company called Vena and others have additional uranium concessions in the area.
The oldest Macusani-Corani paintings are Preceramic, 8000-2000 BC, with hunting scenes of Alpaca “camelid” ancestors. Then are paintings of Alpacas ancestors belonging to the pre-Incan Kaluyo culture of 2000-500 BC, when ceramics appeared, along with agriculture and animal domestication. There are paintings of the Colla culture of 1000-1400 BC. Then there Inca geometric paintings of orange, mustard, black, white and red. There are also rock engravings known as petroglyphs. In 1905 the Swedish Nordenskiöld first reported the rock art, which was studied again in the 1990s and more recently (2000s) by Corani Roberto Ramos and by Austrian Hostnig Reiner and in 2005 was declared National Cultural Heritage by the National Institute of Culture by RDN No. 2658/INC-2005. It also has World Monument Fund-Watch recognition (2008), as an endangered site. The team led by Patricia Vega of the Centeno Andean Culture Association, covered a large area and made new discoveries, as well as gathering additional information. It is classified as endangered since concessions for exploration and exploitation of uranium, have endangered the volcanic stone outcrops and caves that house the first artistic expressions in the region and in Peru. Without help this unique landscape considered unique in the world is about to disappear. (References-Additional Info at very end)
For pictures see: rupestreweb2.tripod.com/macusani.html
The Rock Art from 8,000 BC to Colonial Times documents the importance of the Alpaca and its ancestors to the people of the Macusani-Corani Area for over 10,000 years. But, this culture of interdependence is still alive. This video shows part of what will be lost. Although this is east of the uranium mining concessions it will be poisoned by radioactive dust and water contamination.
Carabaya Land of Alpacas
Sunday, 28 April 2013
WHAT THE FUTURE MAY BE FOR MACUSANI-CORANI
Yesterday, we saw a video of how things are, and below are pictures of what may be, if the open pit uranium mining is not stopped.
These are pictures of abandoned open pit uranium mining sites in the South Dakota Black Hills, of which there are over 3,000. No efforts have been made for cleanup. On the contrary, there are attempts to force more uranium mining upon the people by Canadian Powertech Corporation. Some uranium exploration holes remain uncovered in the Black Hills allegedly big enough for a person (or alpaca?) to fall into. http://www.defendblackhills.org/
Only now are efforts being made to clean up Navajo land from uranium mining, and it is woefully underfunded. They have over 1,000 underground uranium mining sites. $500 million for cleanup of Navajo lands were requested, meanwhile, only $110 million were granted. Compare this to the total economic assistance given by the US to foreign countries in 2011 of $31.7 billion.
Even if the uranium mining is stopped in Peru, the exploration itself can have impacts. Normally one would think of risks of contamination, especially of aquifers, due to exploratory drilling, but in July 2011, it was reported that uranium exploration activities, by Macusani Yellowcake’s predecessors Solex and Global caused shortages of water in the town of Tantamaco in the district of Corani. Exploration for uranium started about 2006 but around the end of 2010, beginning of 2011, water shortages began. The activities of these companies involve the diversion of water from the reservoir, leaving the townspeople without water. This is said to impact an average of 300 to 400 families, in the town of Tantamaco, which have this reservoir as their sole source of water. The residents stated that whereas before they had water everyday, all day, now they have only a few hours of water. They reportedly did not want to be identified for fear of suffering persecution or threats against their lives. Tantamaco is located 15 minutes from Isivilla. There is no special law for uranium mining in Peru, rather it is handled under the general mining law. This appears to mean that no special precautions would be required during the exploration or exploitation process.
In June, 2011, Macusani joined the general strike against mining in the region and against a proposed hydroelectric project. However, this did not stop Macusani Yellowcake from continuing its exploration in July, 2011. Hernan Vilca, Rondero leader, said that Macusani is known as the Alpaquera Capital in the region, as well as being an agricultural area. Therefore they called for the definitive cancellation of mining concessions. The Ronderos, Rondas Campesinas, are recognized by Law No. 27908 as a democratic community organization that can, among other things, dialogue with the State and, assist in conflict resolution. Corani district appears the most impacted by the uranium exploration. Human Rights activist Cesar Quispe Calsin, warned that 75% of the population would be affected by the concessions. On the second day of the indefinite, general strike, against mining concessions, which was adhered to by the inhabitants of Macusani-Carabaya, a clandestine uranium storage facility caught fire. Two thousand people are said to have burned the warehouse in the heart of Macusani, in which uranium samples were found.
The 22 September 2011, 250 Ronderos were to gather to ask Macusani Yellowcake to stop exploration work. Due to the high level of pollution, which the exploration causes to water and pastures, the ronderos of the five communities that belong to the district (of Corani), determined that exploration must stop.
We have been unable to find out what has transpired since this time,
except the warning, earlier this month, by The President of Central Única Regional de Rondas Campesinas, Fidel Lope, of unfortunate consequences for those who decide to explore without consulting the population and without the required environmental impact studies (presumably meaning that they waste their time and money). Nor do we know why, over a year and a half after the Ronderos seem to have asked them to leave, Macusani Yellowcake is still there.
However, the Ronderos for the entire Region of Puno are meeting today, April 28th and Monday, April 29th in Macusani!
Participants are expected to include representatives of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Energy and Mines, Regional Government, Superior Court of Justice Puno, Public Ministry, National Police Ombudsman, Congressmen, and topics to be discussed include the current situation of mining in Puno, mining concessions, as well as community justice.
Surely some answers will come out of this meeting. Unfortunately we doubt that there will be news posted from this meeting before Wednesday or Thursday, however. See map and references below.
30 April 2013
LARGEST TROPICAL ICE CAP ENDANGERED BY URANIUM MINING
The Quelccaya icecap, the largest tropical icecap in the world is totally surrounded by Open Pit Uranium Mining Concessions (mostly Macusani Yellowcake). Quelccaya lies to the west of Macusani and Corani. On April 4, 2013, it was called a “Rosetta Stone” by Dr. Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State U, who, with his wife, Ellen, has spent decades studying it. Ice cores from the Quelccaya Ice Cap, provide a year by year, “Rosetta Stone” key, over an almost 1,800 year period, with which to compare other climate histories from the world’s tropical and subtropical regions. This allows researchers to better understand both historical and today’s climate changes. http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/icerosetta.htm
What difference does surrounding Quelccaya icecap with uranium mining make? Much! Most obvious is that open pit uranium mining would make it inaccessible and/or unsafe for those who would want to visit as tourists or for research. Less obvious is the impact that it will have on speeding up the melting of this icecap and its component glaciers. How can this be so? It’s got to do with reflectivity, called “albedo”. Albedo for fresh snow is about 0.9 and for charcoal, about 0.04, with deep shadowed cavities approaching zero. The presence of mining dust can lower glacier surface reflectivity (albedo) significantly, with an increase in melting (ablation). Additionally, the fine dust can be moved by surface meltwater and reduce albedo on nearby cleaner ice surfaces. The total impact of the fine dust on melting of the glacier surface would be higher because this redistribution changes the surface morphology.
The predominant trade winds for this area would be east to west, meaning that dust from most of the mining will fall upon the icecap, and perhaps into nearby Lake Sibinacocha (and other smaller lakes), which lies to the west. In El Nino years when the wind flips directions then dust from the prospects between Quelccaya and Macusani will fall upon the inhabitants of Corani and Macusani and anything to the east.
Uranium dust has a special characteristic, which no one speaks of, besides radioactivity, and that is its pyrophoric nature. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a notice dealing with the pyrophoricity in the context of transportation in May 1980: “From time to time NRC has received reports of transportation incidents involving shipment of uranium in a pyrophoric form (capable of sponataneous ignition). These forms generally include finely divided metallic saw turnings and chips, sawdust, and abrasive saw sludge. Moisture…is usually present on the finely divided material, contributing to its reactivity…Although the exact reaction kinetics of finely divided pyrophoric metals is not well understood, past industry experience has indicated that extreme care must be exercised in the proper storage and transportation of such pyrophoric forms of uranium so as to preclude spontaneous ignition. /Fires resulting are extremely difficult to extinguish using such conventional fire extinguishing agents as CO2, foam, and dry chemical. Water, if used in very large volumes or by total immersion can be effective. Water used as a fine spray, however, can be extremely dangerous, actually causing a more violent reaction due to the radiolytic breakdown of the water from the extremely high temperatures. Further, such fires also create an inhalation hazard due to the disperson of airborne uranium as particulate matter.” http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/gen-comm/info-notices/1980/in80025.html
Although the spontaneous combustion risk of uranium mining dust might be less at high altitudes, landing on the damp ice and snow would seemingly enhance the risk. It also would seem any burning dust would melt the icecap even faster than regular dust. Another governmental document discusses the risk of disposal of uranium mining wastes due to its potential flammability.
Below is a video showing the non-spontaneous combustion of uranium when stroked over a metal file
Does it matter if this glacier melts or melts faster?
Yes, both for the communities and for the world. Firstly for the world, icecaps reflect heat back away from earth, so without them more heat will stay on earth. They reflect about 80% of the heat back into space. For all of those who think about going to sit on top of a glacier on a hot sunny day, the cooling effect should come as no surprise. According to the USGS, they have a very direct effect on the water cycle and on weather patterns. Icecaps, glaciers, and permanent snow account for about 69.7% of fresh water in the world. They are of critical importance in providing water supply for the villages below them. Without them the streams will dry up and there will be no water in the drier parts of the year. The mining itself also uses up water. Accelerating melting means that the water will run out more quickly. As well, the melting water will take the radioactive and other contaminants (e.g. lead) more quickly down the mountain, into the streams (and aquifers) of the villages and ultimately into the Amazon. According to Thompson (2007), as the Qori Kalis glacier (of Quelccaya ice cap) “retreated, a massively deep lake formed at its margin, high up a valley it has been contained by a natural dam.” In March of 2006, “a massive chunk of the glacier broke off, tumbled downhill and splashed into that lake, sending a wall of water over the dam and cascading down into the valley.” http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/qorigone.htm
If the dam gives way totally, it could be catastrophic.
Accelerating melting means an acceleration of these processes and the increased risk of catastrophic failure of either a natural dam or of part of the mountain slope, which can send water and/or debris downhill washing away everything in its path. Open pit mining around the base of the mountain and of the edges of the glacier itself will increase slope instability and can, in and of itself, cause catastrophic slope failure, i.e. a major avalanche which can send water, ice and rocks hurling and destroying all in its path. The dynamite used could set this off, and even the constant movement of heavy mining trucks can do so. The removal of vegetation increases the risk of slope failure because the vegetation helps to absorb excess water and release it gradually, the roots help hold the soil together and vegetation can provide natural barriers to landslides. There have been many historic instances of this, including the April 29, 1903, Frank Slide in Alberta Canada (110 years and one day ago). In this case the mountain was unstable due to mining and freezing water in cracks expanded initiating the slide. The landslide roared down a valley, through town and up the other side of the valley, killing 66 people. Another mining related disaster was the 1680 landslide of Plurs (then Switzerland and now Italy), which killed between 1,000 and 2,500 people. It was caused by weakening of the lower parts of the mountain by careless mining and water infiltration. An estimated 1,000 people were killed in a gigantic landslide that destroyed the Peruvian mining village of Chungar after a mountain lake burst its banks, in March 1971. In April of 1974, 750 people were presumed dead after similar landslides wiped out two more villages high in the Andes. In January of 1962 the edge of a giant glacier on the slopes of an extinct volcano broke apart and hurled down the mountain. The ice bloc weighed about 6 million tons and traveled 9 1/2 miles in 7 minutes. It destroyed 9 towns and 7 small villages. 4,000 people and 10,000 farm animals were killed and crops destroyed. Two towns were completely buried under 40 ft. of ice, mud, trees, boulders and other deris. These are but a few examples. They are not infrequent.
This is, of course, a seismic zone which means that either tailings dams or natural dams formed by melting glaciers could fail due to an earthquake, inducing landslides and washing radioactive and other waste everywhere. Additionally this whole mining area is a caldera of a dormant or extinct volcano (unfortunately we cannot find its name). Although you can read in wikipedia that there are no active volcanoes in South American between latitudes 3 south and 15 south, this is false. The northernmost volcano which we have found classified as active, in Peru, is the Quimsachata volcano, which is at about latitude 14 south. Quimsachata volcano is much closer to the Quelccaya-Corani-Macusani area (about 50km; 31 miles away), than Quimsachata volcano is to the next closest active volcano (about 90 miles; 145 km away). Researchers believe that the melting of ice caps and glaciers may activate dormant volcanoes. This has to do, in part, with the pressure which the ice exerts on the volcano. For details see: http://pages.uoregon.edu/bindeman/GeyerBindeman.pdf
Obviously, this is only a potential problem if the volcano is only dormant and not extinct – something which is not always easy to ascertain.
In addition to uranium mining, there is Bear Creek Mining, which claims to be a silver, lead and zinc concession. This is bad enough but, it seems obvious that if all of the neighboring concessions have uranium, that the Bear Creek concessions would have at least some.
The fact that there are no special distinctions between uranium and other mining in Peru makes their mining for uranium more probable.
Bearcreek’s CEO, Andrew Swarthout, used to be Exploration Manager for Kennecott Mexico. Kennecott was accused ca 1999 of illegally mining uranium in Mexico. It is not clear if he was there when this happened, however.
Wednesday, May Day 2013
MAYDAY: THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES
In the context of their December 2011, Corani Project NI 43-101 Technical Report, available on their web site, Bear Creek Mining Corporation, summarized prior studies of threatened and endangered species as part of their biological baseline study(p. 194). These are relevant for Bear Creek, Macusani Yellowcake and others.
These include mammals, which appear constantly in the Endangered Rock Art: Deer, Puma, and Vicuña (shares common ancestor with Alpaca). (In our discussion we focused only on the pictures of Alpacas and their ancestors in keeping with the theme of this post.) So, not only are the ancient pictures of them endangered by the exploration and proposed mining, but the real animals are currently threatened due to the proposed mining. According to Bear Creek Mining, animals found on site are included in National and/or International Threatened Species lists. Specifically, those listed are the North Andean deer or Taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis); the Puma (Puma concolor), Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) and the Pampus cat (Leopardus colocolo). There are around 12,000 to 17,000 North Andean deer left, of which 10,000 are mature. The majority, 8,000 of the 10,000 are in Peru. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taruca. The Puma, mountain lion, is presumably the Peruvian Puma or Puma concolor incarum (the Inca Puma!) http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puma_concolor http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puma_concolor_concolor
Both under the Incas and today, Vicuñas have been protected by law. Peru has most of them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicuña
Leopardus colocolo is now considered Colocolo separate from the Pampus cat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colocolo
As well, the site includes a number of plants (flora), which are said to be on the National Threatened Species list (presumably of Peru and not Canada), but which they say are not on international conservation lists. These include Umbellifer, some Daisy species and Valerina Nivalis. There are also three vegetation species found on site, which occur only in Peru (endemic), of which the Nototriche pelicea occurs only in the Department of Puno, where the mining sites are found.
Thursday, 2 May 2013
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS
Although Bear Creek Mining alleges to be silver, lead, and zinc “only”, we believe that since it is a proposed open pit mine of about 50km2, surrounded by about 900 km2 of proposed open pit uranium mining, that surely uranium will be at least a by-product. We have already discussed lead toxicity (in Part I) Additionally, many of the considerations are the same, and Bear Creek appears more well-advanced in their permitting process (something we must discuss another day). The information that we have dates from their Technical Report, in December 2011. We do not know what was presented in the Quechua language during the April 2013 public hearings.
In the Technical Report, Bear Creek Mining lists what they consider chief environmental risks associated with this type of project. They qualify the first three as “potential”. However, in reality, they are pretty certain: 1) impacts to air quality from dust; 2) degradation of surface and groundwater quality (for some unfathomable reason English uses the term groundwater for underground water); 3) changes to the amount of surface and groundwater. In theory, number 2 would be “potential”. However, in practice, degradation of surface and groundwater quality generally (perhaps always) occurs. They also add as chief risks: 4) visual impacts caused by the creation of pits, mine waste disposal facilities, roads, and other mine workings (in other words, this mining is UGLY); 5) permanent changes to land use resulting from mining activities.
They provide a summary of baseline studies for existing air and water quality, and noise. They note that air quality results were below the maximum permissible limits set by the national environmental standard for air. As they observe, this reflects the absence of activities in the area which produce significant pollution. In other words there is clean, pure, mountain air, which will be contaminated with diesel fumes from the mining, fumes from the blasting, and flying lead, radioactive and other types of dust.
The fumes from blasting are such that Simtars, the Queensland Australia Government´s leading mine safety organisation, was recently awarded a $360,000 grant to investigate pollutants in fumes caused by blasting operations at mines. This is to “help the mining industry better understand the causes of blast fume clouds and help reduce the potential health risks to workers of breathing in noxious fumes.” This seems to mean that it is not well-understood. The Queensland Dept. of Natural Resources and Mines explains that “All explosions generate noxious gases…All mine blasting operations in Queensland are closely monitored by trained observers who record the colour of the fume clouds, their direction and distance travelled on the mine site. However, there is little information available about the levels of pollutants within the fume clouds. Only one previous study in the world, conducted in the NSW Hunter Valley in 2006, has attempted to measure them directly in the air above the blast site.” Furthermore, “The yellow/orange/red colour in fume clouds is caused by the gas nitrogen dioxide. While this gas will be the main focus of the research nitric oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide gases will also be measured at ground level.” http://mines.industry.qld.gov.au/safety-and-health/683.htm
The Queensland government has an informational brochure about blast fumes (for workers). They inform us that of the nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the more toxic. The typical reddish-orange cloud becomes deeper in colour with higher concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. These fumes have a pungent odour and taste. Nitrogen dioxide’s very strong acrid odour can be smelled at much lower levels than the tolerable (safety) limits. Whereas the odour threshold is 0.12 ppm, it is visible at 2.5 ppm. At low levels, they assure us that the effects are extremely unlikely to be harmful to health, particularly if the reddish-brown gas is not visible. Higher concentrations above 4 ppm may deaden the sense of smell, thus creating a potential for overexposure if smell is used as an indicator of exposure. Symptoms from high exposure include eye irritation and coughing; initial dizziness and/or headache ( which may subside); shortness of breath; and 5 to 8 hours later, cyanosis (blue lips, fingertips). Among recommendations for avoiding exposure they say to comply with blast-exclusion zones and fume-management zones; do not enter or remain in fume clouds; and to move out of fume cloud path. http://mines.industry.qld.gov.au/assets/safety-and-health/fume_fact_sheet_30_8_11.pdf http://mines.industry.qld.gov.au/assets/general-pdf/QGN-mgmt-oxides-nitrogen.pdf
From the vantage of smell, and perhaps safety, these blasting fumes sound very unpleasant indeed. All the more so in a high-altitude area, where they are not used to air pollution. What are the repercussions on Alpacas and on wildlife?
As part of the environmental assessment for this area, noise measurements were taken near populated areas. Since it has a low population, it is not surprising that they found the results to be below the maximums specified in the national environmental standard for residential zones. What a change it will be for the people and the animals. Already, deer and other animals do not like fireworks. Surely Alpaca do not. What will they do with the blasting and noise from mining? It seems obvious that the wild animals will leave the area. It could affect reproduction of alpaca. What will become of the people and animals with the constant noise of machinery drilling, blasting, and vehicles?
Friday, 3 May 2013
Returning to yesterday’s topic of air quality, on p. 209 of Bear Creek’s technical document, they state that “The most common illness is respiratory infections, which children and the elderly are susceptible to during periods of snow and cold weather.” And we ask, what sense does flying dust and pollution from any sort of mining have in a context where people are already susceptible to respiratory illness?
One chief environmental risk, which they fail to mention, is vibrations from mining activities. Vibrations risk being more both more annoying and dangerous than noise. Vibrations from mining include both repetitive vibrations from equipment and vibrations from blasts. These may contribute to slope failure of the earth, as well as failure of natural and manmade dams, especially over time. In the worst case scenario these can lead to catastrophic slope and dam failures and land-slides. The Bear Creek project foresees both a water reserve dam for mining activities and a tailings dam. Contributing to vibrations which could lead to slope failure and dam failure would be the earthquake potential/seismic hazard of the zone.
According to a USGS (United States Geological Survey) map, the proposed mining area, has, on average between 0.5 and 1 earthquake of a magnitude of 5 or greater per year.
Additionally, there is a 10% in 50 yrs hazard of a 2.4 m/s2 event.
Saturday, 4 May 2013
This 10% in 50 years Hazard, 2.4 m/s2 (PGA, Peak Ground Acceleration) event corresponds to an Instrumental Intensity of VII. There is a 10% chance for each 50 year period. PGA records the acceleration (rate of change of speed) of earthquake movements. It may be expressed as meters per second squared (m/s2). Often a factor of g is used where g, sometimes called “little g”, denotes the gravity of Earth and refers to the acceleration that the Earth imparts to objects on or near its surface (9.81 m/s2), which is the acceleration due to earth’s gravity. Seismic hazard charts are sometimes scaled as %g sometimes as g and sometimes as m/s2. The above USGS map uses m/s2. Most USGS seismic hazard maps seem to use %g. The above 2.4 m/s2 hazard can be converted to g by dividing 2.4 by 9.81, which gives 0.24 g, or 24 %g. If the scale said 0.24g, then we could multiply 0.24 by 9.81 to get 2.4 m/s2. This allows conversion between the most popular acceleration scales used in seismic maps, in order to compare risks and to compare risk to previous earthquakes. For this site peak ground acceleration hazard is 0.24g, or 24 %g, or 2.4 m/s2 which is an Instrumental Intensity of VII (0.18 g-0.34 g or 18 %g-34 %g) on a scale of I to X plus.
It is difficult to tell how this translates to magnitude, because PGA is not a measure of the total energy (magnitude, or size) of an earthquake, but rather of how hard the earth shakes in a given geographic area (the intensity). An article on the Feb. 21, 2011, New Zealand quake says that typically a magnitude of 6.3 would cause ground acceleration of .25 g (25 %g), whereas in that case it was much, much higher. The peak ground acceleration for the 6.4 magnitude 2004 Morocco earthquake was 0.24 g. The 1964 Great Alaska earthquake is listed as 0.18g (18 %g), but was 9.2 magnitude. According to a USGS map, the 1964 Valdivia earthquake in Chile which was a 9.5 magnitude appears to be between VI and VIII on instrument scales (13 %g to 49 %g). Wikipedia, based apparently on Weischet (1963), put it at 0.25g to 0.30g (25 to 30 %g), or on VII of the Instrumental Intensity scale.
In the case of the Valdivia quake, the earthquake triggered numerous landslides, mainly in the steep glacial valleys of the southern Andes. One landslide blocked the outflow of Riñihue Lake. About 100 km (62 mi) south of Riñihue Lake landslides in the mountains caused the Golgol river to dam up and then burst creating a flood down to Puyehue Lake. The Golgol landslides destroyed also parts of the international Route 215-CH.
On p. 204 of the Bear Creek Mining Technical Report, they say that
the Tailing Storage Facility “TSF will remain a ‘high-risk’ dam structure following reclamation and closure and will require monitoring and maintenance for the foreseeable future.” They add in parentheses: “It should be noted that the term ‘high-risk’ as used here is a classification based on risk to life and property downstream, and does not imply that the structure would be at a high risk of failure.” Here they are touching on something discussed in the risk of slope failure and dam failure: just how great are the repercussions if there is a failure? Their answer is that the repercussions are high based on risk to life and property, if there were a failure. They say that “The dam has been designed to withstand the 1 in 10,000 year recurrence interval earthquake event during operations and the post-closure period.” We do not know what 1 in 10,000 year event they allege to have designed for. It is unclear if they are preparing for a higher seismic event than a VII or if they are trying to lead the audience to believe that earthquake risk is rare. This 1 in 10,000 year risk given by Bear Creek is equivalent to 0.5% in 50 years, whereas the actual risk of a VII is 10% in 50 years.
There is also a fresh-water dam/reservoir proposed due to expected water needs-shortages for the mining. According to p. 8 of the technical report, it is located in the Quelccaya drainage. So, pure fresh water that is thousands of years old — perhaps 6,000 years old, from this melting glacier will be used for what? Not for drinking water, no! But, rather for mining activities which will pollute it!
Additionally, Bear Creek’s Annual Information Form (available on their web site) for the year ended December 31, 2012 and dated April 2, 2013, lists Seismic Activity as one of the risk factors associated with investment in the company. They say that this is because western Peru is at the junction of three actively colliding geologic plates, which may produce earthquakes “which are sometimes sufficient to produce significant damage to property and infrastructure”. They note that usually these larger magnitude earthquakes are “focused along the coast, far from mining centers, but there is no certainty that a seismic event could not cause physical damage to any of the Company’s properties or significantly impact access to the projects.” (p. 9).
Hence, we can conclude that Bear Creek is well aware that there are seismic risks for their Corani Mining Project. The question becomes if they are willing or able to mitigate the impacts. When we speak of ability it is firstly if they will have the financial ability to invest
in risk mitigation, considering that they indicate in their Annual Report, that as of December 31, 2012, they have received no revenue from the exploration activities on their properties. Rather, Bear Creek Mining Corporation had an accumulated deficit of US$146,704,351, as of December 31, 2012. Secondly is it possible to adequately mitigate risks given the high stakes of slope and dam failure?
Sunday 5 May 2013
Bear Creek Mining gives lip-service to the concept of the environment and community development, unlike Macusani Yellowcake who seems totally oblivious. Everyone is anxious to go after the big companies and watch-dog them, but these little companies are more risky in that a) they are unlikely to have the means to do things right and b) can too easily declare bankruptcy and disappear so that they cannot be held liable. This is besides the fact that open pits, especially on over 50km2 for Bear Creek, and over 900km2 for Macusani Yellowcake, are devastating by their nature of destroying hills and mountains and stripping the land of all vegetation. Additionally, in these cases we add the risks of lead and uranium, along with routine risks. At least people were able to find BP to hold them somewhat liable for the US Gulf Coast Oil Spill (although this hasn’t fixed the environmental devastation); Nigerian farmers have recently filed suit against Shell oil (although they are only being allowed to sue the subsidiary). But, these little companies like Bear Creek and Macusani Yellowcake, in general, need only to declare bankruptcy and disappear.
Macusani Yellowcake on its website and in its SEDAR technical reports ignores the topic of environment. Rather they mention “Plentiful supply of sulphuric acid” in their corporate presentation (to do heap leaching). They plan to do heap leaching of uranium! This is done when uranium content of the ore is too low to be economically processed in a uranium mill. The crushed ore is placed on a leaching pad (hopefully) with a liner. The leaching agent, in this case, it seems, sulfuric acid, is put on the top of the pile and percolates down. Leaching takes months to years and during leaching the piles are hazardous due to release of ionizing radiation and leaching liquid. Leached ore is either left in place, or removed to a disposal site. After completion of leaching there is risk of permanent contamination, including of the ground water. Both during operations and after closure ground water needs to be continuously monitored. Wikipedia mentions that “In the past mining companies would sometimes go bankrupt, leaving the responsibility of mine reclamation to the public.” Hence, the need for companies to set aside the money (in public trust) for reclamation before the beginning of the project. This assumes, however, that the company has the money to set aside. http://www.wise-uranium.org/uhl.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining#Heap_leaching
Bear Creek Mining has also made promises to pay into a community pool of money. They promised to provide $1 million in aid over the next three years, but we do not see how this would be possible, given that they are indebted and have no incoming revenue. They promised to pay 4M nuevos soles per year (approximately $1.5 M–we are not sure if the M is for a thousand or a million, but imagine one million) into a community development trust fund.
Greenstone made lovely promises, as well, before ultimately declaring bankruptcy. We already discussed Greenstone Resources, because Bart Wilson did the resource estimate for their San Andres Mine. (Bart Wilson is co-owner of Buscore, along with Dale J. Schultz. They were responsible for exploratory drilling at Majescor’s SOMINE property; Schultz also worked on the Macusani Yellowcake property, when it belonged to Solex, which is how we ended up discussing this topic).
In the case of Greenstone’s San Andres Mine, it changed hands 3 times from the 1990s to August 2009 from Greenstone Resources to Yamana Gold and finally to Aura Minerals Inc. The entire town of San Andres was relocated by Greenstone Resources in 1994. Greenstone had its debts liened against the property for the new town and when they declared bankruptcy the banks obtained the land. So, where the town had been was a big pit and yet they had no new land. Considering the amount of land under concession in the Macusani-Corani area, we can imagine such a thing easily happening there. The residents of San Andres are unable to hold the current owner, Aura Minerals, liable. Additionally, when San Andres was moved, the community was forced to leave behind their cemetery. Aura Minerals wanted to, and perhaps has already, destroyed the cemetery for mining. The communities impacted by the mining believe that along with selling the mine from one company to another, the companies pass along the problems which they created so as to avoid being held liable under criminal and/or civil law. The communities in the area of the San Andres gold and silver mine, as well as in other mining communities around the world, report environmental contamination from cyanide spills and related health problems, forced relocations, social tensions and unfulfilled promises to communities.
Tuesday, 6 May 2013
How can one hold a company which no longer exists or has insufficient assets liable? How about a foreign corporation? We have tried to knit together some answers. However, it is a complex topic in any country and different countries have different legal traditions, and the laws have changed quickly in recent times. In this instance we are dealing with Canadian Mining Companies operating in Peru. In the context of Canada (Quebec excepted), we are dealing with a tradition which is more English common law, based largely on precedent, whereas in Peru there is a legal code tradition (largely modifications of Roman law, Napoleonic Code, Spanish law). All we can really do is offer key words and information which may help the reader think about the topic and do research. We have at least one complex litigation attorney reading this blog and we apologize in advance for our bungling through this topic. It was tempting to delay this post for a day or two longer to allow more time to investigate the subject. One key word is the concept of Lifting or Piercing of the Corporate Veil (Levantamiento del velo). This idea seems to be more proper to English legal traditions but similar concepts exist elsewhere. The primary purpose of limited liability companies, and corporations is to protect their owners against personal liability. This appears especially true once they declare bankruptcy or are otherwise defunct. The LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) and Corporation are separate legal entities from the owners. Corporations are treated as legal persons. In order to hold company owners liable one generally needs to pierce or lift the corporate veil (depending on the legal system). This is a means of achieving redress. The types of considerations in deciding if the veil can be lifted, include if it can be shown that the corporation or LLC was a shell created only to provide liability protection and that it was practically inseparable from its owners (whether individuals or a parent company) i.e. an alter ego; a subsidiary is only an instrument or alter ego of the parent company; owners mixed personal and company funds, or parent and subsidiary assets were mixed; the company was not sufficiently capitalized when it was formed (this seems an especially important point for small mining companies); the owners have committed fraud. Fraud seems to be the situation in which piercing the corporate veil is most widely accepted. For instance, if when applying for a loan for the LLC or corporation, the owner made fraudulent representations or omissions, then s/he could be held liable, or if the company was created for purposes of fraud. One can imagine that various misrepresentations by mining companies could be considered fraud, whether they were to aquire loans, or to obtain community or governmental consent. When faced with a defunct corporation or LLC in the context of an unpaid debt or court judgment, one may be able to lift or pierce the corporation or LLC’s veil and obtain a court judgment against the owners of the company, the parent corporation, or even other subsidiaries (see substantive consolidation). In one scenario, the owners might have incorporated several subsidiaries lacking adequate capital to support their operations; and the parent corporation controls and finances the operations of the subsidiaries. These subsidiaries may be called “dummy corporations” or “corporate shells.” If someone needs to enforce a court judgement or collect debts they cannot because these subsidiaries lack assets. This is an instance in which a court might allow lifting or piercing of the corporate veil. This scenario seems pretty typical for small mining companies. See: www.nolo. com/legal-encyclopedia/personal-liability-piercing-corporate-veil-33006-2.html, http://www.law.harvard. edu/programs/corp_gov/papers/Brudney2006_Brasher.pdf, http://www. commonlawreview.cz/lifting-the-corporate-veil-limited-liability-of-the-company-decision-makers-undermined-analysis-of-englishus-german-czech-and-polish-approach
The Peruvian legal system has a concept of piercing the corporate veil, but it is not codified; has limited application, and there must usually be strong evidence that the company was formed for the purpose of committing fraud. http://www. latinlawyer. com/reference/topics/46/jurisdictions/19/peru/
We repeat, there must be strong evidence that the company was formed for the purpose of committing fraud. That is a very narrow reading of fraud and would appear difficult to prove. On the other hand, in Peru, company management (including directors) can potentially be held criminally liable for damage to the environment and human health. Punishment can range from significant fines to imprisonment. http://www. latinlawyer.com/reference/topics/46/jurisdictions/19/peru/
We would be surprised, however, if the Canadian management would be extradited. In theory, Canada would need to enforce a ruling by a Peruvian court, but how this plays out in reality is probably different. For a reality-check, read about the Ecuadorian ruling against Chevron oil, now about 20 years ago and Chevron’s refusal to pay. http://www.counterspill.org/article/ruling-what-chevron-texaco-lawsuit-has-become http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/04/us-ecuador-chevron-idUSTRE8021VS20120104 The prohibitive cost and time-consuming nature of litigation, must not be forgotten. In the context of smaller companies and their management there is also the fact that you can’t get blood out of a turnip, i.e. the people involved may really not have that many assets. Assets may also be hidden behind corporate layers, involving several countries, making lifting the veil difficult or perhaps impossible. We would also be surprised if the Peruvian government would rule against a mining company or its management. According to the Canadian Globe and Mail, the Peruvian government has recently decided that the Quechua (and presumably other non-Amazonian groups) cannot claim the status of indigenous peoples, either for the 1 1/2 year old law requiring consultation or under international law. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/peru-rolling-back-indigenous-law-in-win-for-mining-sector/article11657318/
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
A ruling, appears pending, in the cases of several Guatemalans against Canadian mining company HudBay, heard, in March, by Justice Carole Brown of the Ontario Superior Court of Canada. The Hudbay lawyers are said to have argued that the cases should be thrown out on the grounds that it undermines the corporate legal principal that companies are not liable for the actions of their subsidiaries. According to a Choc v. Hudbay legal document, “the Plaintiffs claim that CGN is completely controlled by, subservient to and dependant upon HudBay Minerals, and is an agent of HudBay Minerals. The Plaintiffs plead that it is in the interests of justice to pierce the corporate veil and to impose liability …”. (CGN is the subsidiary: Guatemalan Nickel Co.) This particular case has to do with murder and various human rights abuses, but has the potential of being a landmark case, a precedent setting case, about piercing the corporate veil and holding Canadian Mining Companies operating outside of Canada liable within Canadian courts. Remember that in English Common Law that rulings depend largely upon precedent or previous rulings.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/not-responsible-for-killing-hudbay-says/article9318696/ http://www.chocversushudbay.com/legal-documents http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precedent
As many of you already know, there have been many deaths and injuries during anti-mining protests in Peru through the years, including very recently. One high-profile conflict is over the Conga mine, extension to Yanacocha gold mine, in the Cajamarca region of northern Peru. It is 51% owned by Newmont with the balance owned by the International Finance Corporation (investment wing of the World Bank) and Peruvian partners. The IFC invested in Eurasian Minerals for their Haiti mining projects, and Newmont was involved with Eurasian in Haiti, although Newmont dropped some and perhaps all of the Haiti prospects. Not surprisingly, a major concern for the Conga project is over the issue of water. Opponents say that “Water is for life, not for mining”. Already with the Yanococha gold mine, Cajamarca has seen many of its water resources vanish with lakes disappearing and wells gone dry. Much of Cajamarca city has only 2 to 3 hours of water per day, whereas five years ago it had 24 hours. In the area of Macusani-Corani, you may recall, some residents have experienced a similar loss of water during the exploration process! There was a mercury spill at the Yanococha gold mine, as well. There are also concerns about lack of objectivity of the Environmental Impact Study. Also, the Minister of the Environment, who expressed concerns regarding the Environmental Impact Study for Conga, was removed. http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/6/peru_declares_state_of_emergency_as (1st 10 minutes of video and transcript about Peru) http://www.progressive.org/peruvians_against_newmont_mining.html
See how Peruvian police treated Marco Arana (and others) as he peacefully protested, last summer, with a sign saying Yes to Life, No to Gold. He is a Roman Catholic priest who was suspended by the Church due to political activity (2 minute video).
Thursday, 9 May 2013.
For those who wonder about why Father Marco Arana was suspended from priesthood, we need to look back to the period of Pope John Paul II. He was opposed to priests holding political office (1980). However he was also opposed to social activism (i.e. standing up for the poor and disenfranchised). If the first makes sense, the second less so. There is no way to get around Jesus’ and the Bible’s love of the poor, the disenfranchised, and of social justice, going back to Old Testament prophets. Pope John Paul II’s position is observed on both links below. The second gives a better overview but blames, we believe falsely, Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) for John Paul II’s positions. Ratzinger’s job was to enforce John Paul’s views and not vice versa. Pope John Paul II’s position against “activist” priests probably stemmed from a combination of it being the “Cold War” and his experiences with “communism” in Poland. The situation and repercussions are discussed in the second article. http://www.sspxasia. com/Documents/Archbishop-Lefebvre/Apologia/Vol_three/Chapter_28.htm http://www.zcommunications.org/lost-lives-and-impoverished-souls-by-michael-hogan Pope John Paul apparently turned a blind eye to the murders of priests and nuns who stood up for the poor and disenfranchised. It is a legacy with which we still live today. The point is particularly interesting because Father Aristide was apparently defrocked, for taking the side of the poor, well before he ran for President of Haiti. The same appears to be the case for Father Marco Arana of Peru.
According to a Wikileaks Cable, allegedly from the US Embassy of Peru and dated 2005-08-19: “The U.S. and Canadian Ambassadors hosted a meeting on August 11 for representatives of international mining companies to review their operating difficulties in Peru and to coordinate efforts to improve the investment climate….The U.S. and Canadian Ambassadors jointly hosted a meeting on August 11 to coordinate efforts with representatives from several international mining companies in Peru: Antamina, Newmont (Minera Yanacocha), Minera Quellaveco, Barrick, BHP Billiton (Tintaya mine). The Swiss Charge, the new Australian Consul General, and the British Embassy Trade and Investment official also participated. A representative from the South African Embassy, which forms part of this diplomatic mining group, was unable to attend.” (What the bleep does “which forms part of this diplomatic mining group” mean? This is a group which met routinely?) The cable continues “The Ambassadors sought the companies’ views on initiatives each side could undertake to help improve the investment climate and security conditions in mining communities. The meeting took place shortly after the violence against British firm Majaz’s exploration in Northern Peru….Ambassador Struble noted that security problems in mining communities affect the interests of several countries. He recommended that the Embassies as a group (U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland, and South Africa) highlight the billions of dollars invested in Peru by international mining companies….The Antamina Executive recommended that the diplomats meet as a group with the Education Ministry to encourage a rotation of teachers … in conflictive mining communities. He also suggested that the Embassies urge the Catholic Church to rotate bishops operating in these regions. The Ambassadors agreed to consider this, but needed specific examples of anti-mining teachers and priests, who engage in inappropriate activities….Pending key information from the mining companies, a core group of country representatives (U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland, South Africa) are ready to meet as a group with the GOP [Government of Peru], Catholic Church and political party leaders.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/38881
Although the above cable discusses other important topics, as well, the comments about the Catholic Church are interesting not only in the context of Father Arana, but in a larger context. According to an article, written in 2007, on the Quechua Benefit (a non-profit who serves the Macusani area) website, Peru has “no government traditions of social welfare for the peasants in the highlands, no large private charitable foundations, and little means of delivering help directly to the poor. The Roman Catholic Church in Peru has traditionally been the source of social safety nets administered in an ad-hoc fashion, pueblo by pueblo. These informal programs often receive operating funds from foreign religious congregations of all denominations or from secular organizations similar to Quechua Benefit.” He notes that over the last year (remember he is writing in 2007), the practice began to change. Catholic sisters who ran an orphanage in Macusani were ordered to leave by the new Bishop, on December 23, 2007; the Boys home in Nunoa (also impacted by the mining exploration) was closed. The Maryknoll sisters and priests who ministered “to the needs and rights of the poor in Puno” were given one year to leave the diocese. He adds that “The peasants in Macusani have demonstrated against the harsh measures, which they see as the church choosing the rich over the poor.” Hence, for 12 years when he wrote and now for almost 20 years “Quechua Benefit has observed and identified the need: hunger, lack of shelter and available education, affordable medical and dental services, clothing-a never-ending flood of need.” quechuabenefit. org, quechuabenefit. org/library/quechua-benefit-beginning.htm
Although this article, once again, lays the blame on Pope Benedict, who became Pope in 2005, we believe that if you put two and two together that the truth is found in the wikileaks cable of the same year and the proposed meeting of U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland, and South Africa Ambassadors or other Embassy Personnel with the Government of Peru and Catholic Church to request that Bishops be rotated out of Mining areas and antimining priests be identified. Not only does the removal of the teachers and priests remove educated potential advocates of the people, but by removing the Roman Catholic social net, they are making the people of the community fully dependent upon the mining companies and any largesse which they may promise or give. This period roughly corresponds with the beginning of current mining exploration in the Macusani area.
Friday 10 May 2013
This 4 min movie trailer opens up with Father Arana saying “…we just want to defend our water, nothing more.” and ends with him saying “If we don’t risk our lives to protect life what sense is there in living?”
The Devil Operation (trailer)
The trailer is exciting, but it doesn’t give us a very good idea of what this movie is all about. Gisèle Gordon (2010) tells us more:
“A gripping David and Goliath tale of corporate espionage unfolds in this exposé of torture, intimidation, and murder of Peruvian eco-activists and indigenous farmers. Shocking video footage, horrifying photos, and meticulous reports compiled by private security firms working for U.S. and British-owned gold mines are co-opted by the filmmakers to reveal the truth in this real-life political thriller. The charismatic Father Marco Arana, named a Hero of the Environment in 2009 by TIME Magazine, has been so effective in advocating against the US-owned Yanacocha mine that he’s code-named ‘the Devil’ and targeted in a campaign of harassment and terror. When one colleague is threatened with rape and another is killed, the activists fight back, capture a spy, and uncover a military-scale operation of surveillance and violence that shocks even them. When billions of dollars are at stake, just how far are corporations willing to go to protect their bottom line?” http://www.hotdocs.ca/film/title/the_devil_operation
Drew Halfnight elaborates: “…the bulk of this film’s 69 minutes is devoted to The Devil Operation, a paramilitary intelligence campaign allegedly ordered by the mining company and exposed by Peruvian newspaper La Republica. That year, 2006, Arana and other activists were subjected to harassment, surveillance, and threats of murder and rape. One farmer-activist was gunned down. The perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.” http://www.ucobserver.org/arts/film/2010/06/devil_operation/
What’s most shocking is that’s the sort of stuff which happened 30 or 40 years ago, but one doesn’t expect it to happen today! What is the excuse here? There’s no “Cold War” now as an alibi for suppressing peasant rights. Now it is purely rob and pillage. That and the location have caused some to compare it to Pizarro and the Spanish Conquest. Also, remember Allende, ITT Copper and Pinochet in neighboring Chile? And, things do not appear to have improved with the new Peruvian government — plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (the more things change the more they stay the same).
Of course, it seems obvious that it is better to stop any mines at the earliest possible point and not wait until there is a mercury spill, nor until there is a shortage of water and what remains is not safe to drink, as happened near Yanacocha Mine. There was finally a settlement of a suit brought in a Denver Court against Newmont for the mercury spill near Yanacocha. It is best for the environment and for the mining companies that the mines be stopped at the earliest possible date. That is why we are insisting on educating about the problems at the exploration stage. However, stopping them before they have spent money and damaged the environment with exploration is the best of all for everyone.
But, wait, at least in the case of the Montericco – Majaz mining concession they did object early on:
According to Bowcott (2011), “The row in the Peruvian province of Piura erupted after farmers objected to the mine, fearing that it would pollute the surrounding cloud forests, deplete the rivers and damage farmlands.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/mining-firm-pays-compensation-peru
In 2006, the National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining – CONACAMI stated:
“For over four years now, the prevailing tranquility of the communities in the Provinces of Ayabaca and Huancabamba has been interrupted by the presence of mining company Minera Majaz (Monterrico Metals Plc)…, who, without permission of the communities of Segunda and Cajas (Huancabamba) and Yanta (Ayabaca), has been seizing communal lands in order to carry out mining ‘exploration’ with the consent of the Peruvian State.” They further remark that “The conflicts which have emerged in these communal lands are based in the deliberate ignorance of the demands of the campesinos. The response of the company and the State authorities in the face of these conflicts has been criminal indictments, persecution and defamation against the leaders of community organizations. To this day there have been over 140 leaders indicted, two protesters killed and a permanent state of hostility against the Church, the local governments, as well as against the local leaders of the Rondas Campesinas, Frente de Defensa and human rights and environmental organizations, through the media which defends the company Minera Majaz and the transnational Monterrico Metals.” Full statement at http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=2078
A scene from the documentary ‘The Devil Operation’
“Kidnapping and torture at the Majaz mining compound” on youtube, guarangochat, is accompanied by the following comment:
“In 2005, private security forces hired by British-owned Monterrico Metals were accused of the kidnapping and torture of 33 civilians during a peaceful march against the Majaz mining concession in northern Peru. Peruvian police joined FORZA officers in ‘protecting’ the mine’s compound. One of the victims, a farming leader, was shot and bled to death. The two women victims suffered sexual abuse. Julio Vasquez, a radio reporter covering the march, was also held captive and tortured. But Julio obtained secret police photos of the abuse and along with the other victims, sued the mining company in the UK. In July of 2011 the company agreed to provide monetary compensation to claimants without admitting liability and the case was settled out of court. The Majaz copper concession is located in a fragile cloud forest containing rare and threatened species near Peru’s border with Ecuador. A report released by the Peru Support Group found that the proposed mine could have far reaching negative social and environmental consequences for the entire region. Monterrico Metals is now owned by the Zijin consortium, a coalition of Chinese state-owned and private companies. Local communities have founded a defence front to pressure the Peruvian authorities to shelve plans to build the mine and declare the area a protected zone.” The video is 8 minutes:
To purchase a DVD please check out: http://www.guarango.org/diablo
This case is sometimes called Monterrico after the UK company, sometimes Majaz after the concession and the Peruvian subsidiary is Rio Blanco. According to Lowe (2012), the dispute between the Río Blanco operators and nearby communities begin in 2003, when Monterrico Metals took over the project. Locals, later supported by the Peruvian Human Rights Ombudsman, said that Rio Blanco-Monterrico had never gained proper permission to operate on communal land. Monterrico, of course, denied this. Starting in 2004 locals organised protest marches against the mine. These resulted in numerous injuries and occasionally even fatalities, due to clashes with the police. In August 2005, as discussed above, people were detained and tortured for several days, allegedly by police and mine security. Since demonstrations appeared ineffective, in 2007 communities organised a (non-binding) referendum in which approximately 95% of voters rejected the project. This was also ignored. See Lowe (2012): http://www.perusupportgroup.org.uk/article-545.html
While Lowe (2012) says that it wasn’t until someone burned down buildings owned by the mine in 2009 that the government took action, and the project was temporarily suspended, it was more likely due to the lawsuit filed against Monterrico in June of 2009 in the English High Court. This was filed by Richard Meeran of the London law firm Leigh Day & Co, on behalf of the 33 indigenous Peruvians who said that they been tortured and mistreated at Monterrico’s Rio Blanco (Majaz) mine in August 2005, following an environmental protest. For more details of this case, which was ultimately settled in 2011, and of many more interesting cases, see Meeran, Richard (2011) “Tort Litigation against Multinational Corporations for Violation of Human Rights: An Overview of the Position Outside the US, pp. 1-41, City U. of Hong Kong Law Review, Vol. 3:1 http://www.cityu.edu.hk/slw/CityULR/issue-03.1.html
This case and most of Meeran’s cases, have been won or settled based on the concept of “Duty of Care”. In another case, Lubbe et. al. v. Cape Plc (20 July 2000), the House of Lords noted the main issue raised by the plaintiffs’ claim: “Whether a parent company which is proved to exercise de facto control over the operations of a (foreign) subsidiary and which knows, through its directors, that those operations involve risks to the health of workers employed by the subsidiary and/or persons in the vicinity of its factory or other business premises, owes a duty of care to those workers and/or other persons in relation to the control which it exercises over and the advice which it gives to the subsidiary company?” House of Lords, Appeal in Lubbe et. al. v. Cape Plc., 20/7/00, Crown Copyright http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199900/ldjudgmt/jd000720/lubbe-1.htm
An Appeal Ruling in 2012 explains that imposing “duty of care” has nothing to do with piercing the corporate veil:
“42 On Mr Weir’s submission, the imposition of a duty of care does not ‘collapse the principle of limited liability’. The court can therefore hold that there has been an assumption of responsibility without piercing the corporate veil.”….
“69 I would emphatically reject any suggestion that this court is in any way concerned with what is usually referred to as piercing the corporate veil. A subsidiary and its company are separate entities. There is no imposition or assumption of responsibility by reason only that a company is the parent company of another company.
70 The question is simply whether what the parent company did amounted to taking on a direct duty to the subsidiary’s employees.”
Chandler v. Cape Plc, EWCA, Civ. 525, 25/4/12, Crown Copyright http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/525.html
We do not know what grounds were used for suing Newmont in the US, over the mercury spill near the Yanacocha Mine in Peru. It seems that breach of “duty of care” might be a good argument in that one problem was said to be that the community was not promptly notified of the spill. And, mine employees are said to have offered $30 per kilo to recover the mercury. Hence, not knowing better, children and adults picked it up. Alleged sloppy environmental and safety standards originating at Newmont corporate headquarters in Denver were brought up. This sounds like breach of duty of care. Newmont asked the court to dismiss the case, based on forum non conveniens, asserting that Denver was an inappropriate forum for the lawsuit. This is the biggest hurdle, it seems, for getting such cases heard in the US and Canada. Ken Crowder and others at Engstrom, Lipscomb and Lack
got around this by demonstrating corruption in Peru (this is a complicated story worth reading if you like thrillers). This case was settled for an undisclosed amount in Oct. 2007. http://mobile.ghanaweb.com/wap/comment.article.php?ID=94241 http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=1384 http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Newmont_Mining_Corporation_(NEM)/Minera_Yanacocha_Srl_-5135_Newmont_Owned
This past March, anti-mining activists complained formally to the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about the Peruvian government’s alleged human rights abuses during protests at the Yanacocha Conga mine. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/12/peru-newmont-lawsuit-idUSL1N0C3GGS20130312
Saturday, 11 May 2013
We hope that by now you had time to look at the short clips, especially the 8 minute clip about the torture of the protesters against the Majaz mine. Then you will start to see the sorts of things people could risk challenging the Corani-Macusani mines. To fight evil in this world one often has to face some sort of crucifixion. Crucifixion was the common punishment for those who challenged the Roman Empire in any way. In the video you saw (will see) the protesters tied up walking and sitting with plastic bags over their heads. On March 17, 2009 some police officers were charged, within Peru, with torturing them. Their superiors were not charged. http://www.lapress.org/articles.asp?art=5823
What we really want to draw your attention to is what the sign where they were sitting, at times blind-folded, at times with plastic bags over their heads says: “Plataforma Sacrificio de Ganado” (Slaughtering Platform for livestock). According to the video, it was a symbolic way of saying that the protesters are like animals and that the security forces were going to sacrifice (slaughter) them.
However, looking at the above picture juxtaposed to a recent picture of President (Father) Aristide smiling in a crowd gave pause. One of the themes of Father Aristide was “Tout moun se moun”, “Everyone is Someone”. This is human rights in a nutshell. It is really liberation theology in a nutshell: Everyone is Someone in God’s Eyes. In recent years it has come to our attention that this Tout moun se moun probably had its roots in the 1968 Strike slogan of Memphis Sanitation Workers: “I am a Man” (during the US Civil Rights Movement). That is, Aristide built upon the Civil Rights Movement. But, it goes further back still, to the antislavery movement (abolitionists): “Am I Not a Man and a Brother”?.
In days of slavery some churches divided because the churches of the slave-holders argued that blacks did not have a soul. In this way, they justified slavery. It was a way of saying that the slaves were not human and so the importance of the cry: “I am a Man.”
“I Am a Man – Diorama of Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike – National Civil Rights Museum – Downtown Memphis – Tennessee – USA, by Adam Jones, Ph.D., CC-BY-SA, via Wikipedia
This placing the people on the slaughtering platform reflects how indigenous peoples have been treated and are being treated. It’s like saying that they are not humans. It is the antithesis of Everyone is Someone. In the US, the American Indians are the poorest group, as a whole, as these indigenous peoples are in Peru. No one talks about this. Among the poorest counties in America are several in the Black Hills, home to abandoned uranium mines and Lakota Sioux. It’s not bad enough that land was stolen but, for whatever reasons, they want to keep at it until there are no more indigenous peoples; until the people, the animals, and the land are poisoned. It’s a land grab and a resource grab and has been so since the arrival of Europeans to the Americas. In the documentary “Choropampa: The Price of Gold”, which discusses the mercury spill and contamination from the Yanacocha Mine, a lady says: “Long Ago the Spanish used arms to kill our ancestors and take our things. Now they only need to contaminate us and to take our things from under our noses” (Guarango, 2002). This was mercury contamination, but at Macusani-Corani it will be uranium contamination.
The treatment of the Highlanders during the Clearances was similar to the way the Andean Highlanders are being treated. It was shocking to think how the Highlanders were treated a century and a half ago (check out John Prebble’s The Highland Clearances), but even more shocking that this is going on today! And, we are letting it happen! Do we really want metal jewelry so badly? It is clear that we do not need uranium and can use solar or other alternatives. Alternative energies are more benefial to the environment and the economy. For those who say we need copper for that, it is becoming untrue. There are now conductive plastics, along with recycled metals.
What have these Andean Highlanders done to anyone? They have been trying to live peacefully on the land for over 10,000 years. This is their land. This author wonders if some people have souls, but it is not if the indigenous peoples have souls. Rather, I wonder if some of these people working with mining companies have souls. Surely many people do evil through ignorance, but one can really wonder if some are truly evil and lack souls? On the other hand, surely some animals have souls – just to make the point that the animals should also have rights and not just the humans. We do not have the right to stomp on people or to needlessly harm animals or trees and plants. Many religious traditions, including Judeo-Christianity, tell us that we are to be caretakers of the earth and its plants and animals.
CONTINUED in New Post Sunday, 12 MAY 2013: “No Bounds to Stupidity”.
(Among the things remaining to be discussed are tailings dams, water pollution, as well as what community leaders and community members think, including the Rondas Campesinos.)
We will eventually open a Part II of the Drill Bit Screwup post. Nonetheless, we feel that this topic is more critical than continuing the drill bit contamination post for now. References and additional reading below.
NB: If links do not work, please cut and paste the address into your browser. You may need to adjust the spacing. In some cases it is an accident/we are unable to fix it. However, we are trying to start making sure that pro-mining sites do not link directly from here. We do not think they will appreciate us anymore than we appreciate them. But, it is important to read what they have to say.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
More References to be added
Picture at top of post from creativecommons.org via wikimedia commons, share and sharealike. For more details see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gwalpaca.jpg
References re Macusani-Corani Rock Art
Rainer Hostnig. Macusani y Corani, repositorios de Arte Rupestre Milenario en la Cordillera de Carabaya, Puno – Perú En Rupestreweb, 2005 http://rupestreweb2.tripod.com/macusani.html (pictures and maps of the area)
28 April 2013
Article about exploration continuing in July despite strikes
75% of residents of Corani impacted by uranium mining
Nov. 2011 Asked for Exploration to Stop
30 April 2013
says no activity between 3 degrees and 15 south, but Quimssachata is approx 14 south
Kennecott accused illegally mining uranium Mexico
ILO health hazards mining
tulane slope stability
Typically a magnitude 6.3 earthquake would cause ground acceleration of 0.25 g (25% g)
Links added on 9 May 2013
Nifah Bankroh, 14 Nov 2005
human rts court
us duty of care