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Pascua Lama Mine Email Petition

Summary:
Message claims that the planned Pascua Lama mine in Chile may cause devastating environmental damage to the area and asks recipients to "sign" the email petition and send it to others (Full commentary below).



Status:
True (But email petitions are generally ineffective)

Example:(Submitted, May 2006)
Dear friends who care about our earth. Judge for yourself if you want To Take action. In the Valle de San Felix, the purest water in Chile runs From 2 rivers, fed by 2 glaciers. Water is a most precious resource, and Wars Will be fought for it. Indigenous farmers use the water, there is no Unemployment, and they provide the second largest source of income for The Area. Under the glaciers has been found a huge deposit of gold, silver And Other minerals. To get at these, it would be necessary to break, to Destroy The glaciers - something never conceived of in the history of the world

And to make 2 huge holes, each as big as a whole mountain, one for Extraction and one for the mine's rubbish tip.

The project is called PASCUA LAMA. The company is called Barrick Gold. The Operation is planned by a multi-national company, one of whose members Is George Bush Senior. The Chilean Government has approved the project to Start This year, 2006. The only reason it hasn't started yet is because the Farmers have got a temporary stay of execution. If they destroy the Glaciers, they will not just destroy the source of specially pure Water, but They will permanently contaminate the 2 rivers so they will never again Be Fit for human or animal consumption because of the use of cyanide and Sulphuric acid in the extraction process. Every last gramme of gold Will go Abroad to the multinational company and not one will be left with the People Whose land it is. They will only be left with the poisoned water and The Resulting illnesses.

The farmers have been fighting a long time for their land, but have Been Forbidden to make a TV appeal by a ban from the Ministry of the Interior. Their only hope now of putting brakes on this project is to get help From International justice. The world must know what is happening in Chile. The Only place to start changing the world is from here. We ask you to Circulate This message amongst your friends in the following way. Please copy This Text, paste it into a new email adding your signature and send it to Everyone in your address book. Please will the 100th person to receive And Sign the petition send it to noapascualama@yahoo.ca to be forwarded to The Chilean government.

--------------------------------------------------

No to Pascua Lama Open-cast mine in the Andean Cordillera on the Chilean-Argentine frontier.

We ask the Chilean Government not to authorize the Pascua Lama project To Protect the whole of 3 glaciers, the purity of the water of the San Felix Valley and El Transito, the quality of the agricultural land of the Region Of Atacama, the quality of life of the Diaguita people and of the whole Population of the region.

Signature, City, Country [List of names and details removed]



Commentary:
The proposed mining operation described in this email petition is real and there are indeed significant environmental concerns about the impact of the project. As the message states, international gold mining company Barrick Gold Corporation is responsible for the project. According to information on the Mining Watch website,
Pascua Lama is a mining project consisting of the open-pit exploitation of a deposit of gold, silver and copper ore and its processing to produce doré (gold and silver) and copper concentrate.

The deposit is located high in the Andes on the Chilean-Argentinean border, about 150 kilometres to the south-east of the city of Vallenar in the Commune of Alto del Carmen, Province of Huasco, III Region of Chile."

A May 2006 Reuters article notes that the project is "on track for final approval by the Chilean government despite environmental and community opposition."

There has been long standing opposition to the Pascua Lama project. As stated in the message, there are serious concerns about the environmental impact of removing the glaciers as well as potential contamination caused by chemicals used in the mining process. A 2005 Mining Watch article notes that:
The lack of relevant technical expertise in removing glaciers implies an irreversible environmental impact. What is certain is that the three affected glaciers would suffer an environmental impact.

While the concerns are real, the message tends to overstate the issues somewhat. While cyanide and other chemicals may potentially pollute water supplies, the message's claim that their use "will permanently contaminate the 2 rivers so they will never again be fit for human or animal consumption" is likely to be an exaggeration of the potential damage. The size and scope of the damage caused by removing the glaciers may also be exaggerated.

According to a 2005 article on decanter.com:
Vincent Borg, vice president of corporate communications at Barrick in Canada, told decanter.com 'glacier experts' had defined the icefields in question as 'ice reservoirs or icefields'.

'Regardless of what the experts call them, Barrick is committed to their preservation and conservation. We will move only 5 acres of ice and it is a straightforward procedure that has been proven in the past to conserve the ice. The ice in question only affects about 3-4% of the ice in the Valley so it is not an amount that some sensationalists would like to make it appear,' he said.

On the issue of use of toxic chemicals such as cyanide he said, 'Cyanide is used worldwide and can be safely used in many industrial applications. Mining comprises only 13% of cyanide use.'

However, in spite of these exaggerations and the somewhat hollow assurances from the company, the environmental concerns about the project are very real. In my opinion, the project should be shelved, at least until the true environmental impact of the mine can be effectively ascertained by independent observers.

That said, an email petition is probably not a particularly effective way to register opposition to the project. There are serious problems with email petitions of this nature that, in my opinion, can render them largely ineffective. Concerned recipients may well be better off fighting against the project by lobbying politicians directly, raising community awareness on the issues and/or joining an environmental group.

References:
Barrick Gold Corporation
Mining Watch: Pascua Lama Background
Barrick says Pascua Lama on track
Barrick Gold Faces Determined Opposition at Pascua Lama and Veladero
Are Email Petitions Useful?

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen