MICLA

McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Cerro Casale (Aldebaran), Chile

Key Data

Company:Barrick Gold Corporation (75%), Kincross Gold Corporation (25%) Operational status:Suspended in 2013, land retained for future investment Materials extracted:silver, copper, gold Type of mine:open pit Main issues:indigenous rights, public health, water, cultural heritage

Description

Synopsis: The Cerro Casale mine was first explored in the 1980s, but no production has been recorded as of yet due to funding issues and ownership changes. A tailings pond is to be built at the headwaters of the Rio Nevado watershed in this area of low precipitation, causing concerns over water contamination from cyanide and the accidental release of other contaminants, as well as intrusion into national parks and archeological sites. The mine’s high rates of water consumption is also of concern to farmers in the area who depend on water to irrigate their fields. Observers are also concerned about the company’s lack of recognition of Colla land and alleged non-compliance with ILO 169.

Although the Cerro Casale/Aldebaran area has been of interest to mining corporations since the 1980s, it is still largely underdeveloped due to high investment demands and ownership changes. Anglo was the first company to explore the area, before the Arizona Star and Bema acquired the land and performed regional exploration, mapping, drilling, and feasibility studies throughout the 1990s[i]. Currently, the Compañia Minera Casale owns the project, with Kinross and Barrick owning 25% and 75% interests respectively, as successors to Bema and Arizona Star[ii]. The mine operations have been stalled since 2013 due to high investment costs, but Barrick aims to begin operations of a smaller mine in the area but retaining the ability to expand.[iii] [iv] Although the mine’s operations are stalled, there are many community concerns surrounding land rights, water rights, public health and socioeconomic impact.

The Colla indigenous community of the Copiapó area has been a vocal opponent of the mine. In 2013, the Court of Appeal in Copiapó rejected an injunction filed by members of the Colla community, against the approval of the 2011 environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Cerro Casale mine.[v] [vi] The court was unable to determine infringement of the right to property, and ruled that Barrick successfully completed their requirements as outlined in ILO 169.[vii] The appellants maintain that there was no consultation of indigenous communities.[viii]

Furthermore, according to the Universidad de la Frontera Instituta de Estudios Indígenas, the initial environmental reports issued on Cerro Casale in 2001 indicated there were no towns within a 55 kilometer radius of the mine.[ix] However, this did not take into account the migratory patterns of the Colla people, as they have summer settlements on the Río Nevado.[x] In the 2011 EIA, the number was modified to 23 km, however the concerns persist, as there have been seasonal Colla settlements as close as on the mine site itself.[xi] [xii] As La Ley Indígena of Chile outlines that in property ownership process, indigenous migratory patterns must be taken into account, there is controversy over the land rights for the mine.[xiii]

There are further concerns over water pollution and depletion due to the high water demands of the mine. According to the Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de America Latina (OCMAL), the mine is set to use nearly 900 L of fresh water per second. The mine is located in areas of already low precipitation, and there are concerns that it may put too much strain on water sources both above and below ground that feed the already depleted Rio Copiapó.[xiv] As one of the major forms of economic activity in the Copiapó Valley is agricultural production of grapes for export, there is serious concern that the mine could be detrimental for the economic development of the area. According to the Coordinadora por la Defensa del Agua y el Medio Ambiente de Tierra Amarilla, a local environmental organization, the agricultural industry in Tierra Amarilla employs over 25000 people, while the mine will employ 4500 during construction and 1250 during operations.[xv] [xvi] Besides water depletion, the communities surrounding the mine have voiced concerns over the risk of contamination of the water and land. The Asociación de Agricultores del Valle de Copiapó and the Comisión Regional del Medio Ambiente de Atacama have opposed the mine for the threat of contamination.[xvii] Specifically, the construction of the tailings dam and its location at the headwaters of the Río Nevado is worrisome due to the chemical nature of its contents, the area’s susceptibility to natural disasters like earthquakes, and the presence of fluvial soil.[xviii] Other opposition to the mine comes from the plans to build a 121 km aqueduct that would cross two national parks (Tres Cruces and Laguna del Negro Fresco) and 69 archeological sites.[xix]

Barrick held two community consultations (“Casas Abiertas”) in 2011, to provide the communities with information on the mining project, and allow for questions and concerns.[xx] The main concerns raised by the community were on water and labour opportunities.[xxi] Along with the Casas Abiertas, Barrick has founded social programs for the communities of Tierra Amarilla, Copiapó and Caldera including their Fondo Concursable (FOCO) research grant, the Programa de Nivelación de Estudios, and the Programa Socio-ambiental.[xxii]

In January 2015, the Committee of Ministers in Chile partially accepted six water resource claim appeals filed against the mine.[xxiii] They reaffirmed the result of the 2013 EIA and rejected all complaints related to social impact and ILO 169 violation.[xxiv] However, they laid out new conditions for operations that included reduction of the maximum volume of exploitation of the Piedra Pómez aquifer, and recognition of the impact of decreasing water levels.[xxv] In June 2015, the Compañia Minera Casale filed an appeal to the Second Environmental Court against the resolution issued by the Committee of Ministers seeking to have the resolution annulled.[xxvi] The decision is still pending, but Barrick “intends to defend the action vigorously”.[xxvii]

[i] Kinross Cerro Casale Technical Report PDF

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Abarca, Juan. “YEAR IN REVIEW: Chile’s top 5 mining projects suspended in 2013”. BNamericas. Dec 27, 2013. http://www.bnamericas.com/en/features/mining/year-in-review-chiles-top-5-mining-projects-suspended-in-2013

[iv] Barrick Gold Corporation. “Exploration and Growth” Barrick.com http://www.barrick.com/operations/exploration-growth/default.aspx#projects

[v] La Nación. “Rechazan Recurso Contra Proyecto Minero Cerro Casale de Barrick”. Diario La Nación. http://www.lanacion.cl/rechazan-recurso-contra-proyecto-minero-cerro-casale-de-barrick/noticias/2013-05-02/114152.html

[vi] Diario Financiero. “Corte de Copiapó rechaza recurso de protección contra Cerro Casale”. Diario Financiero. https://www.df.cl/noticias/empresas/industria/corte-de-copiapo-rechaza-recurso-de-proteccion-contra-cerro-casale/2013-05-02/212640.html.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Universidad de la Frontera Instituto de Estudios Indígenas. “Los derechos de los pueblos indígenas en Chile: informe del programa de derechos indígenas”. Santiago de Chile: Lom, 2003. 119-120. Print.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Optimización Proyecto Minero Cerro Casale 2011, pg. 90

[xiii] Informe de la Commission Verdad Histórica y Nuevo Trato 2003. “Reconocimiento y demandas de las comunidades Colla” http://diccionarios.serindigena.org/libros_digitales/cvhynt/v_i/1p/v1_pp2_norte_c4_los_collas-Bibliogr.html#Heading379

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Que hay de cierto. “ Coordinadora de Tierra Amarilla rechaza firma de convenio entre Municipio y Casale”. Diario Que hay de cierto. 21 de mayo, 2011. http://www.elquehaydecierto.cl/noticia/sociedad/coordinadora-de-tierra-amarilla-rechaza-firma-de-convenio-entre-municipio-y-casale

[xvi] Mapa de conflictos socioambientales en Chile. “Proyecto Cerro Casale”. Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. 2015. http://mapaconflictos.indh.cl/conflicto/ficha/30

[xvii] Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de America Latina. “Kollas y agricultores se oponen a minera Cerro Casale”. Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales. 2010. http://basedatos.conflictosmineros.net/ocmal_db/?page=conflicto&id=107

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] “Proyecto Cerro Casale de difunde a través de ‘Casas Abiertas’” Diario Somos Barrick. 2011. http://www.somosbarrick.com/pascua-lama/2011/01/proyecto-cerro-casale-se-difunde-a-traves-de-%E2%80%9Ccasas-abiertas%E2%80%9D/

[xxi] “’Casas Abiertas’: Empleo y agua fueron más debatidos” El Diario de Atacama. 2011. http://www.diarioatacama.cl/prontus4_nots/site/artic/20110520/pags/20110520001511.html

[xxii] Barrick Latam. “Relaciones Communitarias”. Barrick Gold Corporation. http://barricklatam.com/barrick/presencia/cerro-casale/relaciones-comunitarias/relaciones-comunitarias/2014-06-11/154555.html

[xxiii] Mapa de conflictos socioambientales en Chile. “Proyecto Cerro Casale”. Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. 2015. http://mapaconflictos.indh.cl/conflicto/ficha/30

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Barrick Gold Corporation. “2015 Year-End Report and Fourth Quarter Results.” PDF.

Bibliography

Abarca, Juan. “YEAR IN REVIEW: Chile’s top 5 mining projects suspended in 2013”. BNamericas. Dec 27, 2013. http://www.bnamericas.com/en/features/mining/year-in-review-chiles-top-5-mining-projects-suspended-in-2013

Barrick Gold Corporation. “2015 Year-End Report and Fourth Quarter Results.” PDF.

Barrick Gold Corporation. “Exploration and Growth” Barrick.com http://www.barrick.com/operations/exploration-growth/default.aspx#projects

Barrick Latam. “Relaciones Communitarias”. Barrick Gold Corporation. http://barricklatam.com/barrick/presencia/cerro-casale/relaciones-comunitarias/relaciones-comunitarias/2014-06-11/154555.html

“’Casas Abiertas’: Empleo y agua fueron más debatidos” El Diario de Atacama. 2011. http://www.diarioatacama.cl/prontus4_nots/site/artic/20110520/pags/20110520001511.html

Diario Financiero. “Corte de Copiapó rechaza recurso de protección contra Cerro Casale”. Diario Financiero. https://www.df.cl/noticias/empresas/industria/corte-de-copiapo-rechaza-recurso-de-proteccion-contra-cerro-casale/2013-05-02/212640.html.

Informe de la Commission Verdad Histórica y Nuevo Trato 2003. “Reconocimiento y demandas de las comunidades Colla” http://diccionarios.serindigena.org/libros_digitales/cvhynt/v_i/1p/v1_pp2_norte_c4_los_collas-Bibliogr.html#Heading379

Kinross, Cerro Casale Technical Report. PDF.*

La Nación. “Rechazan Recurso Contra Proyecto Minero Cerro Casale de Barrick”. Diario La Nación. http://www.lanacion.cl/rechazan-recurso-contra-proyecto-minero-cerro-casale-de-barrick/noticias/2013-05-02/114152.html

Mapa de conflictos socioambientales en Chile. “Proyecto Cerro Casale”. Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. 2015. http://mapaconflictos.indh.cl/conflicto/ficha/30

Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de America Latina. “Kollas y agricultores se oponen a minera Cerro Casale”. Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales. 2010. http://basedatos.conflictosmineros.net/ocmal_db/?page=conflicto&id=107

Optimización Proyecto Minero Cerro Casale. 2011. PDF.*

“Proyecto Cerro Casale de difunde a través de ‘Casas Abiertas’” Diario Somos Barrick. 2011. http://www.somosbarrick.com/pascua-lama/2011/01/proyecto-cerro-casale-se-difunde-a-traves-de-%E2%80%9Ccasas-abiertas%E2%80%9D/

Que hay de cierto. “ Coordinadora de Tierra Amarilla rechaza firma de convenio entre Municipio y Casale”. Diario Que hay de cierto. 21 de mayo, 2011. http://www.elquehaydecierto.cl/noticia/sociedad/coordinadora-de-tierra-amarilla-rechaza-firma-de-convenio-entre-municipio-y-casale

Universidad de la Frontera Instituto de Estudios Indígenas. “Los derechos de los pueblos indígenas en Chile: informe del programa de derechos indígenas”. Santiago de Chile: Lom, 2003. 119-120. Print.

*Copies of PDFs are available. Please contact micla.info@gmail.com if you would like a copy.

 

 



Timeline of Key Events

2012
2011