You are here

Environmental Defenders Join Forces Across Argentina To Stop Mining Boom

Bala Chambers

"Over their 30-year existence, the group has pivoted, tackling issues concerning energy, open-pit mining and the rights of Indigenous people. But their biggest challenge is an ongoing, protracted battle against the oldest large-scale open-pit mine.  The Bajo La Alumbrera mine, located in Catamarca province, began operations with multinational backing in 1997 to mine copper, gold and molybdenum. After extraction, mining materials were initially processed on site, before being pumped through a several-hundred-mile-long pipeline between provinces, from Catamarca to Tucumán, until reaching a plant in Ranchillos.  Authorities found evidence of contamination during the treatment process of materials in Ranchillos and effluents in local waterways after heavy rains impacted the pipeline.  Andalgalá has a strong agricultural tradition that is dependent on large amounts of water to produce an array of fruits and vegetables, like potatoes, olives and quince. However, mining has not only polluted water sources, but also exacerbated droughts in the area... With increased global demand for lithium batteries,  other minerals are needed such as copper, cobalt and rare-earth metals, which further drive extractivist activities.  “It generates a tremendous impact in these zones of sacrifice because they’re really areas that become devastated — both human life and non-human life stops existing.  Water loss can’t be recovered, impacting vegetation that carries out important ecosystem functions like carbon capture."