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Friday FTW: Chilean indigenous group wins environmental lawsuit against Barrick Gold Corp.

Espe Currie

Here at This Magazine we’re hard at work on our Corporate Hall of Shame issue (coming in September!), an annual roundup of shady company dealings, corruption, lies, and a lot more. It can be pretty depressing around the office – in addition to all of the above, we’re also researching stories on environmental degradation, animal abuse, and nasty product recalls. This week’s Friday FTW is a welcome reprieve from what often seems like the absolute power of corporate interest.

A Chilean court has ruled on the side of indigenous people in a lawsuit against Canadian mining company Barrick Gold. The lawsuit concerned Barrick’s Pascua-Lama operation, an open pit gold mining development worth almost $9 billion that has been under construction since 2006.

The Diaguita communities of the Huasco Valley, in northern Chile, accused the gold giant of violating environmental regulations intended to protect three pristine glaciers at the mine site in the Andes, on the border of Chile and Argentina, and contaminating the water supply.

The court said the company’s plans for the glaciers have to be reviewed, as does the project’s environmental license. In 2006, when plans for the mine were first developed, Barrick had planned to straight-up move the glaciers in order to access the minerals below—thankfully, the Chilean government said no way.

On Monday, the court ruled Barrick must keep all of its environmental promises, including protecting the glaciers and water systems, after suspending construction on the mine in the spring. As a consequence of the ruling, the company can’t resume construction until it meets the Chilean government’s water management regulations, and builds drainage systems and canals to prevent water pollution in the surrounding area.

As much as the ruling is a win for the Daguita, the group’s lawyer, Lorenzo Soto, said in an exclusive interview with Reuters that they will appeal: the environmental restrictions laid out by the court, he says, still do not go far enough.




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