Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Paracatu issue: a genocide tolerated by a fistful of authorities

The Paracatu issue: a genocide tolerated by a fistful of authorities

Paracatu is a town of 90,000 inhabitants in the northwestern part of the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. In 1987, the Minas Gerais State administration permitted anglo-australian Rio Tinto to initiate an open pit gold mine within the town. In 2004, the mine was acquired by Canadian Kinross Gold Corporation.

The Paracatu mine has the world’s lowest gold grades (0.4 g Au/ton ore), and thus the world’s largest tailings disposition rates. In 2008, mine tailings already amounted some 300,000,000 tons. The mine’s hard rock contains arsenic, which is considered the “king of poisons”.

A number of studies and reports have indicated, as early as 2006, that the liabilities of the Paracatu open pit gold mine are so enormous as to render this operation unfeasible. Nonetheless, the continuity of the operation is causing a true socio-economical and environmental catastrophe in Paracatu: destruction of a number of precious sources of drinking water; air, soil and water contamination by arsenic, sulfuric acid and other pollutants; chronic poisoning of the population which causes diseases and deaths, distress and plight; expelling of traditional communities from their land; increasing unemployment and disoccupation; increasing income gap and unbearably high opportunity cost imposed on an agriculture-based economy.

Daily arsenic exposure in Paracatu is in excess of tenfold the cautionary WHO daily dose limit. Intense geological faulting which characterizes the region where the mine is located together with the mine expansion project magnify the arsenic contamination of underground water, rendering the water inadequate for human consumption.

The Paracatu municipal administration under major Vasco Praça Filho and the Minas Gerais environmental agencies under State governor Aécio Neves have been formally warned about the situation, beginning in 2007. However, both administrations continue to issue permits for the expansion of the Paracatu mine. They manage to hide the enormous liabilities of this project, as if they did not exist.

The expansion of the Paracatu mine means a threefold increase in ore processing, a threefold increase in new water consumption by the mining operation, a deepening of the mining works some 100 meters below the water table, and an unbearable worsening of the health situation. Having already destroyed three important water springs by its mining operation, Kinross now intends to throw some 1,000,000,000 tons of toxic tailings on top of three precious water springs of the Santa Rita river in the Machadinho Valley – the true water reservoir of Paracatu town.

A fistful of people who belong to the Minas Gerais State administration corps and Canadian Kinross Gold Corporation are confident in their impunity. They rehearse the first steps towards the perhaps biggest tolerated genocide of modern Brazilian history. Source: the Acangaú Foundation. For further information and complete reports the reader is referred to:

No comments:

Post a Comment