Santiago - Huasco Valley, Chile
March 15, 2012
In 2010, Barrick Gold requested financing for the Pascua Lama mine from a public financing agency in the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and months later, from Export Development Canada (EDC). Communities affected by the gold megaproject sent information to both public institutions regarding the company’s operations and requested that the financing be denied. Two years later, Barrick has withdrawn its requests.
In 2010, Canadian organizations alerted Chilean communities in the Huasco Valley about a request for financing for the Pascua Lama project by Barrick Gold before the U.S. government agency, Ex-Im Bank. The communities, who seek to defend their water resources and way of life, immediately prepared a letter, signed by more than 20 organizations, identifying a number of serious problems associated with the company’s operations, beginning in 2001. Problems include: outstanding lawsuits before national and international fora, the death of 15 mine workers, irreparable damage to glaciers, state sanctions against the company, and on-going problems regarding water quality and quantity experienced by Chilean and Argentine farmers.
Ex-Im responded favourably to the letter, although contact was not re-established with the bank until valley residents reported being contacted by a consultant representing both Ex-Im and the Canadian agency, EDC. According to affected communities, the consultant behaved suspiciously, undertaking interviews with local residents in the mining company’s office. In some cases, the company facilitated contact between the consultant and local residents, and arranged for translation. Affected communities questioned Ex-Im’s approach and publicly discredited both agencies’ on-the-ground operations.
The agencies acknowledged the community complaint and explained that their evaluation of the company was on-going. On March 1, 2012, Ex-Im published a note on its web site revealing tha