Dirty gold for dirty water, Chileans are suffering from water pollution.

Once again the environment is paying a high cost for economic development, or better companies’  enrichment that make money at the expenses of the locals who live in the era. It’s the case of Chile and water pollution.

The world’s biggest gold mining company Barrick Gold Corp has been accused of poisoning Chile’s water supplies. It’s not the first time though that the South American country deals with this matter. Last year indeed the inhabitants of the small town of Caimanes in northern Chile had sufferred from severe health problems caused by water pollution. The cause? A tailings dam built by the Los Pelambres mining company, which also had the courage to accuse local residents who complained about the situation of creating a spurious conflict for private gain.

‘Spurious’ they said? The mining company Los Pelambres operated in Valle del Choapa, 250 km north of Santiago, and had a negative impact on the community, provocking enormous losses to the local heritage, as 140 archaeological sites had been dug up and 500 stones bearing 2,000 engravings had been moved from their original positions.

“These are crimes against the local cultural heritage and society which violate human rights, and the state is responsible for failing to guarantee access to clean drinking water for the people of Caimanes and for letting a company expose them to lethal danger,” Patricio Bustamante, a Chilean archaeoastronomer stated last year regarding the issue (IPS).

Chile has a long history of water pollution and environment deterioration caused by mining companies.  In northern Chile, near the small fishing town of Chanaral, a Chilean National Copper Corporation (CODELCO) mine was dumping tailings into a nearby bay, depleting local fish populations, until the town sued the company in the mid 1980s to stop the practice.

Now more than ever Chileans are facing a major water-supply crisis.



Laura Zuffi


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