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Latin America Green News: Impact of mining reviewed in Chile, natural gas on the agenda for Obama's visit to Costa Rica, mining projects approved in Mexico

Amanda Maxwell

Posted May 3, 2013 in The Media and the Environment

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Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

April 26-May 3, 2013

Chile

Executives from Barrick Gold—the Toronto-based mining company that is embroiled in a legal battle over its Pascua Lama mining project in Chile—have told their shareholders that the company may be ready to permanently close the controversial mine. In addition to continued legal roadblocks, Barrick’s South American operations hit another setback this week with the resignation of three high-level executives, including the company’s regional president, regional vice president, and the director of operations. (The Santiago Times 4/26/2013)

Several environmental organization, including the Buenos Aires-based Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), Greenpeace, the Environmental Lawyers Association of Argentina have filed a complaint in Argentina’s Supreme Court to acquire documents related to the Copiapó Court of Appeals decision to suspend operations at the Pascua Lama mine. The groups claims that obtaining these documents—which establish the allocation of water resources in shared ecosystems and outline conclusions reached by an environmental audit on the Argentine side of the project—will help push forward implementation of the Glacier Law. The project straddles both countries and is currently moving ahead in Argentina. (FARN 4/30/3013)

The Senate Commission on the Environment and Natural Resources is continuing its analysis of the environmental impacts of mining projects, specifically, their potential effects on local glaciers and their ecosystems. Under review is the Los Bronces project, owned by Anglo American, Andina 244, owned by Codelco, Escalones, owned by South America Siver, and the recently suspended Pascua Lama project, owned by Barrick Gold. In addition to appraising current impacts, the commission hopes to strengthen the country’s environmental legislation. (Senate Bulletin Nº 4205-12 4/30/2013)

Costa Rica

The agenda for President Obama’s visit to Costa Rica includes natural gas, claims René Castro, the country’s Minister of Environment and Energy. Costa Rica is seeking US-recognition of a Central American market for natural gas—a regional grouping of demand that will make the market more attractive to large suppliers—and the granting of “most favored nation” status to Costa Rica, a designation that will lower import prices. Costa Rica aims to increase the use of natural gas in transportation and power generation in order to reduce the country’s total carbon emissions. (El Financiero 4/30/2013)

In an innovative twist to solid waste management, garbage produced by residents of six cantons in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province will be transformed into energy and fuel for industrial furnaces. According to project estimates, the communities will be able to generate 9 MWh of electricity from 160 daily tons of solid waste. A power generation plant capable of converting solid waste into electricity is expected to come online in early 2014. (La Nación 4/29/2013)

El País columnist Bernardo Aguilar González provides thought-provoking reflections on the environmentalist agenda surrounding President Obama’s visit to the region this week. The post tackles a number of hot-button issues, including trade liberalization—a likely topic given speculations that the country will ask US support to join the OECD and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations—the use of alternative energy such as hydrogen to fuel transportation, and the creation of a regional market for natural gas.  (El País 5/1/2013)

Mexico

Following last week’s announcements of new financial support for sustainable development projects in Tamaulipas and Michoacan, the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources has signed an agreement with the government of Yucatán to help forest conservation efforts and other initiatives in the state. Approximately 85 million pesos (close to US$7 million) will go to the National Forestry Commission, while an additional 100 million (about US$8.2 million) will be allocated variety of projects, including the rehabilitation of three former landfills in the cities of Valladolid, Motul and Tizimín. (Uniradioinforma 4/25/2013)

Mexico’s Environmental Ministry has approved the environmental impact statements of two mining projects to be developed by a subsidiary of Scorpio Mining Corporation, a Toronto-based silver producer. The subsidiary, Minera Platte River Gold, will carry out underground mining operations at the El Cajón and San Rafael sites in Sinaloa State. Initial surface work at El Cajón is expected to begin later this year. (Mining Weekly 5/1/2013)

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has launched an investigation into complaints of predatory activity on the banks of the Ameca River and some of its jetties filed by the residents of the Bahia de Bandera municipality in state of Nayarit. The inquiry will review claims of illegal dredging, which can produce silt and harm area fishermen, and the construction of stone fences to create private beaches. (Periodico Express de Nayarit 4/30/2013)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America News archive or read our other International blogs.

This week’s news was compiled by Maria Belenky.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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