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Date: Wed, 05 Mar 1997 00:56:26 +0000
From: Shanna Langdon
Subject: Drillbits & Tailings, February 7, 1997; Volume 2, Number 3.

To everyone on the Road Alert! mailing list......

Below is a copy of "Drillbits and Tailings", a US anti-mining / oil / gas exploration newsletter, with global coverage. It's long, but has loads of useful info and alerts in it. We won't forward it again, so if you want to subscribe, e-mail them (NOT us). I think it's free, although they do want voluntary subscriptions (who doesn't?).

Apologies if this clogs up your mailbox, but we think lots of you may be interested.


Drillbits & Tailings
Volume 2 , Number 3
February 7, 1997

Dear "Drillbits & Tailings" reader,

Your fascinating and up-to-the-minute edition of Drillbits & Tailings follows below - but first we want to remind you that "Drillbits" has been published for free, twice-monthly for the last 6 months. project underground wants to continue being able to distribute "Drillbits & Tailings" to all its readers, but in order to do so, we must request a subscription fee from those who are in a position to pay for the service.

Since most institutions and organizations have a subscription budget, we are requesting that they, along with individuals who are able to do so, pay for this publication. This does not include groups in the global South.

The money we raise will help subsidise the production of "Drillbits", which takes up a substantial part of our Information Coordinator's time. We seek to raise $3,000 towards her salary which means that we need over 100 of our current free subscribers to make a contribution. We hope that you appreciate "Drillbits & Tailings" enough to want to pay for it.

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Drillbits & Tailings
Volume 2 , Number 3
February 7, 1997


DIARY - Santa Cruz de la Sierra Declaration
VITAL STATISTICS: Global Goldmining



About 4,000 members of the U'wa tribe recently threatened to commit mass suicide if oil exploration takes place on their ancestral lands. The indigenous community considers that drilling for oil inflicts wounds on "Mother Earth" that could have deadly consequences not only for the tribe, but for the whole of humanity, said Jose Cobaria, a spokesperson for the U'wa.

The Colombian Environment Ministry issued an authorization for oil exploration by Oxy, a branch of the US company Occidental, to start in indigenous territory on the border with Venezuela. Multinational oil companies are already active in the areas surrounding the tribal territory.

The Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that a necessary consultation process with the U'wa has not occurred, at the beginning of February. This failure is in violation of the Colombian Constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization. Now the government of Colombia has 30 days to carry out the consultation.

"All honorable men and women understand that the path one follows by causing wounds to mother Earth is a deadly one," Cobaria said, warning that members of the U'wa tribe may be left with no other alternative than collective suicide if drilling goes ahead. He issued an appeal for help from the international community, "so that they help the white man (Oxy) understand the meaning of the life of the people and animals" who live on the tribal lands.

According to Carlos Sanchez of the Organizacion Nacional Indigena de Colombia (ONIC), the decision by the court is not necessarily a good one for the U'wa although it delays exploration. At the end of the 30 day period the government can still decide unilaterally to continue oil activites in the region whether the U'wa agree to it or not. This is because the term "consultation" is not defined.

Tribal leaders began descending Monday, February 3, 1997 from the Sierra Nevada Cocuy mountains, 200 miles northeast of Bogota to neighboring towns to discuss the court decision. A meeting of tribal elders was scheduled for this week. The U'wa consider oil the "blood of mother earth" and say drilling will destroy their culture. They have refused repeated efforts by Occidental to make a deal. "What is sacred we don't sell or negotiate,'' said Ebaristo Tegria, an U'wa lawyer.

Oxy believes the proposed oil field to be worth billions of dollars as preliminary seismic tests indicate that the field could contain between 1 billion and 2.5 billion barrels of oil. The field could be one of the largest in the hemisphere. Robert Stewart, Occidental's manager of corporate affairs, said "We wouldn't have gone through all of this if we didn't think the field was worth it". As to the court delay over exploration he said he knew of no legal precedent for the decision.

(see WHAT YOU CAN DO below).

SOURCE: Amazon Coalition Action Alert/ Update February 4, 5, 1997;
Associated Press, February 3, 1997.



A jury in northern California went beyond its legal mandate to unanimously find Chevron negligent of adequate monitoring of the toxic gases it sends into the air around densly populated neighbourhoods in the city of Richmond. One of three suits, brought by 635 Richmond residents, claims that Chevron negligently handles its air pollution, causing acidic clouds and vapor streaks that inflame asthma and endanger health. In the other two suits another 2,000 residents claim health damages against this, the biggest refinery on the west coast of the USA.

According to trial evidence and jurors, the oil company's monitoring operations inadequately measure the mass of toxic vapors rising off the refinery's smokestacks, storage tanks, pipes and 70,000 valves. The suits pending seek court orders that Chevron increase monitoring , reduce emissions and pay millions of dollars in damages.

"Chevron trespasses by dumping pollution onto neighbours' homes, onto their skin, and onto their lungs," Lawrence Padway, the plaintiffs' Oakland lawyer, told the jury. " They hide their trespassing by averaging, modeling and estimating. They are concerned that if people really knew what was going on, they might have to change what they're doing."

An air chemist, Dr. William Keifer, testified that, "The resulting analysis of Chevron's monitoring is very misleading. They totally miss the picture. Something that might kill you wouldn't show up."

Chevron denies all allegations, saying that it follows the laws. Chevron's lawyer said that Chevron's emissions are well below annual average limits and levels dangerous to health, and that the refinery uses the best available technology to control and monitor pollution while pumping out 250,000 barrel of refined product per day.

Ironically, the long awaited scrutiny of Chevron's refinery comes at the same time as an investigation into a deadly explosion at the nearby Tosco refinery in the Bay Area city of Martinez, north of Richmond. On January 24, 1997, one worker was killed and 25 others were injured when an explosion, that sent flalmes 100 feet into the air, blazed through the plant. Because of the death, the state Ocuupational Safety and Health Association began separate criminal, safety and accident investigations, but the cause of the fire probably won't be answered for weeks.

"We would in no circumstances ever, ever operate a unit that isn't safe," said spokesperson Jim Simmons. "If we had any idea it was an unsafe situation, we would have shut it down."

"The Tosco accident is only one of many in a longline of explosions and fires that have killed and maimed our members, other workers,and community residents in recent years," Robert Wages, president of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW), said.

"How many people are going to have to die before we do something to halt this madness? Intense pressure within the industry to generate profits, manifested by speedup, employee donwsizing, and the use of untrained, inexperienced contract labor to perform critical maintenance work only contimnues to make tragedies such as this not only more possible, but more probable -- and, in fact, inevitable. This is the root cause of the problem."

SOURCE: Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) Press Release, February 5, 1997; Associated Press, 22, 23 January, 1997; San Francisco Examiner, February 2, 1997.


North America's largest gold mining company, the Newmont Mining Corporation, is making the most of the globalized economy of the 1990s. From the Philippines to Peru and Uzbekistan to Indonesia, Newmont Exploration Limited, the Newmont Gold Company and various national subsidiaries are winning backers, wooing governments, and breaking ground to extract gold.

In 1992, in the former Soviet Union they offered the Uzbeki government a 50% joint venture to process the tailings at the giant soviet gold mine Muruntau. Previously Muruntau had been the largest open pit gold mine in the world, producing 56 million tons annually. Known as the Zarafshan-Newmont Joint Venture the new project cost US $150 million and the company received half its financing from international investors and half from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. With public monies worth US$105 million they will be able to extract 5 million ounces of gold over the next 16 years.

In 1993 Newmont began work in Peru, near Cajamarca -- the infamous city where Pizarro the Conquistador robbed a Mayan king of a room full of gold and two full of silver. Minera Yanacocha, a company which has been mining for gold since 1995, is a joint venture between Newmont and Buenaventura, a Peruvian company. Each own 47.5 percent of the company along while the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, has 5 percent.

Disagreements over property and compensation have been but a few of the complaints levelled by locals against the company. Water contamination by the tailings and chemicals like cyanide (used to extract gold) is a concern voiced in the dozens of communities scattered across the three districts of Cajamarca, La Encanada and Yanacancha.

Gil Paisic, the mayor of Yanacancha Grande, says, "When the rains come the water runs off the tailings into the rivers making them turbid. If the horses and cows drink the water from the rivers they get stomach problems and sometimes die."

Hiriberto Ventura, a leader of Rondas Campesinas (Farmer Patrol) in Negritos Altos, says that last August, Rosa Castrejon and four others died after using plastic containers discarded by the company to collect water. The containers were apparently used to store cyanide. To add insult to injury local mayors say that the company, whose revenues totalled US$217 million in 1995, employs almost none of the local residents.

And in Indonesia, Newmont was cultivating contacts throughout the early 1990s to win contracts of work fom the Suharto government for a gold mine in Minahasa, North Sulawesi and another in Sumbawa in the Nusa Tengarra chain of islands. Newmont Minahasa Raya has been operating since March 1996, and has an annual capacity of 140,000 ounces of gold but little is known of local impacts or local sentiment towards the project.

In Sumbawa, along with Japanese partner Sumitomo, Newmont are poised to to start tearing up a much larger part of this forested island. The Batu Hijau mine will be Indonesia's second large scale open pit copper and gold mine after, Freeport McMoRan's Grasberg mine (which paid one-fifth of all Indonesian tax revenue last year). It will cover 27,000 hectares, in the south western part of the island, and produce 240,000 tons of copper, 513,000 ounces of gold and 970,000 ounces of silver for 20 years.

Newmont are expected to spend US$1.9 billion on the mine, although it is unclear where all the money will come from, and production is expected to start in November 1999. The scale of mining -- involving milling of 120,000 tons a day -- is of concern to environmentalists locally and globally as subsea tailings dumping is the preferred waste disposal method. The Asia Times quoted an industry source saying that "it had been considered a safe method, although there had been no environmental impact analysis on this project yet."

SOURCE: Down to Earth, forthcoming, February 1997; "World Bank Gold Mine Destroys Peruvian Farmland", IPS, February 7th 1997; Newmont Mining Corporation News Release(s) February 6, 1992 till the present.



Shell Oil has plans to start drilling for natural gas this July in a rainforest area that Peru's government set aside as a homeland for so-called "uncontacted" indigenous peoples. The 40-year, US$2.7 billion project will be one of the largest gas operations in South America.

Members of the Nahua and Kugapakori live in voluntary isolation in the reserve which is a 2,200 square mile area in the Urubamba River valley bordering Manu National Park, about 300 miles east of Lima. As well scientists recently recorded the highest number of animal, bird, insect, and plant populations found anywhere on the planet in this area.

According to Shannon Wright of the Rainforest Action Network, "Shell has promised that this project will be on the cutting-edge of socially and environmentally responsible business practices. If this is true, the company should not drill in an area inhabited by nomadic peoples at risk to disease and outside disturbance. Shell has a golden opportunity to take a leadership role in the industry, by cancelling these risky plans."

Shell's first gas well will be drilled inside the Machiguenga village of Cashiriari. Dozens of other Machiguenga communities are located alongside the rivers inside Shell's area of operation, each one facing the likelihood that drilling waste will contaminate its water supply.

To avoid any possible charges of environmental damage, Shell has vowed to refrain from constructing roads, to remove all trash from the region, and to forbid hunting and fishing by its staff. The company is especially sensitive because of international criticism in the last two years, including objections to the massive environmental destruction of the Niger delta in western Africa caused by its oil operations.

Some charges of environmental damage have, however, begun to come in. One villager, Pilar Vargas, says that the waters of the Cashiriari river, which are normally chocolate-brown, sometimes turn black. "We also have trouble hunting and fishing. It took us just two hours to hunt for animals before the operations began. Now, it takes a day and a half."

But Shell's technical manager Tom Kelly defends the work on the site. ''We have only been moving earth for a couple of weeks. We have plans to protect the site from erosion,'' he says.

Problems like land erosion and deforestation are minor compared to what will come when Shell begins the actual extraction of natural gas. Waste material from the wells could contain heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, which are highly toxic. Natural gas escaping from the well may have to be burnt off, causing massive flares in the forest, while pressurised gas pipelines run the risk of explosions.

Shell, however, admits that while these plans look perfect on paper, it is possible that the actual practices may be different. The company says it is willing to accept monitoring by a third party. "We need criticism from the outside," said Alan Hunt, the chief executive of Shell in Peru. "Otherwise our plans become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

SOURCE: Rainforest Action Network Action Alert January/February 1997;
InterPress Service, January 30, 1997.


DIARY: Santa Cruz de la Sierra Declaration on the Social and Environmental
Impact of Mining in the Americas.

Prepared by Foro Boliviano Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo (FOBOMADE)]

We the undersigned, meeting at the Hemispheric Tribunal on Sustainable Development in Santa Cruz de la Sierra from the 6th to the 9th of December, 1996, regarding the enormous environmental and social impact caused by mineral and petroleum development, consider that:

1. The high levels of air, water, and soil contamination caused by mining activity are amply demonstrated.
2. This contamination causes grave problems to the health of men, women, and children involved in mine work under particular labour conditions.
3. The explosive expansion of mining operations to which we are witnesses has deepened the process of displacement of communities and the despoiling of lands of first peoples, provoking the destruction of their cultures.
4. Mining continues to use technologies with high impacts on ecosystems and human health.
5. The overconsumption of water by mining activity deprives water access which by right communities have.
6. The prioritizing of mineral exploitation above agriculture threatens the food security in many of our regions and destroys sustainable societies.
7. The expansion of mining activity occurs as a consequence of the implementation of the neoliberal model which imposes a concentration of resources in few hands.

For these reasons, we state that:
The large scale mining industry - that of national as much as transnational companies - has become an activity with too high a socio-environmental cost. Also that in innumerable cases the conditions of work in the mines, refineries, and foundries are unacceptable.

To facilitate the operation of companies in national territories, there exist efforts to make environmental norms in the mining sector flexible through pressures on governments, weakening national sovereignty and the defense of natural resources.

The lack of technical and financial support to subsistence mining provokes environmental and labour conditions that historically have meant shortened lives for miners and the destruction of the ecosystems of neighbouring communities.

We demand that: The rights of communities to oppose mining operations and define the use of their resources are respected, as is recommended in Art. 15 of agreement 169 of the International Labour Organization for indigenous communities.

Local communities be informed in detail about all possible plans of exploration, exploitation, and processing and that their decisions regarding the acceptability of said processes be respected.

The water use rights of communities be respected above other activities that lie outside the priorities that they have themselves defined.

The importing, exporting, and transporting of toxic mining wastes be stopped under all conditions.

The restoration of damage caused by mining activity be assured without financial limit.

While subsistence mining exists as a negative effect of the neoliberal model, the State must be responsible for improving productive processes and lessening impacts on the environment and health.

The expansion of mining and petroleum frontiers be stopped and actions initiated towards reducing the consumption of minerals at a world level.

We propose:
To build and support popular ecological alliances that promote sustainable societies based in the basic necessities of communities.

To promote the alliance of workers and ecologists for the right to a quality of life that is socially just and environmentally sound.

We undertake:
To put forth our greatest efforts to consolidate, as soon as possible, an international action and monitoring network on mining operations on the planet.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, December 9th, 1996

Signatories from Bolivia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica

Translation by Environmental Mining Council of British Columbia.


< Hotspots >
BOUGAINVILLE: The Government of Bougainville has lifted all restrictions on movement of people and goods in and out of Bougainville. Peace efforts were continuing in the province with Bougainville Transitional Government members being allowed to enter into rebel controlled areas. Bougainville rebels will allow the national government to resume essential services on the island. A spokesperson for the rebels said that his organisation would fully support efforts by the PNG government to restore education and health services in the entire province in 1997. Civil war broke out in Bougainville in 1989 when grievances over the Panguna Copper Mine owned by CRA went unheeded. (PNG National Newspaper, January 31, 1997; Post-Courier Newspaper, February 4, 1997)

BURMA: As PepsiCo announced that it was pulling out of Burma, US-based Unocal outlined expanded plans to explore and develop gas fields off the coast in conjunction with the Burmese military government. Unocal will pay the Burmese government a signing bonus of several million US dollars as part of the deal. The US State Department is considering banning new investment in Burma by US companies and a new law empowers President Clinton to impose sanctions on Burma if repression worsens. Activists, having chased Pepsi out of Burma, will now turn their boycott to Unocal and Texaco who persist in supporting the SLORC. (San Francisco Chronicle, February 1, 1997).

ECUADOR: The billion dollar suit Amazonian indigenous peoples and campesinos filed against the oil company Texaco in US courts more than three years ago took an encouraging turn recently. The government of Ecuador filed papers with the court on December 23, seeking to join the plaintiffs in their bid for a trial in the US. The Ecuadorian government reversed its previous position after the suit was dismissed on November 12 because, among other reasons, the Ecuadorian government failed to support the plaintiffs' request for the case to be tried in the US rather than in Ecuador. (Rainforest Action Network Update, January/February 1997).

LITHUANIA: Fuel oil, whose source is as yet unknown and which has spread over about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of Lithuania's Baltic coast, has killed hundreds of birds, according to the country's Environmental Protection Ministry. The ministry said that Lithuanian, Latvian and Swedish environmentalists still had not found the source of the oil, which polluted an area near the port of Klaipeda. The ministry said numerous ducks and other aquatic birds smeared with oil were unsuccessfully struggling to fly or come ashore in the areas of the Palanga resort and the Kursiu Neringa peninsula. (Pipeline News, January 30, 1997).


VITAL STATISTICS: Global Goldmining

53% of exploration in 1995-96 was for gold.

Global demand for gold is currently higher than ever. 3,642 tons were mined in 1995.

More than 70 countries including 31 in Africa have changed their laws to attract foreign investment in gold mining.

In approximately 20 years time, about half of global gold production will come from territory used or claimed by indigenous peoples.

Currently 1 in 5 mining prospects is on indigenous land.

South Africa is the world's leading producer; in 1995 it produces 523 tons.

The biggest gold mine in the world is Grasberg in West Papua (or Irian Jaya, Indonesia) owned by Freeport-McMoRan.

The Grasberg mine dumps 120,000 tons of toxic waste into nearby rivers every day.

It directly affects 5 different indigenous groups.

By 1991, just over 20 companies delivered more than 66% of official global gold production outside of China. The world's 2 biggest mining companies RTZ-CRA and Anglo-American controlled nearly half this amount.

Brazil is the biggest single small-scale gold producer, with annual production of 80 tons. Some 500,000 goldminers work in the Amazon region.

Small scale miners produce approximately 20% of Africa's gold. In the sub-Saharan region, more than 1.5 million people work in the informal mining sector, while in Zimbabwe that figure is about 100,000.

In South Africa, each ton of gold mined costs 1 life and 12 serious injuries.

Tests in several mining communities in Brazil found that more than 30% of miners examined had mercury levels above the World Health Organization's tolerable limit.

1 ounce of gold can be drawn into 50 miles of thin gold wire.

5-6 tons of ore are needed to make 1 gold ring.

SOURCE: Panos Media Briefing No.19, May 1996; project underground factsheet.


Please send letters to the President of Colombia, calling on him to respect the rights of the U'wa people, and to respect their decision not to allow Occidental to continue its oil activities in their territory. This case will set a precedent for the future of the rights of indigenous peoples to have control over their own territories. Stress that any consultation should include the right of indigenous peoples to decide whether or not to allow oil production or any other activities on their land.

Please send letters to:
President Ernesto Samper
fax no: +571 286 7434
with copies to:
Misnister of the Interior Horacio Serpa Uribe
fax no: +571 284 0619
Minister of the Environment Jose Vicente Mogollon
fax no: +571 336 2011
and ONIC
fax no: +571 284 3465


Drillbits & Tailings is the mining, oil and gas update published twice-monthly online by project underground. Back-issues are archived on our web site We welcome submissions or news items. Since this list is distributed free of charge, however, we cannot offer remuneration.

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Drillbits & Tailings
Volume 2 , Number 3
February 7, 1997

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