road protests 1997
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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
Drillbits & Tailings
Volume 2 , Number 3
February 7, 1997
Dear "Drillbits & Tailings" reader,
Your fascinating and up-to-the-minute edition of Drillbits & Tailings
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NOW HERE IS THE REAL THING!
Drillbits & Tailings
Volume 2 , Number 3
February 7, 1997
- TRIBE THREATENS MASS SUICIDE TO PROTEST OIL EXPLORATION
- BAY AREA OIL REFINERIES UNDER FIRE
- NEWMONT - NOT IN EVERYONES' BACKYARD YET
- SHELL OIL SET TO DO IT AGAIN IN PERU
DIARY - Santa Cruz de la Sierra Declaration
VITAL STATISTICS: Global Goldmining
WHAT YOU CAN DO
TRIBE THREATENS MASS SUICIDE TO PROTEST OIL EXPLORATION
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.
BAY AREA OIL REFINERIES UNDER FIRE
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.
NEWMONT - NOT IN EVERYONES' BACKYARD YET
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
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
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 SET TO DO IT AGAIN IN PERU
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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
fax no: +571 284 3465
Drillbits & Tailings is the mining, oil and gas update published
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Exposing corporate environmental and human rights abuses
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Drillbits & Tailings
Volume 2 , Number 3
February 7, 1997
road protests 1997
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