CAMPAIGN FOR NATIONAL REFERENDUM AGAINST OPEN PIT METAL MINING
Montevideo, december 8, 2013.
The last week was launched in Uruguay a campaign to collect signatures to promote a national referendum to include an amendment in the Constitution of the Republic to ban open pit metal mining throughout the national territory.
The National pro-Referendum Movement Uruguay Free from Open Pit Metal Mining (URUGUAYLIBRE)is a non partisan coalition of citizens and social groups from 11 of the 19 municipalities of the country concerned about the introduction of an activity with serious impacts on society and natural ecosystems.
Uruguay is located in the Humid Pampa, a privileged ecosystem of fertile soils and abundant surface and underground water resources that sustain grasslands and lands where agriculture and cattle-raising are developed. The national economy is based on these two activities that promote the country’s trade, industry and exports.
Over the last decades, this ecosystem has been threatened by large-scale agricultural plantations intended for the international market, which require a massive and ever-growing use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers and cause the degradation of large areas of the territory, increasing erosion and the pollution of water bodies.
More recently, a project to exploit the country’s metal ore deposits –mainly iron and gold- through open-pit mining is promoted by the government. Successive geological studies have confirmed that Uruguay is not rich in these minerals, its reserves are scarce and have low concentration levels, exhaustible after a few years of extraction.
An international speculative scenario –transient, as are they all, and the cycle of which is already at its declining stage-, raised metal prices above historical values and gave rise to the possibility of a lucrative business for companies whose objective is to rapidly extract the highest possible volume of these minerals and sell them abroad.
Open-pit mining of low-concentration metal deposits - particularly, of iron and gold- is the most depleting and polluting activity for soils and water bodies in the planet. Several countries have banned its development. Among these stands Costa Rica, a Centralamerican country with great similarities to Uruguay.
This activity jeopardises the integrity of the Uruguayan territory –and, therefore, the productive sectors and cultures that have historically supported the country- due to the downright destruction of the exploitation area and its additional massive impact on a vast portion of soils and water resources. To the above, inordinate privileges and subsidies must be added, which will be ultimately borne by taxpayers.
For the Uruguayan Constitution, signatures of ten percent of the electorate (260,000 signatures) are needed to be called a referendum, coinciding with the next national election, in which decide on whether or not the proposed amendment.
The proposal to amend the Constitution says:
To the President of the General Assembly of the Legislative Power
Mr. Danilo Astori
I, the undersigned, hereby promote before you the following Amendment to the Constitution, as per the provisions of Section 331, paragraph A of the Constitution of the Republic, which shall be subject to popular decision at the most immediate election.
Let the following paragraphs be added to Section No. 47:
"The integrity of soils and water resources is an essential part of the nation’s heritage and it must be preserved from any and all activities resulting in the final degradation or destruction thereof.
Open-pit mining activities intended for the extraction of metal ore are hereby forbidden in the whole national territory.
Any and all authorisations, concessions or licenses currently in force which in any way infringe this provision shall be rendered null and void as of the effective date of this reform."