BUENOS AIRES – Prosecutors in the western Argentine province of San Juan have filed a criminal complaint over a cyanide spill at a gold mine operated by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, while hundreds of local residents demanded Wednesday that authorities halt work at the deposit.
“We want all investigative measures taken to determine if there’s a crime ... and if there’s criminal liability,” provincial prosecutor Guillermo de Sanctis told EFE, referring to the complaint filed Tuesday with a provincial court.
Barrick Gold said in a statement that the spill occurred Sunday when a pipe carrying cyanide suffered a valve failure at its Veladero gold mine, although it insisted the leak did not contaminate local water supplies.
The San Juan provincial government recommended that the inhabitants of three towns located near Veladero “avoid and/or reduce their consumption of water from the Blanco River” as a precautionary measure until tests results are known.
That official notification came just hours after the president of the San Juan Mining Chamber assured local residents that the spill posed no threat to the local population.
Around 1,000 people protested Wednesday in Jachal, the town closest to the mine, to call for the shuttering of the mine and the resignation of the provincial mining minister, among other demands.
“After saying that everything was fine and under control, they prohibit three towns from drinking water. Imagine the uncertainty that’s out there,” Domingo Jofre, a community leader in Jachal, told EFE.