BUENOS AIRES – Several people were injured and more than a score were arrested when police broke up an anti-mining protest near a Barrick Gold-operated mine in the northwestern Argentine province of San Juan, where a cyanide spill occurred last month, demonstrators said Friday.
The violent incident occurred after a court on Friday morning ordered a group of local residents and environmental activists to stop blocking an access route to that gold mine, known as Veladero.
One protester sustained multiple head trauma and another suffered a broken wrist, while others were left with bumps and bruises, as a result of the police crackdown, the group said in a statement posted to social media.
The protesters are demanding a halt to mining exploration in the San Juan municipality of Jachal, where Veladero is located, and the exit of Toronto-based Barrick Gold, the world’s largest producer of that precious metal.
“People have been ignored for a month,” activist Domingo Jofre told Vorterix radio, adding that new protest measures are being planned.
The possibility that the spill contaminated local water supplies put San Juan province on alert in mid-September.
Separate federal and provincial investigations are being carried out to determine the extent of the spill and the Canadian miner’s responsibility for the mishap.
Barrick Gold said in a statement that the Sept. 12 spill occurred when a pipe carrying cyanide suffered a valve failure at the gold mine.
It initially said 224 cubic meters of cyanide solution had spilled but later acknowledged that the real amount was five times greater.
The mining company has repeatedly insisted that the leak poses no risk to the local population.