MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan environmentalists are upset because a report by the Industries, Energy and Mining Ministry classified as “confidential” issues that, they say, are important to assess the environmental impact of the Aratiri mining project.
The Uruguay Free of Megamining group has been waging a campaign for years against the Aratiri open pit iron mine projected to sprawl over 6,210 hectares (15,345 acres) in the central region of the country.
The Uruguayan subsidiary of Anglo-Swiss firm Zamin Ferrous plans to invest more than $1 billion in the project, including building a 212-kilometer (132-mile) underground pipeline to send a mix of water and iron ore to a new deepwater port on the Atlantic.
Both the government and Zamin Ferrous say the project will generate big benefits and many jobs in an area traditionally dedicated to cattle ranching, and it could lead to the growth of industries.
“The classification of confidentiality hides issues that are important to assess the impact of this mining project on rocks, water and the treatment of waste,” Ana Filippini, one of the coordinators of the environmental group, told Efe.
To comply with an appellate court ruling, the ministry handed over to Uruguay Free of Megamining a full report on the Aratiri project.
The 190-page document contains a summary and list of “confidential issues” that includes geophysical and geochemical data, as well as descriptions of the size of the equipment to be used and all phases of the mining operation.
The terms of the contract to be signed with Zamin Ferrous are sealed.
The process is currently on hold with a deadline of Feb. 28, 2015.
“It is important to use this time to collect signatures and promote a referendum to stop this project,” Filippini said.
“We haven’t seen any willingness at the ministry to halt this project,” the activist said. “They continue discussions with the company to sign the contract, which would be very wrong considering what we know so far about the project and the prices.”