The Fight for the Mountains & the ForestsAug 5, 2009 • 11:40 am • by mika
AlJazeera International (in English) recently broadcast several investigative programmes on popular movements opposing destructive fossil fuel projects, as part of its People & Power series. The shows cover local resistance to Barrick Gold in Argentina/Chile, Talisman’s oil operations in the Peruvian Amazon and mountain removal coal mining in the Appalachians.
What the film-makers didn’t realise is that this series could have been titled “Communities resist RBS-financed destruction”, as the (now largely public-owned) bank provided hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to Barrick Gold,Talisman (participating in three loans totalling in $3.1 billion in 2005 & 2006) and Mountain Top Removal (taking part in providing $800 million of credit).
Talisman and other oil companies are driving their extraction operations deeper into the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, supported by President Alan Garcia’s campaign to ease restrictions on mining and oil drilling.
Indigenous Peruvians have been protesting that they were not consulted about new laws that could destroy their environment and their way of life. Most of them depend on the land for survival but the contamination left by oil companies is putting their livelihood at risk.
Talisman are the main operator in Block 64, in the Achuar area near the Peruvian border with Ecuador. Amazon Watchreport that 84% –27 out of 32– of Achuar communities within Talisman’s Block 64 in Peru have repeatedly expressed their vehement opposition to drilling on their lands.
Talisman is headed up by John Manzoni, who moved to the company in 2007 from BP, where he was considered to be partly responsible for the Texas City refinery disaster in which 15 people were killed in 2005. Apart from its role in Peru, Talisman was widely condemned for its role in violence in Sudan and more recently for signing contracts in Iraq.
Massey Energy, a coal company, wants to mine Coal River Mountain in South West Virginia using a surface mining technique called mountaintop removal where the top of the mountain is blasted off and the toxic waste is dumped in the valleys.
But local residents and environmentalists are sick of the pollution and destruction, and through acts of civil disobedience are trying to save the mountains. Their alternative proposal, to provide local energy is to build a wind farm instead.
In the past 20 years, more gold has been extracted from the earth than during the previous five centuries.
Modern open-pit mining techniques can pulverise mountains, crushing 80 tonnes of rock to extract just one ounce of gold. This creates so much toxic waste that, if allowed to contaminate river systems, it can leave whole communities sickened and impoverished.
But in Esquel, Argentina, locals have fought back. Canadian mining giant, the Barrick Gold Company, has been forced out by local pressure, led by women who are concerned about what will be left of their mountains, their environment and their communities once the miners have gone.