Lomada de Leiva, Argentina
The Lomada de Leiva mine is located in the northeast of Santa Cruz province, a southern province part of Argentina’s Patagonia region and it covers 60,000 hectares. The Canadian mining company Patagonia Gold acquired the La Paloma property, home to the Lomada mineral deposit, from Barrick Gold’s subsidiary companies in 2007. Patagonia Gold began exploratory drilling in the Lomada de Leiva mineral deposit in 2009 and has been in production since November of 2012.
One of the primary concerns of people living in the surrounding areas are over the use of toxic chemicals in the mining processes and how that will affect their water supply. In 2012, Patagonia received a permit from the State Secretariat of Mining of Santa Cruz allowing them to use heap leaching in order to increase mineral production. Heap leaching is the process which extracts precious minerals and metals from ore through chemical reactions. The chemicals used in the heap leaching process include cyanide, sulfuric acid and other toxic chemicals that can cause severe contamination. Another major concern is the proximity of the mining project to a site of great cultural signifiance which is the “Cave of the Ugly Stream.,” an ancient cave with paintings on its walls. A neighboring cave, “Cave of the Hands” was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 and is thus largely protected from the incursion of mining companies, however the “Cave of the Ugly Stream” does not have the same protection.
The mobilized opposition to the Lomada de Leiva mine exists on a somewhat small scale. In May 2009, the Assembly of Self-Organized Neighbors of Perito Moreno wrote a press release stating their opposition to the use of toxic chemicals in mining processes and in June 2009 they blocked Route 25, a road which led to the Lomada de Leiva mine site, for 48 hours. Their actions have awaked people’s conscience to opposition to the project, however the Santa Cruz provincial government is deeply invested and interested in maintaining the mine so their actions have not yet produced tangible results.