|In 2009, the Dominican people stood up to fight against a cement factory that would be installed in the Los Haitises National Park. In 2010, it appears that another cause is mobilizing thousands of young people and adults – the presence of the mining consortium Barrick Gold in Cotuí, the head municipality in the province of Sánchez Ramírez, which is home to one of the largest gold mines in the world: la Pueblo Viejo (Old Town) with a estimated reserves of 24 million troy ounces of gold. Activists are concerned about the terms of the agreement with the Dominican State, as well as environmental impacts on the region.
The contemporary history of the Pueblo Viejo gold mine, which produces gold oxide at the top and gold sulfide at the bottom, begins in 1975 with Rosario Resources Corporation, a company what later passed into the hands of the Dominican State under the name Rosario Dominicana, and whose operations ceased permanently in 1999 because of economic and environmental factors. In 2002, the mine found a new leaseholder, the Canadian company Placer Dome, which signed a 33-year contract before being bought by that Canadian company Barrick Gold in 2006. Barrick Gold had been in the sights of the Dominicans after it was made public some of the details about the signed contract with the Dominican State, which was approved at the end of 2009 in Congress by the vast majority of legislators.
Marihal, of the blog Desde la República Dominicana, emphasizes the following details about the renegotiated contract:
La Barrick Gold es la empresa minera más grande del mundo, en materia de oro, y adquirió a la Placer Dome en el año 2006, esta última compañía tenía un contrato que firmó en el 2002 con el Gobierno dominicano donde se había establecido que el Estado dominicano iba a recibir un 25% de las utilidades, sin incluir los impuestos y otros beneficios que alcanzaban el 3.2%. Sorpresivamente, la Barrick Gold consigue unos cabilderos (…) que logran que el 25% que recibiría el Estado dominicano con la Placer Dome subiera a 28% con la Barrick Gold, pero siempre y cuando se recupere toda la inversión y que la tasa de retorno sea superior al 10 por ciento.
The Barrick Gold mining company is the world’s largest, in terms of gold and acquired Placer Dome in 2006, the latter company had signed a contract in 2002 with the Dominican government which established that the Dominican State would receive 25% of the profits, without including taxes and other benefits that amount to 3.2% Surprisingly, Barrick Gold obtained some lobbyists (…) which was able to achieve that the 25% that the Dominican State would receive with Placer Dome would rise to 28% with Barrick Gold, but only when the entire investment and the return rate exceeds 10%.
The renegotiation of the contract with the Dominican State when Barrick Gold acquired Placer Dome followed the movement of gold prices in the stock market, which has risen substantially since 2002 in response to successive food and financial crisis – both of a global reach, until it reached a price of more than US$1000 an ounce, where it currently stands. The original contract signed with Placer Dome held the State’s profits to the price of gold, which meant that the higher the price on the market, the greater the profits for the Stage. Geologist and blogger Osiris de León explains it this way:
(…) como el precio del oro ha ido en ascenso rápido y ha superado los 1,000 dólares por onza, ello implicaría una participación del Estado en las Utilidades Netas (PUN) de US$194 millones por año, fruto de que la Barrick piensa producir en Pueblo Viejo un millón de onzas de oro anualmente, y al multiplicar 1,000,000 de onzas de oro por US$775, que es el diferencial entre el precio del oro en este momento (US$1,050/onza) y el costo de producción (US$275/onza), y luego multiplicarlo por el 25%, obtenemos unos 194 millones de dólares anuales para el Estado. Y la Barrick se niega a entregar tanto dinero.
Por tal razón la Barrick Gold ha obligado al Estado Dominicano a una renegociación del contrato original, a fin de que esa participación estatal del 25% de las utilidades netas sea llevada a cero, óigase bien, a cero, mientras ellos no hayan obtenido una tasa interna de retorno (TIR) de un 10% y hasta haber recuperado los US$2,585 millones invertidos para desarrollar el proyecto, y a partir de ahí pagar un 28.75% como PUN, con lo cual la Barrick le quita 194 millones de dólares anuales al pueblo dominicano, durante al menos los primeros 6 años de operación, lo que implicaría que durante esos 6 años el pobre pueblo dominicano dejaría de percibir unos 1,164 millones de dólares, a los precios de hoy.
(…) As the price of gold has been growing rapidly and has exceeded US$1,000 per ounce, that would mean State participation in net income (PUN) of US$194 million per year, resulting in that Barrick thinks Pueblo Viejo will produce one million ounces of gold annually, and multiplying 1,000,000 ounces of gold by US$ 775, which is the differential between the price of gold at the moment (US$1,050/ounce) and the production cost (US$ 275/oz) and then multiplied by 25%, we get about 194 million dollars annually for the State. And Barrick refuses to deliver that amount of money.
For this reason, Barrick Gold has forced the Dominican State to renegotiate the original contract, so that the state share of 25% of net profits will be brought to zero, pay attention, to zero, while they have not obtained a rate of return of 10% and until they had recovered the US$2,585 billion invested to develop the project, and thereafter pay a 28.75% as PUN, which Barrick takes away the US$194 million annually from the Dominican people during at least the first 6 years of operation, implying that during those 6 years the Dominican people would stop earning of US$1,164 million at today’s prices.
While some people believe that the contract leaves the Dominican Republic at a clear disadvantage, this is not the only reason for protest. There is concern about the effects that the operations of Barrick Gold will have on the environment, due to the bad reputation the consortium has on a global scale, which has not escaped the attention of Dominicans. Indeed, there have been public protests and various groups have utilized groups on Facebook. There are also a blog called Domincana Contaminated (Contaminated Dominicana) dedicated to detailing cases in which Barrick Gold has been involved with environmental damages, such as Pascua Lama in Chile and the pollution of Lake Cowal in Australia. The blog also provides details of the contract approved by Dominican lawmakers, forced evictions for area residents, and the work currently performed Barrick Gold in the readjustment of the mine, which has made headlines in recent days for the intoxication over 300 workers for reasons still unexplained. While the company talks about food poisoning, others insist that the poisoning was due a a boiler explosion.
Barrick Gold has felt a lot of pressure in the Dominican Republic that it has seen the urgent need for a public relations program, which includes the publication of statements in paid advertisement spaces in national newspapers and on national television. Their representatives leave no doubt the benefits that their presence is having in Cotuí.
Despite the public relations efforts, people are continuing to protest. For Holy Week, there is a planned 4-day pilgrimage walk that will depart from Km. 9 of the Duarte Highway towards the mining installation in Cotuí. March organizers expect more than 10,000 people to walk the 105 kilometers to protest against Barrick Gold and to protect the environment in Cotuí, which has been damaged by the operations of Rosario Dominicana, as explained by Alexander Medina, who has 30 years of experience in the mining sector.
Una vez procesados los óxidos de oro, los sulfuros quedaron expuestos y la mina fue abandonada a su suerte, permitiendo que esta drenara hasta la Presa de Hatillo aguas ácidas del río Margajita, producidas por la mezcla del agua de lluvia y el mineral de los sulfuros de oro que quedó al descubierto. Otro impacto ambiental negativo legado por Rosario es la acumulación de metales pesados como el hierro, cobre y mercurio en el sitio de la vieja planta y en los lodos del lecho de los ríos Mejita y Margajita.
Once the gold oxide is processed, the sulfides remain exposed and the mine was abandoned to its fate, allowing acidic waters from the Margajita River drain away to the Hatillo Dam, which is produced by a mix of rainwater and the minerals from the gold sulfides that was discovered. Another legacy of negative environmental impact from Rosario is the accumulation of heavy metals like iron, copper, and mercury at the site of the old plant and the sludge from Mejita and Margajita Rivers.
Paola Mejía Sandoval, of the group NO A LA BARRICK GOLD, BATEALA Y SACALA DEL PAIS (No to Barrick Gold, bat them and kick them out of the country) summarizes the feelings from some Dominicans towards Barrick Gold:
Si no pealamos ahora por defender lo que es nuestro quizas manana dej de pertenecernos entonces, por que lucharemos??? nosotros debemos plantarnos en favor de nuestros ideales. NO A LA BARRICK GOLD EN REPUBLICA DOMINICANA.
If we do not fight to defend what is our, maybe tomorrow it may stop belonging to us. Why do we fight?? We should stand up for our ideals. No to Barrick Gold in the Dominican Republic.
Translation by Eduardo Ávila
Related article: Barrick Gold not honest about poisoning incident in Dominican Republic
News Update April 1st, 2010
Young Dominicans march against Barrick Gold
DominicanToday.com - Marching under a blazing sun, a group of about 50 young people left the capital yesterday en route to Cotuí, with the aim of camping outside the Barrick Gold Mining Company to demand the cancellation of their contract with the Dominican government.
Oscarlin Figueroa, a young man at the head of the procession, was disguised as a devil, because according to him, “the devil is Barrick Gold".
The march is billed as "150 kilometers for Cotuí", and the young protestors, who belong to several organizations, are demanding the cancellation of the contract for gold extraction between the Dominican State and Canadian multinational Barrick Gold on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and damaging to the environment.
They said they were not afraid of any repressive measures that the company might take against them, expressing hopes that the march would have the same effect as the campaign against the proposed construction of a cement factory in Gonzálo, on the fringes of Los Haitises National Park, which was overturned last year chiefly due to massive public protests.
The demonstrators, who belong to groups like Felabel, Youth Community Movement (MJC) and Lucha por tus Derechos (Fight for Your Rights), aim to reach Cotuí by Saturday and camp there until Sunday.
News Update April 19, 2010
Cotuí, Dominican Republic. - Hundreds of people and representatives from political, union, community and grass roots organizations marched along the streets of this town to demand that the mining company Barrick Gold leave the country, to mark the International Day of Farmers’ Struggle.
The activity began in Cotuí’s main park and in which also took part dozens of women “with machete in hand” symbolizing the farmers’ struggle and hundreds of demonstrators who walked bearing signs, handed out flyers and chanted slogans against the company based in Canada.
The protest headed by the National Farmer Association (ANC) was supported by Oxfam and Veterinarians Without Borders, to mobilize farmer organizations and allies in the defense of the right to land, seeds, water and a worthy life.
The march’s promoters called on Dominicans to work to revoke the Government’s contract with Barrick Gold, defend the land and life in dignity, reject the alleged manipulation of information to justify its exploitation of the mine in Pueblo Viejo, and hide its history of abuses, pollution and violence around the world.
Before they set off, the demonstrators were met by several political candidates, including Víctor Gómez Casanova (PRD), Luis Acosta Moreta (UDC) and Pedro Catrain (DxC), who expressed support for their campaign.
News Update April 25, 2010
Dominican Republic’s Catholic Church joins Barrick Gold row
DominicanToday.com - The recent controversy and rejection by some sectors around the contract with the Canadian company Barrick Gold to exploit the gold mine at Pueblo Viejo, in Cotuí (northeast), has led the Catholic Church’s Commission Ecology and Environment Commission to demand an explanation from the Government on the potential damages the extraction of gold sulfides may cause to the environment.
In a statement released yesterday, Commission president bishop Fabio Mamerto Rivas and executive secretary Jovanny Kranwinke demand of the authorities to explain “with clear terms” the details of the exploitation agreement. “We know there’s a need to defend that international companies believe in investing in our country, but always explaining to the nation with clear terms and that they are open and participative processes."
They affirm that after meeting with specialists and analyzing the experiences in other countries, they believe it’s pertinent to tell the country if the measures were taken to deal with the occurrence of a natural catastrophe
News Update June 8th, 2010
Protest re Barrick Gold
DR1.com - On occasion of the celebration of Environment Day on Sunday, 6 June, the priest of the Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia church in Santiago, Juan Rodriguez criticized petroleum and mining companies, mentioning by name Barrick Gold in the DR, for contaminating the waters of rivers and farm lands and being matter of concern for Dominicans due to environmental contamination caused by their operation, as reported in Hoy.
Father Juan Rodriguez said that many petroleum and mining companies have more money than the governments in the country where they operate and that they use this money to impose their will. "We could say that these mining and petroleum companies have more influence in the decisions of any modest government such as ours. They come to a country, as Barrick Gold did, and they are capable to move at will, buying and paying as they have done in other countries". He said that if they are to come to contaminate and kill people, it is preferable that they take their saws and weapons somewhere else. The mass was part of activities celebrated by the Ministry of Environment, the SOECI ecological society and community organizations.