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Gold Prices Drive Environmental Assault

Collaborating with our partners in AIDA, the Earthjustice International Program is working to stop development of open pit mines throughout the hemisphere. With the price of gold near an all-time high, new mines are being proposed at a frightening pace, and we aim to stop some of the worst.

In January 2010, one such case led to a key precedent being established by the Canadian Supreme Court. The court ruled that the government shall not permit proponents to split projects into parts, so as to avoid triggering the rigorous environmental assessment and public participation requirements for major projects. This is a significant victory for environmental protection in Canada and has repercussions not just for mining but also for the notorious tar sands developments.

In February 2010, Earthjustice and AIDA helped Mexican partners halt the proposed Paredones Amarillos gold mine in Baja California Sur. This mine would be located in the pristine Sierra la Laguna Biosphere, and would irreparably harm an area recognized internationally for its important biodiversity.

After hearing from Earthjustice staff about the social and environmental risks large-scale gold mining would bring to the region, and particular potential impacts to water resources, key local representatives and all three main political parties came out against the mine. Shortly thereafter, the government denied the initial request for a change in land-use, a license the company needs to develop the mine.

We are also providing technical support to authorities in Colombia, to limit harms from the new gold rush in this mountainous and highly biodiverse nation.

Until now, Colombia has been known mostly for producing emeralds and coal, with gold mining mostly limited to small-scale mining projects. Now however, Anglo Gold Ashanti is proposing to build what would be the hemisphere's largest open pit gold-mine -- the Colosa project in Cajamarca, Colombia.

Working with AIDA and Paz y Christi from the Netherlands, we are providing comments to the Colombian authorities to ensure that the Terms of Reference for the impact studies to be done are sufficiently detailed and will accurately depict the environmental, social and economic risks of this project.