Mining the Pampas

26 May 2011

The imminent development of the Valentines iron-ore mine, currently in the final stages of a feasibility assessment, has been denounced by Slow Food Punta del Diablo Convivium and other organizations for the massive impact it will have on local fishing and farming activities, the Pampas ecosystem – one of the richest grazing areas in the world – and the tourism industry.

Owned by Aratirí, the Uruguayan subsidiary of the multinational Zamin Ferrous, the Valentines mine project will cover 120,000 hectares across three Uruguayan departments and reach the popular Atlantic coastline of Rocha province. The project includes an open pit mine for iron-ore extraction; a pipeline of 230 km for the transportation of extracted material to the coast; and the construction of a deep water port from which the ore would be exported, mainly to Asia.

Local Slow Food representatives argue that the costs of this development to the Uruguayan society would be devastating. “We know the risks of such an operation for our territory and our economy, and we also know the environmental hazards,” said Punto del Diabolo convivium leader Elizabeth Rodriguez. “Traditional grazing and artisanal fishing is highly jeopardized by this project – and many communities and coastal villages still depend on these activities for a living.”

The area to be taken over by the mine is currently occupied by more than 350 small-medium pastoral farms, many of which have been worked by families for several generations. Thousands of hectares of Pampas – the fertile lowlands historically dedicated to grazing – will be destroyed, forcing the community to abandon their land and legacy of responsible grazing for quality meat production.

On the coast, the construction of the port on La Angostura beach, between the renowned tourist villages of Punta del Diablo and Cabo Polonio, would effectively pushes dozens of family businesses and fishing activities to close.

Slow Food Punta del Diablo Convivium, together with around ten Uruguayan organizations, is undertaking a public campaign to raise awareness among citizens as well as national and international institutions of what is at stake for the country if the mine goes ahead.

To support their campaign or for more information, please contact:
Punta del Diablo Convivium
Elizabeth Rodriguez
[email protected]

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