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10/29/08

In Peru bureaucracy is annoying, but it can also be very dangerous

Justify FullWe've followed the trials and tribulations of Gold Hawk Resources (CGK.v) quite closely on this blog (see below for links to previous posts), but as a very quick re-cap:

1) In May this year, CGK found it had a problem with the containing wall of its main tailings dump

2) The company immediately closed down operations (voluntarily too...it's been a good corporate citizen throughout) and told the Peru government about the problem.

3) The gov't inspected the site and found that a farmer irrigating his land above the tailings dump was the main cause of the wall weakness. The big problem is that if the tailings wall eventually collapsed it would likely pollute the nearby Rimac river, one of the main sources of water for the capital Lima and its nine million or so inhabitants.

4) An emergency decree was declared by the government and since then CGK.v has been champing at the bit (and fracturing cash while waiting impatiently) to get the alternative tailings dump approved so it can get on with the job of transferring the tailings to a new, safe site.

So guess what? Yep, no permit to use the new dump yet. Peru's bureaucratic nightmare has stopped all emergency plans in their tracks and while those concerned just want to get on with a job of work, the file has been lost in the maze of corridors known as officialdom and has stopped anybody from actually doing anything about the problem.

Fortunately, at least one person in Peru's government is awake enough to realize that this bureaucratic inefficiency isn't just a pain in the butt this time; it's now reaching the point where it's getting downright dangerous. Antonio Brack Egg (great name) is the Environment Minister in Peru and today he said the following (translated):

"...the rains are coming and there may be filtrations of the hill that provoke a disaster that would affect the Central highway, the mining installation, a hydroelectric power station and if the tailings reach the River Rimac it would be a disaster of very high contamination."

Yes indeedy folks, there's such a thing as "the rainy season" in Peru. That time is fast approaching, and if the rains arrive before the emergency tailings transfer is started the chances of a full collapse of the tailing dump will shoot skyward. Brack Egg realizes this (thank the stars). Gold Hawk has done everything in its power to get the whole thing moving, did its necessary paperwork months ago and is impatient to get on with the essential transfer of highly toxic tailings. The people of Lima will probably prefer their waters to be free of heavy metals, arsenic and suchlike too, I'd bet. So all we're waiting on is some dickhead in a suit to sign a piece of paper.

Message to Peru's government. Please extract your thumbs from your anal passages just this once. The hasta mañana attitude of Latino life is famous worldwide, but this particular case just isn't funny any more. The government of Peru has gone past "slow", left behind "lax", said adios to "ridiculously tardy" and has now reached the level of "absolutely and criminally irresponsible" on this issue.

You can't stop mother nature, and those rains are on their way. Period. I'm quite sure Peru would prefer to do just one thing now rather than do 10,000 things tomorrow, and the size of the ecological disaster staring them in the face if that dam wall collapses is not even slightly funny. Undrinkable tapwater isn't going to win friends and influence people, Twobreakfasts.

Please. Just this once. Do something.


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