Thousands march in San Juan, against mining exploitation by GoldQuest company
Demonstration in San Juan.
Thousands of San Juan residents marched in San Juan this Saturday, October 29, against the intentions of the Canadian company GoldQuest to exploit the Romero and Romero Sur Mine, located in the Romero section of the Sabaneta Municipal District of the Municipality of San Juan de la Maguana.
The march was called by a group of sectors of the province of San Juan, including the “Movimiento Suroeste Unido por el Agua y la Vida,” churches, professional organizations, and politicians.
The senator for San Juan, Félix Bautista, who participated in the march, explained that “in all mining exploitation chemical substances are used that contaminate the land, water and air, causing health problems for the workers and the people who live in the area.” He added that “mercury, sulfuric acid and solvents used to separate minerals from the mine; nitric acid; ammonium nitrate and petroleum, used for blasting tunnels; uranium; lead; acetylene equipment, for welding, are highly harmful substances, due to their polluting effects.”
“All this is contrary to Article 67 of the Constitution of the Republic, which establishes as a duty of the State to prevent pollution and protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations,” he sentenced.
The organizations warned that damage to nature would not only affect San Juan but would also decimate agriculture and water use for human consumption, in addition to causing the disappearance of life in the entire region.
Bautista said that the Constitutional Court (TC) set a precedent in 2013 when it issued sentence 167 regarding an appeal against the exploitation of ferronickel in Loma Miranda in the province of La Vega. The TC said that “the environment is a right of higher quality than the right of free enterprise; that therefore, it was not possible to admit, in view of the documents provided by the parties in the process, the mining exploitation of Loma Miranda, since it would seriously and sensibly affect the ecosystem of the place.” The same would occur in the case of the exploitation of the Romero mine in San Juan.
But furthermore, the legislator continued, “Article 16 of the Constitution establishes that water is an inalienable, imprescriptible, inalienable and essential strategic resource for life. Human consumption of water has priority over any other use. The upper basins of the rivers are subject to special protection by the public authorities for their preservation as fundamental assets of the nation. For this reason, we submitted a bill that declares a natural reserve for all the exploration concession areas that GoldQuest has in San Juan, which will protect the upper basin of the San Juan River, which feeds the Sabaneta Dam.”
Article 86 of Law No. 64-00 of the Environment and Natural Resources prohibits the location of any facilities in the areas of influence of sources of water supply to the population, and Article 74.3 of the law above establishes that the provision of the article above is binding on all public authorities.
San Juan de la Maguana is one of the most important agricultural regions of the country. Its production of grains, such as rice and beans, supplies a large part of the national territory. It produces 1.7 billion pesos a year and generates 28 thousand of jobs. The mining company has said that 800 jobs would be generated and San Juan would receive 86 million pesos per year, so the people of San Juan say that the exploitation of this mine is counterproductive. They said that an eventual implementation of the mining project would poison the waters and the dams and cause total destruction of the agricultural sector, the primary source of wealth and employment generation.
They called on the legislators of the other provinces of the Valley and Enriquillo regions to participate in the struggle to prevent San Juan from becoming a mining district since it would affect more than 800,000 inhabitants of both regions.
The demonstrators carried signs saying: “No to exploitation please,” “The people of God march for life,” “Water yes, mine no,” “No to disease, no to death and yes to nature, GoldQuest out.”