So Much Gold, but Andean Farmers See Big Risks, Too

To the editor:

Your July 30 article, “So Much Gold, but Andean Farmers See Big Risks, Too,” addresses the long history of land and worker exploitation in Latin America at the hands of self-serving North American corporations. The current situation is reminiscent of the early days of the Anaconda Mining Company’s Chuquicamata operation in Chile—the largest copper mine in the world, that generated nearly two-thirds of the U.S. Corporation’s profits—which subsequently contaminated the land with arsenic, cadmium and zinc as a result of mineral extraction.

For more than a century, international business in Latin America has been characterized by the unequal distribution of profits, which enriches wealthy foreign investors and leaves Latin American workers with miserly wages, and little else. It is clear that revenues from the $654 per ounce of gold, which the Canadian company Barrick will receive once the Pascaua-Lama project is completed, will barely, if at all, reach the pockets of those Chileans who agreed to the terms of the mining endeavor. Although the project will create new jobs in Chile in the short-run, the potential long term benefits are negated by unequal profit distributions, no matter how safe or “environmentally sensitive” investors may claim the undertaking to be. Lamentably, the proposed Pascaua-Lama project serves as yet another example of Latin America’s colonial legacy of severely unequal income distribution and inhibited autochthonous agro-industrial development.

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