A group of community representatives from El Corral, Chile were recently invited to participate in Barrick’s community water monitoring program, part of the company’s on-going efforts to promote transparency at the Pascua-Lama project. The community members took samples from different monitoring points along El Carmen River and then delivered the samples themselves to an independent, accredited laboratory in Santiago for testing.
The Atacama region, where Barrick’s Pascua-Lama project is located, receives very little annual precipitation, making water-related issues a top concern for local communities. Although construction at the project has been temporarily suspended, the company must continue to monitor water quality to fulfill its environmental permit commitments. Inviting community members to participate in water monitoring activities is part of the company’s on-going efforts to address their most pressing concerns.
“We want to deliver this information as transparently and directly as possible,” says Mai-Nié Chang, Community Relations Superintendent at Pascua-Lama. “In the coming year, we will continue with community water monitoring and we plan to invite all of the communities in the province of Huasco to participate in this process.”
Community members from El Corral spent the day learning about the water sample collection process and how baseline measurements are established. They also sampled water from several monitoring points in the areas of Las Pampas, Potrerillos and La Cuesta and delivered the samplhes to a laboratory, where they will be tested for 95 different parameters. Participants from the communities received a tour of the facilities, observed how the samples are processed and analyzed, and asked questions to Barrick and laboratory staff throughout the entire process.
“I liked the water monitoring activity because, in this way, we can know and not simply believe that the water isn’t contaminated,” says Edmundo Paredes, a local community member. “It would be good if the community came to know and participate in these activities and share the results of the monitoring activity – this is a big deal for all of us in the valley.”
In addition to the community water monitoring program, Barrick maintains 49 surface and groundwater monitoring stations at its Pascua-Lama project in Chile alone, which closely monitor water quality and quantity. The company has similar monitoring systems in place in Argentina.
Involving community members in water monitoring is an important part of Barrick’s engagement efforts, with similar programs underway in the Dominican Republic and other parts of South America where the company operates.