Two Canadian companies, Barrick Gold and Goldcorp have come together in an effort to revitalize an abandoned mine in the Dominican Republic. The Rosario mine, which was previously owned by the state, is expected to bring the government over $10 billion in its estimated 25-year life span. But the project is not all seems to be and is actually decimating the Dominican Republic’s environments.
Much of the work that the two companies, in conjunction with the government, had to complete was a clean-up of the old mine and the pollution caused by it. There mine and surrounding areas were toxic and systems to prevent the spread of the pollution in the waterway and on land need to be put in place. Locals are suing the mine operators claiming that rivers are being poisoned, the people are becoming ill, and farm animals are dying. They have requested that the government release environmental impact studies, but it has as of yet refused to do so.
Maria de la Cruz Mariano, a local farmer, began to shown signs of skin allergies and general malaise after work at the Rosario mine started. Doctors conducted blood tests in an effort to diagnose her problems and found that had had high levels of lead, sulfur, cyanide, and zinc. Some of her livestock has died from bovine anemia, which could be due to eating cyanide. One report indicates that over 100 mine employees were poisoned by toxic chemicals in 2012 alone.
Most concerns have been regarding the pollution of waterways. After the mine built a dam to collect water containing cyanide, the local rivers and stream have become even more polluted. Tests conducted downstream of the mind on the Margajita River indicate that the water is highly acidic. Levels above legal level of sulfides and copper were also found.
The deal brokered between the two Canadian companies the government of the Dominican Republic demanded that the mine operators only had to clean up the area on mine property. The government would be in charge of the rest. And so, it is hard to determine where the fault for today’s pollution lies. Is it run off from poorly cleaned up land off of mine property? Or is it new pollution coming from within mine property? For example, the mine collects all the water used in operations and 40,000 cubic meters per day are treated to fix the pH level as well as the levels of cyanide, copper, iron, mercury, lead, and zinc. If this is the case then where is today’s pollution coming from? While the operators of the mine claim that no water leaves the mine without being thoroughly cleaned and tested, locals worry that the contamination within exposed rock will continue to leach into the environment.
Before a plan of action can be created, a fully developed understanding of the situation must be made. Answer must be found to the above questions. Where is the pollution coming from? Is it new or old? Without knowing this, it would be impossible to create a plan to stop further pollution and to clean it up what has already occurred.
Once the actual generation of the pollution can be determined, the mine can solve the issues associated with contaminated rock. Covering the rock with layers of cement, plastics, or anything else to protect the environment from it will not work. Because water leaches down through layers of rock to create an underground water supply, any pollutants that are located on the rock will just wash away with the water as it seeps underground. The contaminated rock and soil must be fully removed in order to eliminate the pollution. Once the rock and dirt are gone it should be replaced with clean fill in order to bring the environment back to a healthy ecosystem where the local flora and fauna can return.