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ARGENTINA
Potash project gets green light
9/2/2009
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Massive potassium carbonate mine would leave huge environmental liabilities.

Provincial authorities in the western Argentine province of Mendoza have approved an environmental impact statement by Brazilian conglomerate Vale for a potassium carbonate mine in the area.

Local civil society groups, however, are warning that the project will cause irreversible damage.

In a joint statement Aug. 23, organizations such as the Popular Assembly for Water, the Mendoza Agricultural Engineers´ Center, the Citizens´ Public Opinion Forum, the Oikos Environmental Network and others noted that the provincial environmental council said the mine “would mean the rapid extraction of nonrenewable potassium resources” and that it would greatly help deplete Argentina´s gas reserves.

The group said the project does not consider “internal long-term needs.”

The project in Malargüe, in southern Mendoza, is expected to be the largest mining investment in the country. Production is estimated at 2.4 million metric tons a year of potash, which is mainly used as a natural fertilizer.

The gas required to extract the material would total 1 million cubic meters of gas a day, “equal to... one third of the [gas] imports from Bolivia,” the group said.

One of the major environmental risks is the 120 million metric tons of residual salts that will remain at the site after it is exhausted.

The residual salt could pollute the Colorado River, which runs through the Mendoza, La Pampa, Río Negro and Buenos Aires provinces to the Atlantic Ocean.

Brazil is one of the world´s largest consumers of potash, which farmers there use on sugar, soy and corn plantations.
—Latinamerica Press.


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