“I’m too old for this. I’m not going to be driven off of my land again,” says Juliana Guzman, a farmer from La Cerca. The walls of her house are riddled with cracks from the explosions that shake the ground every day. Her neighbors from the agricultural cooperative show moldy cocoa pods from their harvest, which has already been tainted by chemicals used in the trial operation of the Pueblo Viejo gold mine. Highly toxic cyanide, which is used in gold mining, is borne by rivers into the soils of the region, inflicting considerable harm.
The village of La Cerca is located in the central highlands of the Dominican Republic. It is surrounded by dense rainforest, home to endemic species such as the highly endangered solenodon. The Canadian companies Barrick and Goldcorps are set to begin mining for gold in December 2012. Up to 24 tons of cyanide will be required daily by the Pueblo Viejo mine. “Using cyanide is suicide in installments,” warns Domingo Abreu of the National Environmental Assembly (ANA). And yet, gold mining is actually superfluous. Only 11 percent of the gold mined is used industrially – a quantity that can be obtained through recycling. The rest is used as an unproductive capital investment and for jewelry.
The cyanide is especially dangerous for the aquatic environment. Rivers originate in the region, which is also home to the largest freshwater reservoir in the country – one that supplies the entire island nation. In the terms of its contract, Barrick ensured that it cannot be held liable for environmental damage. The Dominican population has taken to the streets in response. A coalition of 100 organizations is calling for the annulment of the contracts with the mining companies.