"We are facing a clear violation of Law 24,051 [on hazardous waste], as the contamination in the Potrerillos, Jachal, Blanco, Palca and Las Taguas rivers has been accredited, due to toxic substances being found outside the regulations," the report says , which was prepared by the Operations Division of the Department of Environmental Crimes of the Argentine Federal Police (PFA).
The study had been commissioned by the federal court, which is investigating the spill and the possible responsibility of national public officials who should be in charge of monitoring the company in environmental matters.
The case is rooted in the Sebastián Casanello court, which delegated the investigation to the prosecutor Ramiro González. In addition to being the prosecutor in this case, González is the head of the Environmental Investigations Fiscal Unit (Ufima), the only specialized prosecutor's office in the matter.
The PFA report, accessed by LA NACIÓN, was presented at the end of last year, but until now it was not known. Yesterday, this newspaper contacted spokesmen for Barrick, who did not want to comment. They maintained that they were not yet aware of the content of the expert opinion.
According to this report, "all the samples analyzed, whether liquid or solid, showed the presence of total cyanide"; in some cases, above the maximum values allowed by law. The same happened with other heavy metals. In addition, "an excessive concentration" of salts and cobalt was identified in the domestic water.
"To answer if the existing dose is inadequate for consumption, a medical professional should be consulted," the expert warned. As a consequence, the prosecutor has just asked the UBA School of Medicine to analyze the samples from the Chinguillos and Agualasto home network (where excess salts and cobalt were detected) and decide whether these concentrations "may be harmful to health. " from the people. He also summoned the PFA's Chief of Environmental Crimes to testify.
Along with this study, the judge also commissioned another, in parallel, to the National Water Institute (INA), which used its own parameters and obtained less categorical results. At no time did he claim - as the PFA did - that the law had been violated. INA specialists were also summoned. Last year, a report from the National University of Cuyo had already warned of contamination. The San Juan government denounced then that this study was hiding a "harmful" campaign by the Mendoza government.
The strongest of the conclusions of the PFA report is the last, which states: "In the present investigation, the matrix (water) is affected by the presence of dangerous pollutants outside the legislated range, which constitutes a threat it would be for its biological diversity ". And he ends: "Dumping effluents outside the legislative range is considered polluting evacuation, for this reason having discovered dangerous constituents outside the values established for the preservation of aquatic life, constitutes a clear violation of law 24,051 in this case" .
Simultaneously with this case, the San Juan justice is also investigating the spill. The Court must decide where the case will go.