Over 2,300 individuals, according to estimates of the Mendoza Police Department, attended the public hearing held in the town of Uspallata where a non-binding debate over the San Jorge mining project took place. Once the authorization is granted, copper mining will begin at San Jorge hill. The public hearing started at 9 a.m. and extended for over 14 hours. Even though 750 speakers were registered, not all of them spoke. The Provincial Environmental Secretary, Guillermo Carmona, said, “We’re pleased with the overall participation. We believe it’s very important that all people could express their views in an atmosphere of respect. Those who pronounced a speech have been respectful and there have been very few disqualifications. We’re really satisfied with the unfolding of the hearing.”

Carmona declared that, “In a way, Uspallata is discussing its development model. It is the people from Uspallata who have stated their opinions, and I think it’s important to have these issues into account. In general,” he continued, “the situation of the Andean towns has been postponed for a long time. In this respect, we believe that the concern of the Provincial Government for generating development policies and the discussion about this enterprise, in some way demonstrate that many things are under way and that there are many more to do.”

The public hearing opened up with the company’s presentation of the main characteristics of the project. Adriana Schmutz, Julio Ortiz, Raúl Rodríguez, Alejandro Palma, and Pablo Alonso addressed, during 40 minutes (allotted time by the authority), the most significant points of the four fundamental principles on which the project is based – Environmental Commitment, Social Responsibility, Economic Growth, and Local Development.

After that, the authorities read the corresponding summaries of the environmental impact statement, the technical and sectorial reports and then, the residents of Uspallata were given the opportunity to state their opinions about the project either in favor or questioning some aspect of the project.

The residents emphasized the need for generating sources of work in the area by means of a respectable activity widely spread throughout the world, which also pays decent, declared salaries –conditions which are not common in Uspallata.

Moreover, many of the residents stressed the need for the development of the area and a friendly coexistence of regional and agricultural products together with responsible mining activity in compliance with current legislation. Later, several mining workers talked emotively about their former working years in the mining activity and they were emphatic about dispelling myths and answering anti-mining arguments, in some cases exhibiting a strong emotion.

Several representatives of business chambers of Mendoza, mining high-school students from Malargüe district, and university students and professors, among others, supported the initiative and the project.

After almost 13 hours listening to nearly 300 speakers, San Jorge’s public hearing was closed normally leaving behind another stage of the approval process.

The next step in the San Jorge’s approval process is the Environmental Impact Declaration ("EID"), which must later be ratified by the provincial Legislature. For that purpose, at the end of November, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Mining Assessment Commission will meet to analyze all the documents contained in the case file in order to begin the process of issuing the EID.

For more information, please visit http://www.proyectosanjorge.com/