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UN experts analyze water samples in San Juan after cyanide spill

Buenos Aires Herald
September 20th, 2015

A group of United Nations (UN) experts started to analyze water samples of the rivers Jachal, Las Taguas and Blanco in San Juan to see if they have been polluted with cyanide, following an industrial malfunction at the Veladero mine that caused a pipe carrying the lethal substance to fracture.

Officials from the the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) arrived in the province as part of an agreement to audit mining projects and are currently analyzing the samples. The results of will be handed over to the Judiciary.

The mine served by the faulty pipe is owned and administered by Barrick Gold, a large Canadian multinational operating in Argentina, and is one of the largest gold mines in the country. The company admitted that at least 224,000 litres of a �cyanide solution� have been spilled and said it was waiting on laboratory results over the substance.

Judge Pablo Oritja, in charge of the investigation, is currently seeking to determine whether there was human negligence on the cyanide spill as the malfunction could have been caused due to a lack of maintenance. Oritja visited the affected area on Friday and said that Barrick�s emergency plan didn�t work, pointing that a floodgate that should have been closed to avoid the spill was actually open.

�The key issue here is why the emergency plan didn�t work, which could have avoided the cyanide from reaching the river. The floodgate was open and we are now investigating the reasons behind that,� Oritja said yesterday.


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