Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:20 PM


MAEST, A.S., Buka Environmental, 941 8th Street, Boulder, CO 80302, KAMP, Richard, E-Tech International, 231 Las Mañanitas, Santa Fe, NM 87501 and SEGOVIA, Ricardo, E-Tech International, 1433 Vicente Rocafuerte, Centro Historico, Quito, Ecuador,

Large-scale industrial development, such as oil & gas, mining, and hydroelectric power generation, is a controversial topic in many Latin American countries. The increase in metal prices has moved Ecuador and Panama to plan large-scale mine development for the first time in their histories. Other countries have limited or prohibited large-scale mining, based largely on concerns over water quality and water availability. Costa Rica prohibited future open-pit metal mining in 2010; El Salvador will not issue new metal mining permits and is considered a complete ban. Ecuador plans to use development project revenues to enhance infrastructure and social programs, but indigenous communities are protesting. An important missing element in the debate is the in-country technical capacity to evaluate the potential environmental effects of large-scale development projects. Such evaluations must rely on a strong foundation in the geosciences, including hydrogeology, geochemistry, and environmental engineering. Expertise is also needed in analytical chemistry and environmental management.

Some of the challenges facing Central and South American countries considering large-scale industrial development for the first time and some possible models to consider include:

1) Lack of baseline water quality, stream flow, and groundwater characterization needed to determine if observed changes are related to industrial projects. Develop governmental programs like the U.S. Geological Survey’s stream monitoring and National Water-Quality Assessment programs over time.

2) Absence of high-quality accredited chemistry laboratories to analyze environmental samples with high-sensitivity methods. Develop shared, regional capacity as part of a multi-governmental/industry partnership; sliding scale for community and academic submittals. Expand to in-country networks over time.

3) Lack of trained geoscientists in governmental agencies who can design programs to evaluate and mitigate potential environmental effects, interpret environmental monitoring results, and independently regulate the industrial community. Assess scientific needs, strongly fund doctorates obtained abroad, but require return to home country with guaranteed job.

Examples from Peru, Ecuador, Panama, and El Salvador will be discussed.