The Glacier Impacts of Los Azules Report is out. You can see our press release and download the report at:
You raise several VERY pertinent questions about the potential coexistence of Los Azules and glaciers, which I'd like to try to answer, and I am open to receive any further comments or questions. Given that the shareholders meeting is coming up for McEwen, maybe this is a great time to discuss these issues.
First of all, we are not ANTI mining. We are pro-glacier protection and our first priority in these cases is that we do not destroy glaciers to get at mineral deposits. Unless there's a glacier in a pit area, in most cases, you can work around glaciers, if you ensure the proper due diligence to avoid impacts. That said, you should never drill into a glacier, or plow a bulldozer through one to search for minerals. You have to draw the line somewhere I suppose, and we do draw the line around the ice ... and around the "glaciosystem" which is the natural ecosystem around the glacier which leads to its presence there in the first place. No-go zones in mining for sensitive ecological systems are a growing trend, as the world decides to what limits we want to exploit our natural resources, which I presume you would agree is a rational approach to trying to reach a balanced solution to our consumption needs with our imperious need to ensure a sustainable environment.
In the case of Los Azules, if you read the report you'll find that there are several instances where we can see exploration roads cutting into glaciers. We've looked at the proposed project design and also see some points of concern. The past impact should be rectified, roads that cut into ice returned to their natural state, and we should ensure that project infrastructure is not moving ice or placed on ice. I would think that is also a reasonable ask.
When we first approached Minera Andes' s Project Manager in Argentina, Carlos Liggesmayer, about our findings, he reacted very positively and invited criticism and even offered us a site visit with our glacier specialists to see on the ground what we were seeing from the air. We thought this was a great step forward, since no other company had been so forthcoming. Since the McEwen purchase, things have changed, though. Our invitation for a site visit which was supposed to happen in January, was postponed twice and then canceled altogether. We were told it was due to heavy rain fall and that even the drilling season might be suspended because of this. From what the company representative here told me, they were even having trouble doing any work at all. I believed this earnestly, and showed patience. After our visit was finally canceled, again, purportedly due to climatic reasons, I see press releases from the company announcing new drill results from this season. So you can take heavy and invasive machinery up to the project site and carry out intense drilling, but you can't have a small group of people surveying the land for a single day, up at the site? Hard to believe really.
To make matters worse, all of a sudden, the McEwen website put up a press release indicating there are no "ice glaciers" present at the project area (see: mcewenmining.com This is simply false. The glaciers at Los Azules are very much "ice" glaciers; they are in fact " rock glaciers with ice in their interior. The employment of the term "ice glacier" which is NOT a scientific term used to refer to glaciers, in our view is misleading to the uninformed reader. Consider yourself when you began conversing on this issue (now you are more informed). McEwen is saying that there are no ice glaciers. The company is employing this term "ice glaciers" to mean "uncovered glaciers" but in the delivery, since the average reader has never heard of a rock glacier, what it's really is saying to the public, is that there's no ice, which is false. Go back to the first time you addressed this issue, what would you understand by
-- Continued environmental base line assessment and monitoring, including glaciology studies (no ice glaciers are present in the project area)
We approached the company on this point, to no avail. They have refused to clarify this point on the website. Then there was a meeting a few months ago held by the consultants hired to do the glacier study by Minera Andes in San Juan Argentina to present their methodology; we being really the only group working on this issue in Argentina, and probably the only stakeholder that Los Azules has that is concerned with their glacier impact, were not invited. A presentation about their work and methodology was offered to the public and to the press, we've requested it on several occasions, again to no avail. Nobody will send it to us. The environmental integrity of McEwen Mining to which you refer has not come through here in Argentina, unfortunately.
We were hoping that Los Azules would be different than other mining projects. In fact, we're working to develop a Protocol for Mining Activity in Glacier Areas, a project Xstrata has agreed to engage on, precisely to provide mining companies and the State with the guidance needed to address potential risks posed by mining operations to glaciers and to periglacial environments (permafrost, which also needs to be protected), and thought that Minera Andes / McEwen could be a potential partner in this project, which would help the entire sector, since presently there is simply NO guidance for mining companies on glacier impacts. This wish is quickly dissipating as we see the company pull back on its initial engagement.
We think that the Los Azules project can be adjusted to address the glacier impacts and risks that we see through satellite image analysis and we think that if it does and makes a strong commitment in its policy and in its practice towards glacier protection, it will serve the sector well. We need however, that the company be willing to engage and that it show commitment (not just rhetoric) to that engagement. Stating on the internet site that no ice glaciers exists is a bad start.
Perhaps this is an issue that you as a shareholder can bring up to the company. Read our report and see what we've said. We're trying to be reasonable, but also want to ensure that the glacier law is fully respected. We don't feel at present that it has been and from the images available it looks that there are already problems.
I am open to provide you with any other information that you need or answer any of your questions.
All the best, Daniel (email@example.com)