President Lagos, Save Patagonia's Rainforest from destructive Aluminium smelter

Press release - 19 February, 2004
As the UN Summit for Life on Earth draws to a close in Kuala Lumpur, 50 Greenpeace activists in Santiago blocked the entrance to the Casa de la Moneda (the President's Palace) with three trucks. The activists are urging the Chilean government to protect Patagonia's ancient forests and stop Noranda's proposed aluminium plant, Alumysa, project that would flood thousands of hectares of ancient forests in pristine Patagonia.

Greenpeace activists protest in front of the Presidential palace demanding protection for the Patagonian forests.

The three trucks displayed the message 'President Lagos: Protect Patagonia', with activists chained to them. Other activists held banners demanding 'No Alumysa' & 'Protect Patagonia'. Activists also descended on the Chilean Embassy in Ottawa, Canada to demand that the Chilean government ensure that Canadian company Noranda does not go ahead with the Alumysa project, and that they instead protect Patagonia.

"While the UN meeting is desperately seeking ways to protect life on earth, President Lagos appears to be intent on destroying our invaluable global heritage," said Rodrigo Herrera, Greenpeace Forests Campaigner in Chile.

Today only 20% is left of the world's remaining ancient forests. Most of these are imminently threatened by logging, agricultural clearing and other human activity. Chilean Patagonia is a critical example of an ancient forest under threat from development. The Alumysa project proposed for the region by Canadian company Noranda involves the flooding of 10,000 ha of forest in order to build dams and a highly polluting aluminium smelter in the pristine forest region. The aluminium plant will produce over 500,000 tonnes of toxic waste every year and will emit significant levels of atmospheric pollution into a pristine area.

"There are two choices for the future of Patagonia: it's pristine forests can either be protected for future generations, or President Lagos can instead give the green light to this industrial mega project which will result in the destruction of Patagonia" said Greenpeace Campaigner Gavin Edwards. "We are today to urge him to make the right choice: Protect Patagonia rainforests".

On board of the ship 'Arctic Sunrise', Greenpeace has documented the uniqueness and importance of the Chilean Ancient forests and the threats they are exposed to. These threats include the Alumysa project, salmon fish farming, pollution from mines, tree plantations, cattle grazing and forest fires.

Greenpeace is highlighting the plight of the world's last remaining ancient forests and the depletion of the oceans in the lead up to the summit for life on earth-the UN meeting of the Convention for Biological Diversity-which is held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and finishes tomorrow. Greenpeace is urging governments to protect life in all its diversity, indigenous people's rights and cultural variety by providing money for protection of life on land and sea. World governments must also ban large scale industrial activity in all sensitive areas and establish a network of land and marine protected areas with effective law enforcement and management.

"Chile is bound by the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect its magnificent forests and oceans", said Rodrigo Herrera. "The protection of Patagonia is the true test of that commitment for President Lagos", he concluded

VVPR info: John Novis, Photo Desk, +31 653 81 91 21 Hester van Meurs, Video Production, +31 (0) 6 29001135