The Valentine Project: Mining in Uruguay

Protests against mining Uruguay’s large reserves of ore mount, as civil society groups like Uruguay Libre Campaign propose a referendum that will create an amendment banning large scale open-pit mining in the Latin American country. Headed by the mining company Minera Aratiri of the British Zamin Ferrous company, the Valentine Project (named for its location in the Valentine region) will create a mining site 155 miles south of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital.

A 130 mile-long underground pipeline will be created to transfer the slurry from the mines to a mining port off the Uruguayan coast, Rio de la Plata.The project promises 18 million tons of ore per year from the 2,500 million tons of ore the country houses. Iron ore is used in construction as steel and for developing infrastructure. Presently, Uruguay exports beef and grains but hopes to add iron ore to the list.

The Valentines Project is an investment that can total up to $3 billion.

Previous protests against mining in Uruguay were in 2008 when global mining company Rio Tinto aimed to develop a mining port in Nueva Palmira and Colonia Agraciada.

The project was set to cost around $205 million but was eventually terminated due to the financial crisis in 2009.

Apart from imposing upon localities, the mining in Uruguay project would have destroyed the environment as well as polluting the waters and air of the region.

Similar ecological consequences threaten the environment with the Valentine Project, including land erosion, pollution and poison gas emissions.

Currently, the referendum for a constitutional amendment is pending, an act that is meant to overturn a law that legalizes large-scale mining in Uruguay, which was passed in September 2013.

The September law passed legislature with a 52-30 vote, effectively imposing taxes and setting environmental regulations. Company profits from mining will be taxed 25 percent while all mining projects will be taxed 38 percent.

Whether the referendum will pass or not, large scale mining in Uruguay is here to stay.

 – Miles Abadilla

Sources: Earth is Land Journal,, Upside Down WorldMines and Communities,
Photo: Lemur Project