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ENVIRONMENT

‘Mining secrets’: Swiss minerals company accused of environmental coverup

Two subsidiaries of Swiss mining company Solway Investment Group hid reports of pollution in an indigenous area of northeastern Guatemala, an international consortium of media companies said Sunday.

Aerial view of a nickel mine run by the Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel -a subsidiary of Swiss Solway Investment Group-, in El Estor indigenous municipality, in northeastern Guatemala. Photo: CARLOS ALONZO / AFP
Aerial view of a nickel mine run by the Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel -a subsidiary of Swiss Solway Investment Group-, in El Estor indigenous municipality, in northeastern Guatemala. Photo: CARLOS ALONZO / AFP

The “Mining Secrets” investigation — in which 65 journalists from 15 countries participated — also accused Solway subsidiaries Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) and PRONICO of intimidation and influence peddling.

The investigation run by the Forbidden Stories NGO “reveals the strategies that Solway has used to hide, in collusion with authorities, any element that could infer its responsibility in serious cases of environmental pollution.”

Solway has rejected the accusations, telling AFP in a statement it had reviewed the research in the investigation and found it to be “false.”

According to the investigation, one of those cases was the appearance of a large red slick in Lake Izabal, the largest in Guatemala and which adjoins the company’s nickel processing plant in Izabal department. Both the company and the state blamed algae for the patch.

That sparked a protest from local fishermen, who blamed the miner for the slick.

One protester, Carlos Maaz, was shot dead during a clash with police. But investigators said documents and emails obtained by Guatemalan hackers “disprove official statements and confirm the fishermen’s intuition.”

According to the investigation, an internal PRONICO communication acknowledged that some mining deposits reached the lake “following heavy rainfall.”

The consortium of journalists, including some from Spain’s El Pais and Le Monde in France, said they had evidence that reporters were spied on, local community leaders were intimidated and manipulated, and the company had relations with a judge and “paid the police to end the protests.”

In October, a group of indigenous people blocked off the town of El Estor, where the processing plant is located, for several days, alleging that the company was failing to comply with a court ruling to cease mining.

The government and the company both insisted that the court ruling only prevented PRONICO from extracting from its Fenix mine but not from continuing to process minerals mined from other plants.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei sent military personnel to the area, while police used tear gas to clear protesters. Local activists accused security forces of intimidation and carrying out raids.

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SPORT

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

Hundreds of runners braved a lung-busting ascent into the Alps in Switzerland's Glacier 3000 Run on Saturday, albeit on a shortened course due to summer heatwaves melting the ice.

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

The event’s 14th edition was back without limitations after being cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 and run in 2021 with restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

The race is normally run over 26.2 kilometres but was contested on a slightly modified 25.2km course this year due to the glacier melting, with the last pass over its surface shortened.

Runners make their way under a ski lift  on the glacier run in Switzerland

Runners make their way under a ski lift during the last kilometres of the Glacier 3000 run. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

“The accelerated melting of the top layer of the glacier has created a camber and a soft layer which the runner sinks into,” said race director Oliver Hermann.

“Rather than intervening to flatten the track, we preferred to deviate the course.”

Runners on last stretch of Switzerland's glacier run

On the final stretch of this year’s shortened course. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

The finish line is 1,886 metres higher than the start, at nearly 3,000 metres up in the mountains by the Scex Rouge peak.

READ ALSO: Heatwaves close off classic Swiss and Italian Alpine hiking routes

The route begins in the jet-set ski resort town of Gstaad, at 1,050 metres above sea level.

It passes through forests, green mountain pastures before heading into rocky lunar-like landscapes and taking in the Tsanfleuron Glacier.

The course follows the Saane river upstream for 15 km before climbing up 1,800 metres over the remaining 10 km to the finish line — at an altitude of 2,936 metres.

A couple hold their hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets

A couple hold hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets, where the Glacier 3000 Run took place on August 6th. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Some 311 men and 98 women completed the individual course, while 50 two-person teams also took part.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

The first man to finish was Kenyan competitor Geoffrey Ndungu in two hours and 17 minutes. He had finished in second place last year.

He was followed by compatriot Abraham Ebenyo Ekwam in 2:21 and then Switzerland’s Jonathan Schmid in 2:23.

Victoria Kreuzer was the first woman to finish, in 2:46, ahead of Nicole Schindler and Pascale Rebsamen — a Swiss clean sweep.

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