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Dominican president vetoes new national park

September 3, 2014

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A proposal to create a new national park that would have blocked the expansion of a nickel mine in the forested mountains of the central Dominican Republic was vetoed Tuesday by President Danilo Medina.

Medina sent the measure back to the Senate with a letter saying he had “serious doubts,” about the effects of the proposed creation of the Loma Miranda National Park in an area where a multinational company was seeking to expand its mining operations.

The president also said there had not been any studies that concluded it was environmentally necessary to protect the area, covering about 16 square miles north of the capital with a national park designation.

Medina said that his veto was not approval for mining at Loma Miranda and that the project would only be authorized “after they have completed all the required environmental impact studies.”

Both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies passed the bill last month by wide margins amid a combination of environmental concerns and fears that multinational mining companies may be benefiting more than the public from the country’s natural resources.

A unit of Glencore Xstrata Plc, a commodities and mining group with its headquarters in Switzerland, owns the Falcondo nickel mine that has been in operation since 1971. The company has said it would close the mine in about four years if it is not able to expand to about 5 square miles in the Loma Miranda area.

Environmental groups and academics had warned that it is an environmentally sensitive area, threatening an important network of rivers and streams and biodiversity in the lushly forested area. A team of experts from the United Nations determined in May 2013 that an environmental review of the project had been insufficient.

David Soares, president of Falcondo, said Monday that the area where the company seeks to mine has no plants or animals in danger of extinction and the project would not threaten and important sources of water. He said the national park project would constitute an illegal expropriation of and would discourage investment in the country.

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