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2006-08-11 16:30海词网

   Aremote Patagonian town that's just beginning to prosper by guiding tourists through the virgin forests nearby is being shaken by the realization that it's sitting on a gold mine. Literally. More than 3,000 worried Esquel residents recently took to the streets in protests aimed at assuring that their neat community of 28,000 beco mes an ecotourism center, not a gold-rush town.

  Esquel's plight is winning attention from international conservation and environmental groups such as Greenpeace. In Argentina, the town has become a national symbol in the debate over exploitation vs. preservation of the country's vast natural resources.

  About 3.2 million acres already are under contract for mineral exploration in poor and sparsely settled Chubut Province, where Esquel is, near the southern tip of South America. Whether Meridian Gold Corp. gets its open-pit gold mine outside Esquel could determine the fate of mining in Patagonia, a pristine region spanning southern Argentina and Chile.

  Meridian's project, about 5 miles outside Esquel at a higher elevation, is about 20 miles from a national park that preserves rate trees known as alerces, a southern relative of California's giant sequoia. Some of them have been growing serenely in the temperate rain forest for more than 3,000 years.

  The greatest fear is that cyanide, which is used to leach gold from ore, will drain downhill and poison Esquel's and possibly the park's water supplies. The mine will use 180 tons of the deadly chemical each month. Although many townspeople and some geologists disagree, the company says any excess cyanide would drain away from Esquel.

  "We won't allow them to tear things up and leave us with the toxic aftermath," said Felix Aguilar, 28, as he piloted a boatload of tourists through a lake in the Alerces National Park. "We take care of things here, so that the entire world can hear and see nature in its pure state. The world must help us prevent this."

  American Douglas Tomkins, the founder of the Esprit clothing line and a prominent global conservationist, has bought more than 800,000 wilderness acres in Chile to preserve alerces and protect what's left of the temperate rain forest. Ted Turner, the communications magnate, also has bought land in Argentine Patagonia with an eye to conservation.

  A young English botanist named Charles Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution, was the first European to see alerces, with trunks that had a circumference of 130 feet. He gave the tree its generic name, Fitzroya cupressoides, for the captain of his ship, Robert Fitzroy.

  Argentina, pressed by the United States, Canada, the World Bank and other global lenders, rewrote its mining laws in the 1990s to encourage foreign investment. Mining companies received incentives such as 30 years without new taxes and duty-free imports of earth-moving equipment.

  Argentina took in more than $1 billion over the past decade by granting exploration contracts for precious metals to more than 70 foreign and domestic companies. If the country were to turn away a major investor, the message to its mining sector would be chilling.

  Residents also complain that Argentina hasn't given nature-based tourism a chance."If the government invested in us a tenth of the effort they put into mining, things would be a lot different here," grumbled Randal Williams, 73, who rents tourist cabins in Esquel.

  Forest ecologist Paul Alaback, a University of Montana professor who studies the alerces, said Argentine authorities could gain from Alaska's successful nature-based tourism. "Nature-based tourism would mean less jobs immediately but would be sustainable. You'd be building on something that is going to grow, not going to go away," he said.














  关 键 词

  ecotourism // n. 生态旅行

  We should protect our natural environment and support ecotourism.


  pristine // adj. 原始的

  The forests on the Alps are still in pristine region, unspoiled by industrialization.


  span // v. 横跨,跨越

  The government spent two years building a red bridge spanning the gorge.


  elevation // n. 海拔

  The lake on the mountain at an elevation of about 350 meters is our first stop.


  leach // v. 过滤

  Nitrogen is easily leached from soil because it is more easily dissolved.


  toxic // adj. 有毒的

  People in Nazi concentration camps were slaughtered using toxic gas.


  prominent // adj. 著名的,重要的

  Lili played a prominent part in the case.


  magnate // n.(实业界)巨头,巨子

  The press magnate decided on a merger with another company to expand his empire.


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