MAC: Mines and Communities

Indigenous Communities in Salinas Grandes mobilize against lithium mining, Argentina

Published by MAC on 2011-08-01
Source: Statement, Blog Lo de Allá (Página 12) (2011-07-24)

Salta and Jujuy provinces have granted mining rights to dozens of Canadian companies

A "lithium rush" is spreading across northern Argentina, where lithium can be recovered economically from brines lying under the Puna salt flats.

After the struggle against uranium prospecting in the Quebrada de Humahuaca last year, the Indigenous Peoples from Jujuy province in northern Argentina (near the border with Bolivia and Chile) now face the occupation of every single salt flat in the Puna region not only for lithium (also potash, borates  and other minerals) prospecting and development.

See: Supreme Court of Jujuy Province Halts Uranium Mining, Argentina (2010)

The provincial governments of Salta and Jujuy have granted mining rights to dozens of  Canadian mining companies, many them funded by car makers like Toyota and Mitsubishi.

Lithium is increasingly used in batteries that could power electric vehicles and its demand is supposed to grow dramatically in the next decade.

In November 2010, 33 communities from Salinas Grandes filed a lawsuit at the National Supreme Court in Buenos Aires asking for the cancellation of all mining permits granted without any Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

On July 14 2011, they denounced the situation to James Anaya [the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] in Geneva.

See also: Bolivia, Lithium is also our property, say Indigenous Peoples (2009)

ESPAÑOL

Indigenous Communities in Salinas Grandes, Puna region of Jujuy and Salta provinces, mobilized against mining companies

Press Release

19 July 2011

Salinas Grandes Indigenous Communities, in the Puna of Jujuy province, mobilized on 21 July 2011 to express rejection to the arrival of multinational mining companies in our territories.

Indigenous peoples in Jujuy province protest over lithium exploration
Indigenous peoples in Jujuy province protest over lithium exploration 
at Salinas Grandes salt flat. Source: Rodrigo Solá, Indymedia Argentina

The mining of lithium business is against the National Constitution and international instruments that protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Protesters blocked for a day the National Route 52, between Susques and Purmamarca (at more than 3,000 metres above sea level).

Communities from the Mesa de Pueblos Originarios de la Cuenca de Guayatayoc (Board of the Indigenous Peoples of the Guayatayoc Basin) from Salinas Grandes, involving Jujuy and Salta provinces, northern Argentina, are demanding the inmediate cease of all developments and the cancellation of all permits issued in the Guayatayoc basin and Salinas Grandes.

The provincial governments of Salta and Jujuy have granted mining rights to Canadian Dajin Resources and Australian Orocobre, both linked to Toyota and Mitsubishi.

The Salinas Grandes (Big Salt Flats) are a unique ecosystem located in our ancestral territory. They are the life, culture and history of the Kolla and Atacama peoples. The salt flats provide key resources fir our subsistance, like water and salt. Salt also give us jobs and local production, the groups stated.

In November 2010, 33 communities from Salinas Grandes filed a lawsuit at the National Supreme Court in Buenos Aires asking for the cancellation of all mining permits granted without any Free, Prior and Informed Consent by provincial authorities. Nine months from that day, and we are still waiting or a resolution.

On July 14 2011, we denounced the proposal to the United Nations in Geneva and James Anaya [the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] agreed to visit Jujuy in November to take up the case.

Mesa de Pueblos Originarios de la Cuenca de Guayatayoc y Salinas Grandes
CPI Pueblo Kolla Región Puna de Jujuy
Red Puna - Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indígena
IV Tinku Juvenil Intercomunitario Plurinacional


Argentina: Indigenous peoples of the northwest reject lithium mining

By Darío Aranda

Blog Lo de Allá [Translation of article from Página/12 of Buenos Aires]

24 July 2011

"The gold of the future" the mining companies call it. It's "a strategic resource" for government authorities. But it's "our life" for the 86 indigenous communities who yesterday blocked National Highway 52 to oppose the lithium mining now spreading across their ancestral lands despite being covered by national and international laws that spell out indigenous peoples' rights to the land. Lithium is a coveted mineral, used in batteries for cell phones and computers and needed by the automobile industry, which is experiencing the gradual replacement of hydorcarbons with electric vehicles. "We are expressing our rejection of lithium mining projects and we demand the titles to the commuity lands that belong to us," the community members declared. Last November the spread of lithium mining reached the Supreme Court of the nation and arrived last week at the United Nations.

The Salinas Grandes [large salt deserts] in Laguna de Guayatayoc spread over regions of Salta and Jujuy [provinces in norwestern Argentina]. They are white plains often visited by tourists and they are the place of work, life, culture and history for the Kolla and Atacama indigenous peoples of the Puna [a high plateau stretching over parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile]. Together with salt, there is lithium there. And the provincial governments have already granted concession to the region to mining companies from Canada, Australia and the United States, and to the Toyota and Mitsubishi automobile companies. Last March, the government of Jujuy declared by decree that lithium is a "strategic provincial resource."

The blocking of the road between Susques and Purmamarca began at 10:30 and ended at 4:00pm "We explained to drivers, many of them tourists, and we opened the way several times. We received a lot of solidarity. They know we are not playing, that our lives are at stake," asserted Clemente Flores of the El Angosto indigenous community.

The mining of lithium requires enormous volumes of water in an extremely dry area. The communities depend on water for tending and raising sheep and llamas and for small farms. Water was a central issue in the appeal the Mesa de Pueblos Originarias de la Cuenca [Board of Indigenous Peoples of the Cuenca], made up of 33 communities, presented to the Supreme Court last November.

Another matter in the petition concerns the lack of "previous consultation, information and participation," which national legislation requires in all activity that could affect indigenous territories. It points out that the Salinas Grandes "make up a unique ecosystem that is found within their own territories, which provides them with natural resources in common usage that are necessary for subsistence, like water and salt, which permit life, work and production." They ask for the immediate suspension of current activities and for a halt to the issuance of new permits until the court rules. They also ask for enforcement of Law 25.675, the general law on the environment, which stipulates application of the "precautionary principle": "Whenever there is danger of serious or irreversible damage, the absence of information and scientific certainty should not be used as a reason to delay the adoption of effective measures, in terms of cost, to prevent degradation of the environment."

The blocking of the road yesterday was also sponsored by the Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indígena, the Consejo de Participación Indígena del Pueblo Kolla Región Puna and the IV Tinku Juvenil Plurinacional. "As in many other territories in Latin America, the salt desert and our form of life are being threatened by the ambition and plans for the plunder by mining, in the hands of multinational businesses and in complicity with governments," they charge.

Last week the case reached the United Nations special rapporteur for indigenous rights, James Anaya, the highest UN authority in the matter. Anaya asked for a copy of the judicial expedient and the details on the rights being threatened. He made a commitment to visit Argentina next November.

In addition to Salta and Jujuy, conflicts over mining operation are being carried out in Chubut, Neuquén, Santa Cruz, Mendoza, Catamarca, La Rioja and San Juan. The Red de Asistencia Jurídica contra la Megaminería pointed out the existence of a direct relation between the conflicts and the 900 percent increase in mining operations by transnational enterprises in the past decade.

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