MAC: Mines and Communities

To mine or not to mine - the burning question for Chubut, Argentina

Published by MAC on 2012-12-04
Source: Puerta E, YouTube, Jornada, El Chubut (2012-11-29)

Last week, on 29 November, over two thousand demonstrators marched in Rawson, the capital of Chubut province in Patagonia, southern Argentina, against the opening of the meseta region to large-scale mining.

Two days earlier, a similar, but much smaller, group of protesters had been violently attacked by pro-miners, allegedly encouraged by the Government and Minas Argentinas, the local affiliate of Canada's Pan American Silver. See video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8YVtXuoRaQ&

Debates around mining have been going on for the last decade in Chubut. They follow a consulta popular in March 2003, when citizens of Esquel voted "NO" in a referendum to decide whether another Canadian corporation, Meridian Gold, should be allowed to mine a mountain at the head of their valley.

Since then, although exploration has been permitted, projects run the risk of not being allowed to advance to extraction.

Two Canadian junior mining outfits have "developed" the Navidad project in the meseta area, which contains more than 600 million ounces of silver.

Pan American Silver acquired the then-operator of Navidad, Aquiline Resources, in 2009.

In June 2012, the governor of Chubut province, Martín Buzzi, published a draft bill that, while raising the tax burden on mining activities, could see this project proceeding.

The area is home to a number of small towns and indigenous communities, which have not been consulted over the issue.

Some say the mine should now be permitted: a 7-year drought and ashes from Chile's  Pehuenche volcano, which erupted some years ago, have depleted their herds of cattle.

But others venemently disagree, claiming the mine will create a massive demand for water and cause other  negative social and environmental impacts.

See some coverage in national media (Spanish): Diario Jornada and El Chubut from Trelew, El Cronista from Buenos Aires.

See previous MAC posts:

Declaration of the Indigenous Communities of the Central Plateau of Chubut Province, in the city of Rawson (2010)

Worries about Open-Pit Mining in Chubut, Statement by Bishop Virginio Bressanelli (2009)

[Commentary by Luis Claps, MAC Spanish language co-editor, 29 November 2012]

Anti mining protesters attacked in Rawson, Chubut, southern Argentina

Puerta E

27 November 2012

The assassinated Mexican activist Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez
Thousands demostrated against mining and repression in Rawson,
the capital city of Chubut province in Patagonia, Argentina.
Source: El Chubut newspaper.

Seven anti-mining protesters were injured and hospitalized today after being attacked by pro-mining groups in Rawson, capital of Chubut province, in southern Argentina.

A video posted on YouTube shows the violent attack on the group of anti-mining supporters who were walking towards the provincial Legislative Chamber, as they have done weekly for the last three months. See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8YVtXuoRaQ&

This is because the government is pushing to pass a new mining law that will allow the development of large scale open pit mining in the province. 

The violent reaction took place before the eyes of local police, that "liberated" the area for the brutal repression to be carried out.

Open-pit metal mining has been banned in the province of Chubut since April 2003. Law 5001 was passed by provincial legislative chamber following the Esquel referendum, resulting in the cancellation of Meridian Gold's proposed gold mine.

Nonetheless, the government has since allowed companies to explore for, and develop, mineral deposits which would use open-cast processes.

At the end of 2009, Pan American Silver took over the Navidad silver-lead project from Aquiline Resources, demonstrating the industry's confidence that it can overturn the provincial ban.

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