MAC: Mines and Communities

Mapuche communities confront mining activities in southern Chile

Published by MAC on 2005-09-14

Mapuche communities confront mining activities in southern Chile

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The activities of mining company Manto Rojo, which is operating in southern Arauco province, concerns Mapuche indigenous communities and environmentalist organizations of the region. Manto Rojo has eleven concessions to carry out mining exploration in Arauco. The company’s owner Jaime Troncoso told the local authorities about his intention of looking for scandium. Then, Troncoso confirmed that the explorations would be carried out in a zone where 17 Mapuche families live. He said the company has “rights over those territories.” Troncoso added that experts are already taking samples, aiming to find out the level of concentration of the scandium. He announced that the activities will increase during the next months.

His statements caused the rejection of the Mapuche communities, who described the situation as “the beginning of something that may become a long conflict.” Indigenous leaders said the territories claimed by the company are considered to be “ancestral lands” and that many of them were already “stolen by forest companies.”

The Mapuche leaders added that the executives of Manto Rojo intend to convince the population about the advantages of the mining project. The businessmen promise the creation of new jobs. The indigenous people claim for their right over “the entire territory, including the underground,” although the Chilean Constitution says the underground belongs to the State, which is entitled to allow its exploitation by private agents. The opponents to the project also argue likely impacts on the tourist activities.

Arauco’s governor Nelson Matamala was attacked by a group of people last July, who accused him of agreeing secretly with the company.

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