Argentina: Community takes stand against Canadian multinational plan to build huge mine

Image:  Angel Callupil

Image: Angel Callupil

Source: Mining Watch/ICN

Communities in southern Argentina are protesting against plans by Canadian multinational company Pan American Silver to build a large scale open-pit metal mining operation. This project will pollute the land and destroy the agriculture and livestock of the Mapuche Tehuelche indigenous peoples who live on the plateau.

Salesian missionary priest, Father Tono, (pictured) writes:

I am Father Tono, a Salesian priest in the mission of the north central plateau of Chubut province, Southern Argentina. I live here and I know the reality and the people with their faces worked by time, by age and by the severity of the weather and the elements. Many have worked in the fields, have lived in the face of the wind and snow, the sun and the drought… they have been born, lived and aged on the meseta.

Those who support mega-mining accuse us, who do not want open-pit mining with explosives and chemicals, of being fed by the government, of not living on the plateau, of not understanding about mining, of leading an easy and safe life.

Not so, megamining gentlemen: many of us live and share the life, the illusions, the struggles and the hopes of the meseta. Many of us disagree with mega-mining and the extraction of metals from our lands.

Lack of work hurts us and we are sensitive. We raise our voice to the government, to the communes authorities, and to those who have capital, to put the fields into production, to support mini-producers with animals, to insist on ranchers and the owners of large agricultural areas to reopen their fields for cattle production.

- If mega-mining begins to contaminate the subsoil, it will take away the only permanent source of water.

- Mega-mining as a development strategy for the north central plateau, one of the most neglected in Patagonia, is a myth and a lie. Mega-mining does not create local and sustainable work, as the foreign companies say.

- On the other hand, they say that they will provide work to some 5000 people, almost all of them from outside the region... in a small town of about 900 people like Gan Gan. We tell you that this place will absolutely lose its identity, its culture, its way of living, its peace. It will be a kind of Wild West, where the one in charge will not be the State, but the mining companies.

On the meseta we are abandoned and lacking everything, but not dignity. Living here is hard. But we love our land. Aboriginal communities, supported by Convention 169 of the World Labour Organization, endorsed by Argentina national Government, demand prior consultation to this type of extractive developments. The communities that are part of the Mapuche Tehuelche indigenous peoples on the plateau are demanding total respect to their decisions.

The communities, from what I know and have talked with them, reject mega-mining because they want their land, water and air to be respected. That their traditions, their worldview and their identity be respected ... The Navidad mining project is on aboriginal territory, if not why did they desecrate the chenque and moved it to Blancuntre?

I fully support the popular initiative that seeks to unsettle legislators, so that once and for all they discover the strength of popular decision and legislate in favour of the people, confirming respect and human use of water, land and air, and that they are not in the hands of companies that can loot and pollute.

Water is worth more than gold, water supports life. No means no!

Find more about the Popular Initiative 2020 here:

The Union of the Assemblies of the Communities of Chubut, Argentina (UACCH) officially launched its second "Popular Initiative" campaign, #NosDebenUnaLey ("they owe us a law") to collect signatures from residents and present a bill proposal which would protect water and the environment from the devastating impacts of industrial mining. The Assemblies have created a campaign website and collected signatures in over 40 towns and localities in Chubut province. See:

Tags: Mining, Father Tono, Pan American Silver, Argentina, Canada, Canadian Multinational

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