Mining businesses, indigenous sorrows

Mining businesses, indigenous sorrows

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By Darío Aranda and Luis Manuel Claps

Questioned metalliferous megaproject advances in Patagonia. With reserves of ten billion dollars, it violates half a dozen laws, advances on native peoples.

Straight roads that end on the horizon, endless. Dry weather, permanent wind and eddies that cross the gravel road. No ranches or trees or people in sight, just shrubs and elusive guanacos. It is the monotonous landscape, for five hours, in the solitude of the Chubut plateau, the vast and arid space that separates the sea from the mountain range, in the heart of Patagonia. Victorino Cual, Tehuelche grandfather, is ill, a stomach ache has hurt him and a blindness has ruined one eye and he advances through the other. “We always said no. We will always say no. Why is it difficult for them to understand us? ”, Rebukes Victorino, 75, born and raised in the place, who rejects the mining project“ Navidad ”, of the Canadian company Aquiline Resources, an initiative that advances on native territory, violating laws national and international treaties that oblige any initiative that affects their way of life to have indigenous approval. The deposit, with reserves of ten billion dollars, is rejected by the negative consequences of lead - both in the environment and in health - and the gigantic use of water: approximately 460 liters per second, 40 million liters per day during the fifteen years of life of the deposit and in an area where water is the most scarce good. The provincial government took sides, calling the project "a fantastic experience."

“We are not miners. We are indigenous people who raise animals and respect the land for hundreds of years. Is that not understood either? Do you want to change our way of life? ”, Attacks the Tehuelche grandfather, shakes his head in disapproval, and leaves us speechless.

From Toronto to Gan Gan

The “Navidad deposit” is one of the world's largest undeveloped lead and silver deposits, called “Navidad” because the first laboratory results were on December 25th. Registered with the Directorate of Mines and Geology on December 6, 2002, initially reserves of 3 billion dollars were detected, but the figure has not stopped growing since the studies in the region were deepened. The latest estimate of the company ensures the existence of minerals for ten billion dollars, eleven times the annual budget of the National Ministry of Health.

On November 15, 2007, in the Toronto afternoon, the Canadian company Aquiline Resources organized a conference call between the board of directors and its shareholders. The evaluation of the Christmas project was the main topic. “Mineral resources increased 52 percent and reached 600 million ounces of silver. This confirms Christmas as one of the largest untapped silver resources in the world ”, celebrated Marc Handerson, president and CEO of the company. And he highlighted the role of the other mineral in the project: “Let's not forget lead, we have 3.5 billion pounds of lead. None of you are unaware of the current price of lead. At the beginning of the project the price was $ 0.20. Today it is 1.50 ”. In the luxurious offices, the shareholders smiled and began to do their math. Exploration VP John Chulick added to the optimism: "The estimate exceeds all of our expectations."

But, almost at the end of the teleconference, the uncomfortable question from a shareholder arrived: "Is there legal security to invest?" The president of Aquiline did not hesitate: “We will have the Kirchner government for four more years, which is quite favorable in terms of stability. The previous mandate was very favorable, for which we are optimistic. The governor of Chubut was also re-elected with a landslide victory, obtained 72 percent of the votes, shows a very good predisposition towards the project and frequently offers us his support. We do not see any aspect of the project that could generate a rejection by the Government ”. He stressed that the pre-feasibility stage has already passed and its construction could begin next year.

Gan Gan is a town of fifteen blocks crossed by Provincial Route 4, 370 kilometers from Rawson, which connects the mountain range with the coast of Chubut, in the middle of the desert, with 600 inhabitants and an area of ​​small livestock. Only 50 kilometers separate it from the site, it will be one of the most affected areas. The Tehuelche Cual family has lived in the area since 1902, verified by official documents, with fifteen leagues of their property. The village of Gan Gan itself was built on plots donated by the indigenous community. One hundred years after that donation, those of which lost thirteen leagues in the hands of businessmen and merchants. Even the community cemetery was left in parcels appropriated by a local landowner. At present, the Which ones survive in two leagues, insufficient for animal husbandry and sustainable development. To add insult to injury, the local political power unilaterally decided that the town's garbage dump was installed on indigenous land. To get to the community, just ten kilometers from the urban ejido, you have to skirt a mountain range, cross a mallín (a surface water reservoir with tender grasses) and skirt mountains of garbage, white plastic bags, scrap metal and dead animals.

Don Victorino Cual was born on the Chubut plateau. The adobe and sheet metal ranch, built by his hands, has three rooms. A small window darkens the kitchen-dining room, which welcomes you with a round of rickety chairs and benches. Victorino wears a red neck scarf, a blue shirt, frayed field breeches and worn espadrilles. He is sick, but he does not want to miss the opportunity to tell of his regrets: “They stole our land, they won't let us raise our animals, and on top of that they want to draw our water and poison them with their mine. And politicians work for them ”.

Employees of the mining company visited the area several times. They visited the indigenous communities, they were friendly, helpful. They conducted a survey, asked if they would accept another field, and wanted to have a confusing piece of paper signed. "I did not take anything, but I know of brothers who have done it, they have squeezed them, that matter was fulero," explains Cual, with a stern face, nine children and three grandchildren. And the situation worsened when the provincial government, through its local leaders, began to pressure to welcome the mining company. In addition to the classic official welfare, the Government commands two programs that mark the fate of the inhabitants: the "Plan Calor" (delivery of firewood every 15 days, between 100 and 200 kilos according to the family group, essential in the face of winters that reach 30 degrees below zero) and the "Moahir Program", for the advance purchase of wool from small producers, which pays better prices than local merchants. Both programs work as control tools. Those who do not obey will not have firewood and will have problems selling their wool.

Gan Gan is pure plain, only mountains appear on the horizon. Old houses, most of adobe. A hospital. A school. A passing hotel. The police station. A chapel. And two markets. Many know about "the mine" (as they call the Christmas project), but very few have heard of Aquiline Resources. A continent separates Gan Gan from Toronto, and a world separates the adobe ranch of the Cual and the conference room of the multinational, different conceptions of development and understanding natural resources.

Victorino What is wearing the beret, looks at the sale of his house towards the mallín and sentences: “We have little left of our field. Even if politicians insist, we cannot allow permission to ruin our land and water. We do not want money, silver melts, it is spent, the field remains and gives us life ”.

Defile roots and violate laws

Indigenous peoples have multiple differences, but above all two points in common, the relationship they have with the land and the sacred respect for their ancestors. Local communities and social organizations denounce that the Canadian company IMA Explorations (or its local subsidiary Inversiones Mineras Argentinas - IMA -, at that time in charge of the Christmas project) violated both principles and imposed its values: it entered indigenous territory and desecrated an aboriginal cemetery , 1200 years old, located in the very heart of the future deposit. The action, with the active participation of provincial officials and Conicet scientists, violated the National Constitution and international legislation that requires indigenous participation, and was a fundamental measure for the continuity of the project. “The existence of an indigenous burial site is irrefutable proof of traditional occupation and indigenous pre-existence. The company knew that in the area of ​​the deposit the burial site would stop the activity, and that is why it hastened, with all kinds of maneuvers, which included deception and pressure, to get rid of this potential obstacle ”, explained the lawyer Eduardo Hualpa, a member of the Team Nacional de Pastoral Aborigen (Endepa), specialized in indigenous law.

The chenque was located 300 meters from Provincial Route 4, which connects Gan Gan and Gastre, and in the ancestral culture, it is the sacred space par excellence. A small mountain of stones, with a rectangular base, indicated the existence of bodies.

At the end of 2003, the mining company had commissioned a detailed study of actors and potential conflicts in the region. He was aware of the uprising that occurred in Esquel (where they stopped the exploitation of a gold and silver deposit) and preferred to avoid risks. "Social study of the areas of impact of the Christmas project", carried out by the consulting firm Rehuna, pointed to the check as a "potential source of conflict" and highlighted as a "point to resolve the continuity of the check in the area or its rescue and relocation. The existence of the archaeological site located in a key area can have derivations of the most varied nuances depending on the actions that arise on the site and also according to the reactions that the different interest groups (indigenous communities) may have ”. A quick reading of the Rehuna report shows a particular investment in the usual terms of environmental impact assessments: it does not measure the possible impacts of the mining project on the population, but the possible impacts of the population on the mining project.

The mining company took note of the warning and evaluated that the burial site could become the biggest obstacle to the project. It brought together provincial officials of Culture and the National Patagonian Center (Cenpat, dependent on Conicet). He summoned Francisco Chiquichano, a reference for the Blancuntre community, one of the seven in the area. Through the promise of community titles (an old desire of the families of the region), road improvements and charities, they pressed for him to consent to the relocation of the chenque. They also began with food delivery and made available to the community a van that served as a remís - an invaluable asset in one area.

On November 6, 2004, three communities sent a letter to the provincial secretary of Culture, Jorge Fiori. "We ask you to refrain from going ahead with any modification in the check that is in the vicinity of the Blancuntre community, before producing the necessary consultation with all the communities in the area. The destination of that place and the elements that are there They find, which some call archaeological, are from our ancestors and therefore sacred ", highlights the letter, signed by Agustina Catrimay, Victorino Cual and Patricio Huichulef, three reference communities of the region. In their last paragraph, they warn:" The National Constitution, the Provincial Constitution and ILO Convention 169, approved by law 24071 and ratified by the Argentine Nation, are the basis for our request ”.

In February 2005, the provincial government summoned Chiquichano and Agustina Catrimay, only two of the seven communities. They were awaited by officials from the Ministry of Culture and Indigenous Affairs, directors of the mining company and Cenpat-Conicet researcher Julieta Gómez Otero, representing the scientific team. The “archaeological rescue” was signed and, at the same negotiation table, an agreement was signed where the general manager of IMA Explorations, Carlos Alberto D´Amico, undertook to “manage the measurement and land title before the corresponding provincial authorities Blancuntre Community ”, the community's historic desire.

On April 5, 2005, and with winter approaching, the company called an emergency meeting. Held at the Cenpat headquarters, the parties from the State, the mining company, the team of researchers financed by the company were again present and, again, only two of the seven communities were invited. The provincial Ministry of Culture (through Sergio Caviglia, then Director General of Management, Research and Cultural Heritage) announced that the company would withdraw from the area during the winter months and intimidated the aborigines. “This meant that the chenque and the other archaeological sites would not have the permanent control of the personnel of the (mining) company that carries out functions in the place. Therefore, there was a possibility that it could be looted. Given the risk of destruction, Caviglia recommended applying the principles of rescue archeology and proceeding with the excavation and relocation of the chenque, ”justified Gómez Otero.

Three days later, the desecration of a 1200-year-old chenque began in the place, which had never suffered any destruction in twelve centuries.

"It was possible to harmonize the interests of the native peoples, the Ministry of Culture, the archaeologists themselves and the company," said Gómez Otero, scientific head of the action, within the framework of the "IV Meeting of Archaeological Theory in America del Sur ”, held in Catamarca in July 2007. At the end of his presentation, he assured that“ beyond the archaeological, there is the human significance of this experience; for this team the most important and mobilizing team of our professional career ”. In the same presentation, it implicitly acknowledges the violation of indigenous law. He states that they only consulted two of the communities and that they only offered two options: excavation and relocation where the communities decided, or excavation and DNA analysis for later relocation. At no time were the communities informed that, subject to law, the check could be kept in place.

At the same congress of archaeologists, in July 2007, another presentation, made by one of the authors of this note, proposed a critical view of the relocation operation: "The most advanced and potentially profitable mining project in the region had to face a fact unquestionable: because it is located in indigenous territory, the current legislation on the matter had to be applied. Chenque became a problem because it was the only potential social conflict. When IMA decided to inform the Mapuche-Tehuelche communities about the existence of the chenque, It had already decided that it would promote its transfer. And a triangulation began between the mining company, the province's Ministry of Culture and Cenpat, constituting a 'small table' in which each actor provides reciprocal legitimacy. The Ministry of Culture supports each other. in the Cenpat technical team, the latter in the decision-making powers of the Secretariat, both in the supposed 'consent' of the communities, and the company finally solves your problem. "

"The check was the strongest proof that the Navidad mining project is part of the indigenous territory, and removing it from the place erased that mark. Paradoxically, the check was preserved to deliver the mountain. The public institutions that intervened in the process were functional to the objectives of the company concerned, to the detriment of the internationally recognized rights of indigenous peoples. The self-described "information and consultation process" carried out by the mining company did not meet the minimum standards to be recognized as such. Indigenous leaders were forced to accept the transfer of the check and to negotiate in notoriously disadvantageous conditions. During the last twenty years, extractive activities in indigenous territories have increased exponentially. The pressure on these territories will increase even more in the coming years. Many of these experiences have been disastrous. for the communities close to the projects ".

Today, Gómez Otero recognizes mixed feelings. He emphasizes that it was a very valuable experience in his professional life and that he acted in good faith. She explains that she did not recommend the transfer, but that the check was at risk and that is why she did it. Due to the accusations received, he acknowledges that it was “a bitter situation” and affirms that he was unaware of the existence of communities that opposed the transfer. She is aware that she is singled out as the scientist who gave legitimacy to a political maneuver by the mining company and the provincial government. “I understand that some may think they used us. We don't feel that way, ”he warns. However, he rejected the proposal of Aquiline Resources to deal with the two archaeological sites that are still present today in the epicenter of the site: on the slopes of the mountain there are indigenous ancestral paintings and, next to a watering hole, an extensive site with ceramics and arrowheads.

In May 2005, the Mapuche Parliament denounced the mining company for its inconsistent actions. "This place is about the historical and cultural heritage of the Mapuche people-nation and does not belong to a company, or to social scientists, or to any museum," they denounced. In October 2006, the V Futa Trawn (parliament) Mapuche-Tehulche brought together communities from all over Patagonia in Rawson and was tougher: “We proclaim our absolute rejection of the advancement of mining, forestry, oil and hydroelectric companies. In the name of ‘science’ Cenpat, in conjunction with mining companies that operate in the province, desecrate and kidnap the remains of our ancestors. Any act of violence related to the territorial control that we exercise in our communities will be the absolute responsibility of the Provincial State and the aforementioned companies ”.

Article 75 of the National Constitution and ILO Convention 169 (an international pact to which Argentina signed) legislate on the obligation to "ensure indigenous participation in the management of their natural resources."

"We never gave permission for them to remove those bodies," Victorino Cual answers angrily, scratches his forehead and summarizes simply: "They did what they wanted."

Scarce water, ancient life

Gan Gan in ancient language means great food. The story goes that the area was a passage for travelers and cars or flat, where strength was recovered to reach the mountains or the sea. The community of which is well known in the town, everyone knows who they are, their age in the place and very famous is its mallín, a point of recreation and refreshment during the summers. But last January no one was able to cool off, a severe drought punished, and still punishes, the area. Lack of land and scarcity of water complicate any animal husbandry: few pastures, skinny goats, meager reproduction and falling family income, it is a chain. “Many animals are dying for lack of land. Before we had a thousand, now half. And with the mining company there will be less water, ”laments Patricio Huichulef, from the Chacay Oeste-Laguna Fría community.

Water is the most precious commodity and also the most scarce. Despite the great scope of the Navidad project and the degree of progress advertised, there are still no studies on consumption for mining. One reference is the San Cristóbal deposit, in Bolivia, run by the American company Apex Silver. Similar in size to Christmas, it will use 40 million liters of water a day. At the beginning of its exploitation stage, the Navidad field would use in just four hours the same amount of water that the entire provincial sheep population drinks per day (four million animals, according to official data), one of the main and historical productive activities of the region. The ancestral breeding of cattle for sale and self-consumption will have to compete with mining for a scarce resource. The aggravating factor in the extraction of lead and silver, the water used is irretrievable, its chemical contamination prevents any attempt at reuse.

The Coordinator of the Water Observatory of the National University of Patagonia, Lino Pizzolón, has been studying water quality for decades, he toured the steppe of Río Negro and Chubut, he is familiar with mining impacts. "There is no water on the plateau in the quantities that these mega mining ventures require. Therefore, they will pump it from wherever it is, the wells, the aguadas and the mallines where the cattle graze will dry up, for many kilometers around. Mining activity will compete destructively with cattle-pastoral activity, increasing the depopulation of the countryside and desertification and the greater crowding of people in the cords of urban misery ", he warns without a hint of doubt.

The manager of the Navidad project, Guillermo Salvatierra, acknowledges that Aquiline has not yet carried out investigations on the availability of water in the region (despite five years of work in the area), but retrucates: “We completed all the studies that the Province. They never objected to us ”. As explained by the executive of the mining company, during the time of exploration the presentation of annual environmental studies is required. Salvatierra promised to send those studies to Página / 12, but has not done so yet.

The Esquel Assembly, a pioneer in the fight against mining effects and aware of conflicts throughout the continent, affirms: “Mining in arid zones is the road to ruin. Communities will be in worse condition than they already are. In 20 years the company will leave, it will leave a large toilet on the plateau and pollution. The Government knows it, but they are interested in business and despise the communities in the area ”.

In the past, the managers of IMA and today those of Aquiline privately recognize that the greatest fear is centered in the Esquel Assembly, they intend to prevent them from setting foot on the plateau and alerting the population to the negative effects of the mining company. In July 2007, the then project manager of the company, Carlos Cuburu, spoke with “El pregón minero”, questioned that Río Negro prohibits the use of cyanide, was optimistic about the development of projects and, for the first time in public, He referred to those who criticize mining: "It is interesting to limit aggressive groups, management groups contrary to the activity, have them contained in their place."

The interview with Salvatierra was friendly, but took a different tone when the Esquel Assembly was mentioned. “In the project area there are a thousand inhabitants and they want mining development for the well-being it will bring. That people from other places come to force them to change their minds, it is authoritarian, it is imposing ideas, it is Nazi. It is a lie that mining pollutes, it is a lie that mining kills, "the head of Aquiline denounced angrily, with 25 years of work in the sector and whose references to" mining development "are San Juan and Santa Cruz.

Don Huichulef is 64 years old, has ten children, he always lived on the same ranch, since he was born, just like his father. Family history states that their ancestors reached the plateau in 1907. The kitchen-dining room is a single room, spacious, with impeccable white walls. The cheap wrought iron kitchen does not stop burning wood and mitigating the cold. Mate and hot bread are the prelude to a barbecued lamb that he prepares for the visit. He is a small man, wearing a beret, with a long, angular face, and coppery skin. He seems shy, but as the minutes go by he lets out a simple, flat and rebellious speech from the heart of the Patagonian desert. "Excuse me for expressing myself, but I don't speak pretty as a politician, but I say my thing. Trash politics got me tired. The elections are not for our good, they are for the good of the politicians, who win thanks to the smallholder and then govern for the powerful. We work, they only promise and never deliver. I don't believe them anymore. Before I was obedient, out of fear, I went where they told me. Now I am disobedient. "

He has lived and worked the same land for decades, but he has no title to it. He lives off what he produces with his hands, he suffers harassment from businessmen who want to keep their fields and is ignored by the provincial government. And it faces an extractive industry. “These people (the employees of the mining company) go around the fields, they don't ask for permission, they just enter and mark with flags where they are interested in doing tests. That is already wrong and we do not approve. Nor did we give permission to run the check, that is not touched, they cannot run it, and these gentlemen who speak beautifully entered and ran everything, ”Huichulef is outraged, looking at the corral through the window and tells that they conducted surveys, asking if he would sell the fields, which promised work, improvement of houses, food and even cars. “I didn't sign anything and I don't want anything from them. I made it clear that I am not going to leave the place where I grew up, that this land is the relic of my grandparents, my father and it belongs to my children and grandchildren. I told them not to come any more, that we do not want problems, but if they come through the land there will be them ", warns the Tehuelche grandfather, angry and, without speaking" nice ", has surgical precision:" The law is written and gives us the reason, but it is not respected ”.

The indigenous communities of the plateau are aware of mining activities. Nearby, in Gastre, Mina Angela worked, the largest metalliferous mining experience in the province and one of the most important in the country. Only a huge deposit of toxic waste remained of it, accused of poisoning soil and water with cadmium, a heavy metal that produces cancer. Engineer Héctor Luis Ponte, recognizes that "The quality of water that comes out of the mine complies with Argentine standards for cattle drinking except for excessive concentrations of Cd" (in "Mine Closure: Experience in Iberoamerica". Roberto C. Villas Boas and María Laura Barreto. Rio de Janeiro, 2000).

Gastre is a town of twenty blocks and about 700 inhabitants, with a poverty rate of 30 percent and a hostile climate: in winter 2007 the temperature reached 40 degrees below zero. According to official data from the province, more than 30 percent of the department is concessioned to mining companies. Streets with Mapuche names, neat houses, narrow sidewalks and a pitiless wind, at the beginning of the 1980s it was national news: the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) and the military dictatorship wanted to turn the town into the world's first nuclear garbage dump. . The resistance of the population and organizations, for two decades, stopped the "repository of high activity radioactive waste", the official name of the initiative.

In the same Patagonian desert, but crossing the provincial limit, they have been working for five years on the start-up of an open-cast gold mine, using cyanide, in the town of Ingeniero Jacobacci, Río Negro. One of the great opponents is the Mapuche Parliament, which even made legal presentations so that the company does not continue with the project. And they also organized self-organized neighbors, who reject any large-scale mining undertaking. The project is located 190 kilometers from San Carlos de Bariloche and 80 from the urban center of Jacobacci, and is - according to official information - in "advanced exploration". The Río Negro government rejected the company's environmental impact report (essential to start the construction phase). And it sanctioned, motivated by the mobilization of social organizations, Law 3981, which until today paralyzed the exploitation of the project. But the mining company remains in place, assures that it will obtain the permission of the government and that it will obtain the approval of the native communities. The mining company is the Canadian Aquiline Resources, the same one that promotes the Christmas project and that has already “convinced” the Mapuche-Tehuelche to desecrate the ancestral cemetery.

Aquiline Resources also showed its power of persuasion with the governments of Chubut and Río Negro. With the two mining projects, and in less than ten years, it managed to take control of some 500 thousand hectares. The Mapuche and Tehuelche peoples of both provinces have been claiming community titles to the lands they inhabit for decades. In addition to being ignored, they suffer attempts to be stripped of their territory.

Lead, pollution and disease

Lead is considered by the scientific and environmental community as one of the most polluting metals and highly toxic to health. The industry of the first world countries took note of the consequences of its use and began a process of substitution. The United States Government prohibited, in 1978, the use of lead in paints and, in 1996, the use of tetraethyl lead as a fuel additive. And there is increasing pressure to avoid its use throughout the oil industry (although in poor countries its use is the majority). La Unión Europea prohibió la venta de naftas con plomo a partir de enero de 2000. En España se vedó el uso de plomo en los accesorios y componentes de los autos a partir de 2005. El mayor uso de plomo en la actualidad se destina a las baterías de autos, pero la industria automotriz comienza a experimentar su reemplazo por las baterías de litio. A pesar de todas las políticas para evitar el uso de plomo, Chubut impulsa (con leyes blandas, beneficios impositivos y cuestionados controles ambientales) un monumental yacimiento para extraer el perjudicial metal.

En junio último, un numeroso colectivo de organizaciones difundió una carta pública donde denuncian el rol negativo del plomo y su forma de extracción. Advierten que el plomo puede afectar negativamente casi todos los órganos del cuerpo humano, la exposición al metal puede provocar perjuicios al sistema nervioso central, daños a los riñones, al sistema reproductivo, debilidad en dedos, muñecas y tobillos, anemia crónica, problemas de comportamiento (hiperactividad, desórdenes nerviosos, dificultades para concentrarse y en el aprendizaje), crecimiento retardado, dolores de cabeza, complicaciones durante el embarazo, tensión arterial alta, problemas digestivos, insomnio y dolores musculares. También denuncia que los niños son más susceptibles que los adultos a los efectos del plomo. No hay en ellos "niveles tolerables".

“Nos preguntamos por qué mientras la comunidad internacional multiplica los esfuerzos para reemplazar el plomo, restringir su utilización y circulación, aumentar el conocimiento científico de sus consecuencias en la salud humana, regular estrictamente su disposición final y compensar a quienes han sido afectados, en Chubut se propone como un éxito empresarial la extracción de millones de kilos de plomo”, denuncia el colectivo de organizaciones, Autoconvocados de Esquel, Asamblea Coordinadora Patagónica y Endepa, entre otras.

“Nos oponemos a que un metal tóxico y perjudicial para la salud, con escasas y cada vez menos aplicaciones, sea extraído de manera masiva en nuestra provincia y exportado al mundo. Afectará de manera directa a las poblaciones cercanas a la mina, la planta de procesamiento, el transporte y embarque. Privilegiamos la salud pública, el medioambiente y la vida”, destacan las organizaciones y puntualizan los sitios contaminados por plomo: Kabwe (Zambia), Haina (República Dominicana), La Oroya (Perú), Rudnaya Pristan y Dalnegorsk (Rusia) y Klity (Tailandia). Y destacan dos pruebas, irrefutables, donde el metal ya mostró su poder contaminante:

– Abra Pampa. Ocho de cada diez niños de Abra Pampa, en plena puna jujeña, tienen altas dosis de plomo en la sangre, según lo reveló un estudio de la Universidad Nacional de Jujuy. La fuente de contaminación es la montaña de escoria de metales que abandonó hace dos décadas la empresa Metal Huasi. Los chicos sufren artrosis severa, dificultades en el aprendizaje, aumento de probabilidades de contraer cáncer y cansancio muscular, problemas de crecimiento y enfermedades de piel, todas consecuencias del plomo en el organismo. Hace años que los habitantes de la región denuncian la contaminación existente, y también denuncian que nunca desde el gobierno provincial, ni nacional, se tomaron acciones concretas para remediar la contaminación.

– San Antonio Oeste (Río Negro). En mayo último, el secretario de Minería de Nación, Jorge Mayoral, anunció que en los próximos tres años se saneará los desechos de metales pesados abandonados por la empresa Geotécnica, que explotó el yacimiento Gonzalito, de donde se extraía plomo, zinc y plata. Las montañas de plomo abandonadas por la empresa en San Antonio Oeste, que estuvieron en el lugar durante veinte años, contaminaron la zona y produjeron que el 20 por ciento de niños (de una muestra de 200) tenga niveles de plomo en sangre mayores de los aceptables para la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS). Mayoral no avisó que, pese a los efectos negativos que produjo, el yacimiento planea sea reactivado.

El Plan de Acción Internacional para la Prevención del Envenenamiento por Plomo, en 1997 en Estados Unidos, ponía en palabra lo que hoy sucede en Jujuy y Río Negro: "La población cercana a una industria relacionada con el plomo (ya sea urbana o no), está frecuentemente expuesta a niveles peligrosos de plomo en el aire y la tierra, y los niveles de plomo en la sangre tienden a ser elevados".

Centro de Chubut: zona de remate

La lucha del pueblo de Esquel marcó un quiebre en la relación entre los proyectos mineros y sus entornos poblacionales. La Asamblea de Vecinos Autoconvocados marchó, informó y hasta organizó una consulta popular, en 2003, para que la comunidad decida sí o no a la mina. El 81 por ciento votó por el rechazo. Se trataba de un proyecto de oro y plata a cielo abierto, con uso de cianuro, a sólo diez kilómetros del centro urbano. Por la presión de la comunidad, el gobierno de Chubut suspendió hasta 2009 cualquier actividad minera metalífera (incluyendo exploración) en el noroeste de la provincia, zonas de montañas, lagos y paisajes de postal. Pero nadie entiende por qué sólo se prohibió la exploración en esa zona, y no en toda la provincia. La meseta, la zona más pobre, quedó así librada a la decisión de las empresas.

“El fraccionamiento de la provincia crea ‘zonas limpias’ y otras ‘sucias’, habitantes de primera y de segunda clase. Pareciera que en la cordillera son habitantes de primera y por eso se prohíbe la minería. En cambio en la meseta, en el desierto de la provincia, la zona de más pobreza, pareciera que hay personas de segunda y ahí sí se permite la actividad minera. El Gobierno argumenta que en la meseta no se puede desarrollar otra actividad, y eso es una gran mentira”, denuncia la Asamblea de Esquel.

El gobernador Mario Das Neves, que ya se postula a presidente para el 2011, no aceptó el llamado de este diario, pero sí se refirió a la actividad minera el 25 de junio en la embajada de Canadá (país de origen de gran parte de las empresas que desembarcan a lo largo de la cordillera). “Creo que el proyecto Navidad es una experiencia fantástica. Ustedes tienen que tener la tranquilidad de que en mi provincia no somos nada prejuiciosos con la actividad minera, que somos cuidadosos y que queremos, cuando alguien invierte, que tenga la tranquilidad de que no se le van a cambiar las reglas de juego”, afirmó Das Neves. Los 120 empresarios canadienses aplaudieron y sonrieron con satisfacción, según da cuenta el mismo sitio de la minera Aquiline, que publicó una crónica del cóctel.

Por si quedaban dudas de la bienvenida a las compañías mineras, el ministro Coordinador de Gabinete de Chubut, Norberto Yahuar, explicó que el desarrollo del proyecto Navidad será “una bisagra en lo que es la minería en Chubut” y aseguró que el yacimiento en la meseta mostrará que es posible la actividad minera. “Tomamos una decisión puntual que era suspender la actividad minera en todo lo que es la comarca de los Andes (región de Esquel), justamente para tener la posibilidad de liberar otros proyectos en el interior de la provincia que nos permitieran ejercer esa bisagra, queremos recuperar ese espacio que se perdió durante ese proceso que se llevo adelante en Esquel, hay que revertir todo ese proceso. Junto con el Gobernador queremos reinstalar el tema (minero)”.

En la lujosa embajada de Canadá los empresarios mineros volvieron a sonreír.

Pérdida de soberanía y espionaje minero

El ripio prolijo y una tranquera amplia, verde oliva, cerrada con candado. Detrás de esa barrera comienza el proyecto Navidad. El viento castiga, los remolinos levantan tierra y el sol quema. Un cartel de “prohibido pasar” y otro, desactualizado, de “IMA Exploration”. Es que el yacimiento estuvo en manos de esa compañía hasta julio de 2006, pero –- juicio mediante en Canadá — fue traspasado a Aquiline. El caso fue un hecho sin precedentes en la historia jurídica argentina, el conflicto sobre recursos naturales de Argentina no se resolvió en la justicia local, sino en tribunales extranjeros. Además, IMA realizó una investigación poco común: analiza a los pobladores de la zona, y cómo éstos pueden influir en el desarrollo del proyecto. Qué opinión tienen ante la minería, quiénes tienen peso en la opinión pública del lugar y sugiere estrategias de cómo obtener el visto bueno de la población. El objetivo final del relevamiento es evitar lo sucedido en Esquel, donde la empresa dio la espalda a la población y le costó la paralización del proyecto.

“Estudio social de las áreas de impacto del proyecto Navidad”, realizado por la consultora Rehuna, cuenta con 54 páginas y no se preocupa por los impactos del proyecto minero en la población, sino lo inverso, cómo la población puede beneficiar o perjudicar el desarrollo del yacimiento. Se trata de un estudio detallado de las familias de Gan Gan, Gastre y Blancuntre. Define el perfil de los pobladores, la actividad económica, organización familiar, gestión por recursos, experiencias de vida y la relación del lugar con la minería. También se describe cómo se organiza políticamente el lugar, quiénes son los referentes, los puntos fuertes y débiles. Cómo influyen las relaciones de parentesco y quiénes ostentan el poder local. Analizan la gestión comunal, cómo influyen los cultos religiosos, las acciones y perfiles de los funcionarios. Y cómo fueron resueltos algunos conflictos sociales anteriores.

El trabajo era particularmente preciso sobre el chenque: “Se deben tomar especiales recaudos es la existencia de un sitio arqueológico que consta de un enterratorio aborigen o chenque, cuya datación se sitúa en un rango de entre 400 y 800 años antes del presente. Debe ser de especial atención por la existencia en el área del proyecto de agrupaciones o comunidades de pueblos originarios con diferentes niveles de organización y que han de tener interés en el destino del sitio”. Lo señalaba como “potencial fuente de conflicto” y advertía que “la existencia del sitio arqueológico ubicado en un área clave puede tener derivaciones de los más variados”. En un apartado precisaba “puntos a resolver”, y remarcaba que “el más importante se resume en la continuidad del chenque en el área o su rescate y relocalización. Una alternativa es hacer partícipes a los descendientes o pertenecientes de pueblos originarios de las acciones que se lleven a cabo al respecto”.

Sobre la comunidad originaria Cual, fuerte en la zona, la investigación llama la atención sobre su participación en la red de comunidades coordinada por Endepa y hace eje en sus actividades: “Reafirmación étnica y cultural, conocimiento de sus derechos como pueblos indígenas y aprendizaje del idioma ancestral”. Señalan como figura de influencia al abogado Eduardo Hualpa. El relevamiento tiene un nivel de detalle que impresiona. Por ejemplo, precisa el número de familias que tienen inodoro y quiénes letrina, qué familias están peleadas entre sí, un cuadro de relaciones de parentesco, de cruces entre familias y de nivel de influencias en la vida social y política del lugar, y las influencias de los cultos presentes.

Considera que la escuela y el hospital son lugares con influencia en la opinión pública local, y advierten: “Prevalece como condicionante la experiencia de Meridian Gold en Esquel”. Y, justamente a Esquel, le dedican uno de los apartados más plagados de temores y advertencias. “Manipulación de información, su capacidad de gestión en los medios y la difusión eficaz del miedo a las catástrofes ambientales, de la salud humana y sociales en la población, fueron determinantes en el rumbo tomado hasta la actualidad por el conflicto de la mina. Actores similares a los que han actuado en el conflicto de Esquel podían tender sus influencias y que en tal caso sería de importancia crucial el esclarecimiento preventivo respecto de todas las implicancias reales del proyecto”, detalla la consultora. También remarca las dificultades de la empresa y resalta qué no se debe hacer. Señala que los habitantes de Gastre no hay referencias de lo sucedido en Esquel, pero sí en los funcionarios públicos, a los que describe como permeables a la opinión pública y recomienda una política de seducción.

Las conclusiones del estudio aseguran que quienes más demandas realizan son los sectores medios de las zonas urbanas, en particular los empleados del sector público y las autoridades locales, y aclara que entre ellos es donde mayor influencia tiene el conflicto de Esquel. Sobre todo los potenciales daños ambientales y el deterioro de la salud de la población. En cuanto a las comunidades indígenas, advierte que “es imposible imaginar un escenario de neutralidad” y recomienda una focalizada política de seducción: “Es preciso establecer contactos y trabajar sobre los ejes que hacen a su identidad étnica y sus reclamos, para compatibilizarlos con las actividades del proyecto. La ausencia de contactos o falta de flexibilidad puede generar un conflicto de derivaciones inciertas”. Y apunta a tres grupos de interés, que podrían influir en las comunidades indígenas: la iglesia católica (como grupo de apoyo de las comunidades), científicos del área y los funcionarios provinciales. Los dos últimos, fueron los actores protagónicos en la primera gran traba del yacimiento: la profanación del chenque. Por último, apunta al trabajo con diarios, radios y canales de televisión. “(Es necesario) Operar sobre los medios de comunicación”.

Nota :

Este articulo, es la versión completa de la nota publicada en Página 12:UN MILLONARIO EMPRENDIMIENTO METALIFERO PONE EN RIESGO A PUEBLOS ORIGINARIOS EN LA PATAGONIA, Negocios mineros, pesares indígenas , Martes, 9 de Septiembre de 2008. Agradecemos a los muchos sitios web y Blogs que han reimpreso la nota: Noalamina.Org, Blog Clarito, NotiFe.Com, El Calafate Digital, Indymedia Argentina, RawsonLine, Avkin Pivke Mapu, Ecoportal, entre otros. Fuente:

Video: The Problem with Conservation. Extinction Rebellion DE (June 2022).


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