Community members from Mallin de los Cual, Gan Gan Caravan to Defend Water (Source: NoaLaMinaEsquel)
Blog Entry

Declaration of the Union of the Assemblies of the Communities of Chubut

[Posted from the The Union of the Assemblies of the Communities of Chubut]

The Union of the Assemblies of the Communities of Chubut (UACCh), made up of assemblies from across the provincial territory, declare: We repudiate the information published on September 24 in the Official Bulletin of Chubut, where the Provincial Water Institute requests the use of public waters for industrial use on behalf of Minera Argenta, a subsidiary of Pan American Silver.  The request is for the use of 3,600m3 of water per year for the Navidad project in the department of Gastre. This publication  provoked a sudden outcry of opposition from thousands of people, since it is carried out in absolute SECRECY: without prior consultation with the Indigenous World, which has not given its free and prior informed consent, without a prior environmental impact study, without a public hearing and without an environmental impact statement.

There is no logical explanation to this situation, given that they are requesting permission to develop activities for a project’s facilities that are currently prohibited by the Law #5001. The purpose of this water permit is to expand the company's camp in order to facilitate the extraction of hundreds of thousands of tons of lead, which will then be transported more than 300 km, and finally exported from Puerto Madryn to the world. It doesn’t take into consideration that Puerto Madryn is in the Gulf of Nuevo near the Port of Pirámides, a RAMSAR [wetlands considered to have international importance] Natural Protected Area (provincial) site and a UNESCO world heritage site, and that mega-mining benefits only the  transnational companies that conduct business in third-party countries. In times of pandemic when health must be prioritized over all things, an activity that seeks to extract lead a poison of little economic value that generates irreversible impacts on the health of children, including during pregnancy - is being declared essential. 

The publication is signed by the current head of the Provincial Water Institute (IPA in Spanish), Gerardo Bulacios --the same person who announced two years ago the creation of the Sacanana Aquifer Basin Committee in compliance with General Law XVII No. 74 to ensure an integrated administration of water resources. Article 3 d) of this law requires “integrated management of the demand for water and its optimal use in consideration of the needs of aquatic ecosystems”; and due to "the interdependence between  socioeconomic sectors and the hydrological ecosystem, the decision-making, planning and execution phases must include the participation of interested parties". And, in Article 4 i) its function is to “study and analyze the behavior of the projects and uses that have been built to date, as well as to weigh-in on any use or undertaking that is projected or requested on the water system under its jurisdiction.”

The Basin Committee, which is made up of Provincial State Bodies, Universities, NGOs and the inhabitants of the territories, is the competent entity to make a decision like this, within the framework of a regular environmental impact process consented to by the Indigenous World, as indicated by the Sustainable Management Plan for Groundwater and Surface Water in the Central Plateau (meseta). And it is this  Committee who should guarantee that there is no depletion or contamination of water, a common good, due to human activities such as the use of pesticides, intensive livestock rearing or the use of toxic substances characteristic of large-scale mining, which uses  explosives and compounds such as xanthates, cyanide, mercury or sulfuric acid for metal extraction. [Their decisions] should always be made on the basis of comprehensive studies.

On the official website of the Provincial Water Institute, the Plan for Sustainable Management of Groundwater and Surface Water of the Central Plateau (meseta), recognizes that the management of the resource in the Central Plateau is precarious, since there is no control over the reserves that exist naturally, nor over what is extracted, nor does it contemplate the needs of the populations and actors in the region, at the level of the commune, or the private sector.  This is more than enough reason for the formation of the Advisory Committee within the Basin Committee, whose members and their participation guarantee the sustainable use of this common good. They are: the original communities Laguna Fría-Chacay Oeste, El Puntudo, Mallín De Los Cual, Los Pinos, Blancuntre, Yala Laubat, Traquetren, Lagunita Salada, Cerro Bayo, Gorro Frigio, Sierra Rosada and Ñuke Mapu de El Escorial, as well as livestock producers, farmers and producers of other activities.

However, not only is their participation in this Committee not being guaranteed, but many of them were also unaware of its existence. Therefore, the discussion of the approval of the permission to use the Sacanana aquifer for the Navidad project is being carried out without the participation or consent of the pre-established bodies.

Mining activities which have been ridiculously declared an “essential activity” during the pandemic, not only reap tax benefits, but with the support from officials from different institutions, also steamroll  over all legislation. The Navidad Project is allowed to advance while: 1) ignoring the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s 169 Convention which requires the Free, Prior and Informed consultation of the Indigenous World; 2) violating sacred archaeological sites because the burial site was in the way of extracting minerals; 3) accessing the water use permit without the corresponding Environmental Impact Study; 4) ignoring the existence of Law XVII Nº74 that created a Committee for the administration of the water of the Sacanana aquifer and 5) fundamentally ignoring Law XVII Nº 68 (ex 5001) that prohibits the open pit mining activities requiring the use of cyanide. There exists a complicity  as a result of the historical institutional contamination that mega-mining has generated throughout the world. This permits the [mining sector] to evade the legal norms that other human [economic] activities are required to comply with.

For all that has been said: 

● WE ARE OPPOSED to the water permit being granted for an activity that is predatory, that plunders and pollutes, andthat does not coincide with the parameters of environmental sustainability to which the inhabitants of this territory aspire.

● WE REMIND the Provincial Legislature that they cannot approve a mining-related bill that affects the Indigenous World, without prior consultation established in the ILO Convention No. 169, and that they must not betray the people of Chubut, once again.

This legislature KNOWS that they DO NOT HAVE SOCIAL LICENSE. We are watching them and they will be held responsible for their actions, by action or omission.

We REITERATE that we DEMAND respect for the constitutional tools that the people of Chubut are using to express themselves: the Popular Initiative. THEY OWE US A LAW

● We CALL ON the Judicial Powers - Public Prosecutor's Office, to proceed with the harassment and torture complaint filed by assembly members after being assaulted by the police of the Province of Chubut on December 6, 2019.

Instead [of proceeding with these important complaints], the judiciary has issued Judicial File No. 7232 - Investigation File No. 20874, a case filed by the provincial police of Chubut to the detriment of the assaulted persons, most of whom’s cases had already been dismissed.The systematic practice of misusing the criminal legal system to criminalize the work of human rights and environmental defenders is alarming, and it is done with the aim of obstructing and even preventing the legitimate exercise of defending one’s rights. 

In effect, this manipulation of the criminal justice system is intended to delegitimize and stop people from filing complaints, thus paralyzing or weakening their causes. Criminalization processes such as this one  first begin  with the filing of unfounded complaints, and are preceded by stigmatizing statements made by public officials and supported with alleged evidence that was obtained illegally, as this case demonstrates. 

We DEMAND the opening of the case against the police officers. Without further delay, the prosecutor Florencia GOMEZ must carry out the corresponding investigation to be IMMEDIATELY DISPATCHED, or withdraw from the case, at the risk of provoking more rights violations.

● We REQUEST the immediate removal of Gerardo Bulacios, who thinks he is the owner of the water, who has also been denounced for negotiations that are incompatible with his role as in the public service,, and has also benefited illicitly by taking advantage of his current position.

● And we URGE individuals, communities, organizations and the general public to PRESENT THEIR OPPOSITION to the water permit irregularly processed by MINERA ARGENTA S.A. for the Navidad Project, to EXPRESS THEMSELVES creatively and MEET ONE ANOTHER on the street.

They impact one of us, they impact us al!

They will not pass!

No is No! 

[Puede encontrar la version original aquí]