The struggle against mega-mining in Chubut (Padre Tono)
I am Father Tono, Salesian priest in the North-Central Chubut Plateau. I live and know the reality and the people by their face, their age, and by the rigour of the climate and the elements. Many have worked on the fields, have lived against wind and snow, sun and drought, have been born, lived, and aged on the plateau.
The mega-mining parties accuse us, those who oppose strip mining with explosives and chemicals, of being fed by the government, of not living in the plateau, of not understanding mining, of having an easy and secured life.
It’s not that way, mega-mining misters, a lot of us live and share the plateau’s life, dreams, fights, and hopes. A lot of us do not agree with mega-mining and the extraction of minerals from our soil.
The lack of work hurts us, and we are aware of it. We raise our voice towards the government, commune leaders, and those who have the capital to make the countryside work, to support with animals small producers, to insist landowners to open their fields for sheep, goat, cow, and mare farming.
If mega-mining starts to pollute the soil, it takes away our only source of water to survive.
Mega-mining as a developmental strategy for the North-Central Plateau, one if the most deterred in Patagonia, is a myth and a lie. It does not create local and sustainable jobs as it’s said.
On the other hand, it’s said that they will give job to five thousand people, a lot of them, almost all foreign. In a small town, for example, Gan Gan, of around nine hundred people we tell them that they’ll absolutely lose their identity, their culture, their way of life, their peace. It will be some kind of “Wild West”, where the one who rules is not the state, but the mining corporations.
In the plateau we’re alone and bereft of everything, except for our dignity. Living there is hard. But we love our land. Aboriginal communities, understood and supported by the Agreement 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), endorsed by the national government, demands against this kind of extractive entrepreneurship and possible developments a PREVIOUS CONSULTATION with said mapuche and tehuelche communities. Previous consultation, whoch did not take place despite the mining company having been made aware of it. I demand the total respect, without pressures for the decision of the communities that form the indigenous groups, mapuche and tehuelche, in the plateau.
The communities, from what I know and have talked about with them, reject mega-mining because they want their land, water, and air to be respected. For their traditions to be respected, their worldview, and their identity.
The Navidad (“Christmas”) project takes place over aboriginal land, if not, why did they desecrate and take away the Chenque and move it to Blancuntre?
I fully support the popular initiative that wishes to unease legislators, so that once and for all they discover the power of popular initiatives and legislate for the people, confirming the respect and humane use of water, land, and air, and they’re not left at the hands of companies to pillage and pollute.
Water is more valuable than gold, water sustains life.
No means no.
Father Tonso (sdb) – Gan Gan, August 4th 2020
In 2014 the communitarian assemblies of Chubut managed to present a bill to prevent mega-mining in the province. The legislature distorted it to the point that it never was applied and was derogated in 2016. These days, a call for the second popular initiative was launched.
Translation: Massimiliano Tron, Freelance Translator. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org