By Luis Claps, Mines and Communities network

Three companies are now charging for a mining zoning bill in Chubut province, Argentina, wrestling against environmental assemblies, aboriginal communities and the people in general. Two of them have London connections: Yamana Gold (owner of the Esquel project in Chubut, banned since a local vote turned down the planned gold mine in March 2003), always listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange but Admitted to Trading on the London Stock Exchange on 13 October, 2020, and Patagonia Gold (owner of Mina Angela, a closed mine in Chubut poised to reopen if the zoning goes through), which after years on the London Stock Exchange, delisted from the AIM market on 23 July 2019, following which it completed a Reverse Takeover of Canadian-listed Hunt Mining Corp and changed its name to Patagonia Gold Corp. The company is now listed on the Toronto Venture Exchange (TSX-V) under the symbol PGDC.

Mapuche-Tehuelche communities in Southern Argentina met in an urgent Trawn (assembly) on December 8. A legislative bill seeks to impose a large-scale mining zone in their territories, omitting rights to consultation and participation provided by both the National and Provincial Constitutions.

Trelew, Argentina, December 12, 2020

Photo: An elder from the Lefimi Community holds a banner against large scale mining at a local trawn. Source: Pascual Curillán.

The urgent assembly took place in the territory of the aboriginal community Mallín de los Cual, in the vicinity of Gan Gan, with the presence of its local authorities, lonko, inan lonko and werken, taking the necessary precautions and social distancing due to covid pandemic. The Mapuche Tehuelche communities Mallín de los Cual, Los Pinos, Chacay Oeste and Laguna Fría, Taquetrén, Lagunita Salada, Cerro Bayo and Gorro Frigio, Yala Laubat and Lefimi were present at the meeting.

“The zoning envisaged by the Executive through this bill, currently in the Legislature, would directly affect the ancestral territories of the indigenous communities,” they expressed. In a document addressed to the Legislature of Chubut on November 30, the aboriginal communities demanded the Chamber to refrain from advancing the mining zoning, since “it was drafted from Buenos Aires and in violation of the rights of Indigenous Peoples”.

Since it purchased the Navidad project from Aquiline Resources in 2012, Canadian miner Pan American Silver has been a backstage lobbying company aimed at conditioning the Chubut Legislature in this matter. The Navidad silver-lead-zinc mine project is located in the central region, inhabited by dispersed Mapuche-Tehuelche communities.

Just months ago Patagonia Gold “secured ownership of Mina Angela”, a closed mid-size mine exploited in the Gastre Department up to 1990 is proposed to be reopened on a large scale. Amid the pandemic, Yamana Gold announced in April that it had agreed to let a privately held real estate and investment company acquire a 40% stake in the Suyai gold project in the area of Esquel.

Despite strong pressure from the mining lobby, led by Canadian multinationals Pan American Silver, Patagonia Gold and Yamana Gold, people know that the zoning bill is just another disguise for unsustainable and dirty mining practices. The zoning bill failed to pass a commission vote last week.

Street marches and declarations of rejection, together with claims of corruption and taking advantage of the restrictions imposed by the covid pandemic to push for legislation on non-renewable resources, are showing that there is a social consensus towards clean and environmentally friendly investments in Chubut province.

Photo: March against large scale mining and in support of the Second Initiative held in Trelew on December 4. Source: Aníbal Aguaisol.

Second Popular Initiative

In 2014, the Union of Assemblies of Communities of Chubut (UACCh) introduced the first Popular Initiative through the mechanism of direct democracy provided by the provincial constitution. Backed by 13,000 signatures, the proposal was tougher than the law 5001 and included explicit negative aspects of mining and specific minerals, such as uranium. However, the bill was later repealed by the then governor.

Again in October this year, the assemblies together with the indigenous communities, presented the Second Legislative Initiative bill at the Electoral Court of the capital of the province, Rawson, aimed at establishing parameters of environmental sustainability in mining operations and reinforcing the ban on open-pit mining passed in 2003.

The proposed Bill No. 129/20 Second Popular Initiative achieved parliamentary status on November 23rd with the support of more than 30,000 signatures. The legislative initiative also has the support of the Deliberative Councils of Madryn, Pirámides, Rawson, Esquel, Trevelin, Lago Puelo, Epuyén, El Hoyo, Río Pico and José de San Martín.

Photo: March against large scale mining and in support of the Second Initiative held in Esquel on December 4. Source: Diario Jornada.

A Document released by the Esquel Assembly called on “provincial legislators to approve the Bill No. 129/20. See short video of the march in Esquel on December 4 [EQS Notas]:

Marches took the streets in Trelew and other towns and localities in the Cordillera, mesetas and coast of Chubut.

Video of the December 4 march in support of Bill No. 129/20 Second Popular Initiative carried out in Trelew [Radio 3]:



The following Communities – Lofche, Mapuche Organisations, and Mapuche-Tehuelche leaders – say:


The governor of Chubut, Mariano Arcioni, is attempting to impose large scale mining projects on the people of Chubut province. Pan American Silver, a multinational corporation and the main lobbyist for the project, is interested in the deposits found in the north of the plateau. This territory is occupied by Mapuche and Tehuelche Communities who make use of a large part of the water basin, which would be directly affected by mining activity.

WE ARE SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE FAILURE TO CONDUCT PRIOR, FREE AND INFORMED CONSULTATION WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES as established in the National Constitution and in the 169 Agreement of the International Labour Organisation, ratified by Argentinian laws. This consultation should take place before the planning of any zoning projects or any other project that affects indigenous communities.

WE CONDEMN the acts of arbitrary arrest and institutional violence committed by the Chubut Government against people protesting mega mining. After the protest against the proposal of this mine zoning project, and in support of the People’s Initiative, Chubut’s repressive forces proceeded to detain demonstrators, among them people from the Mapuche community (peñi-lamngen mapuche). The strategy of persecution promoted by Governor Arcioni and Security Secretary Massoni against the defenders of water and life in order to protect the interests of multinational mega mining companies is evident.

Attacks, invasions and pillaging by these multinational corporations on our ancestral lands violate human rights and the rights of nature in the city of Puel Willi Mapu.

WE REJECT MEGA MINING in all its forms. Itrofill mongen, our biodiversity, is in danger and the land underneath, minche mapu, is at risk – our sacred sites, our burial grounds (chenques-eltuwe) which must be respected and which we must protect. Let’s not forget that the plateau has previously witnessed the subjugation of our sacred sites, in which a grave was dug up and moved, without the prior, free and informed consultation of the communities affected.

The COSMOVISION of the Mapuche Tehuelche people lies in the protection of our ngen mapu and the itrofill mongen (natural forces, masters of our environment and of all life that develops within nature). As indigenous peoples, our first level of knowledge comes from nature, our mother and sister who teaches us. Because of this we do not consider ourselves superior to her, but part of her. For us, each element of nature has a Newen, a force within that we, as part of nature, must ask permission from before we interfere with them, if we are really in need of doing so. For the Mapuche Tehuelche people, the land is our cultural sustenance, it is living, and it feeds the spirit of nature that we are a part of. If one element of nature is lost, an element of our culture disappears with it. Our ancient mountains must retain their sublime power and remain the guardians of thousand-year-old secrets. When they blow up a mountain, it’s not just dirt and mounds of rocks; they are killing our history, our earth soul, the home of our spirits. For this reason, both the territorial expanse called Chubut and the water of the only river that crosses it from west to east are in danger. TAIÑ LEUFU KO, TAIÑ MAPU MEW!

FROM THE DIFFERENT TERRITORIES OF WALLMAPU WE SAY Petü Mongeleiñ ! We are still alive and still standing to defend our rights to our lands and to a good life.

WE DEMAND respect and recognition of our authorities and our ways of organising. We find ourselves obligated to disrupt the current ruling system’s model of development and consumerism, the growing, insatiable outposts of mega extractive, plundering, destructive and polluting projects such as mines, dams, oil, etc. In the northern central Chubut area of the Plateau, the government claims that mining is the only solution to the social and economic problems, setting the stage for this to become reality, without generating possibilities of development for rural communities, stoking tensions between residents.

WE CONDEMN local and national governments’ historic disregard for the communities that are engaging in appropriate resistance. They have given no response to the urgent demands of these populations, empowering the mining companies to play the role of a welfare provider in the area. We see that the local government continues to manipulate and exchange bribes for goodwill in favour of mining and derail the People’s Initiative, ignoring the demands of thousands of Chubut residents. In addition, it is failing to abide by applicable laws such as Article 75 Section 17 of the National Constitution, Article 34 of the Provincial Constitution, and the International Labour Organisation’s 169 Accord which was ratified by the Argentinian state. We see that in reality these laws are not applied given that expropriations of land keep happening in the name of enriching big businesses: mines, oil companies, the tourism industry, as well as ranch owners and politicians.

Therefore, we demand:

kiñe: The full respect of the rights of indigenous peoples, including the respect of our right to free, prior and informed consent for any policy, programme, or project that affects our lands, territories, resources and wellbeing.

epu: The immediate cancellation of the Arcioni Mine Zoning project.

küla: That consideration and approval without alteration be given to the People’s Initiative.

meli: An end to the criminalisation of social protest.

In the face of the advance of mega mining, we’re still standing, and we defend the historic mandate of our kuifikeche yem (ancestors). Our territories are not up for negotiation, they are not for sale, and they will not be undermined. Water – ko – and land – mapu – free from contamination are vital to all the province’s inhabitants.

We must respect the rights of Mother Earth and protect the fabric of life which sustains us all.



Signed by:

– Mapuche Tewelche Organization NorFeleal :  Lof Santa Rosa Leleque- Lof Percy- Lof Mariano Epulef

– Cátedra Abierta de Pueblos Originarios – Patagonia University UNPSJB- Trelew

– Chacay Oeste-Laguna Fría Community

– Yalalaubat Community

–  Lof Mapuche-Tehuelche Otron Lafken (Sarmiento)

– Cátedra Libre de Pueblos Originarios, Afrodescendientes y Migrantes -UNPSJB- Comodoro Rivadavia.

– Lof Katrawletuaiñ – Rawson

– Mapu Zomo – Puerto Madryn

– Lofche Nahueluen Km 8 – Comodoro Rivadavia

– Tehuelche Mapuche Community Sacamata Liempichun. Paraje Payaniyeo (Río Senguer)

– Pewmahue Community – Lago Musters (Sarmiento)

– Ancalao Community (Ñorquinco- Chubut)

– Mapuche Community Radio Petü Mogeleiñ (El Maitén)

– Lof Cayun Panicheo -Valle del Puelo

– Lof Newentuaiñ inchiñ (Costa del Lepa)

– Comunidad Atumalen (Paso de Indios)

– Comisión Pu Kimelfe autoconvocadxs para implementación de EIB (Chubut)

– Lof Ñiripil – Pangui WInkul (Cerro Leon)

– Mauro Millán – Lof Pillañ Mawiza

– Pu lof en Resistencia Cushamen

– Movimiento Autónomo del Puelmapu (MAP)

– Lof Cayun (Lago Puelo)

– Lof Pu Folil (Comodoro Rivadavia)

– Mapuche Tehuelche Community of Vuelta del Rio

– Lof mapuche Cañio- Pangui Wingkul (Cerro Leon)

– Lof Tramaleo- Loma Redonda

– Ñamkulawen Lof- Comodoro Rivadavia

– Lof Lafken Winkul mapu (Relmu Lafken)

– Epu Lafken. Mapuche Community (Los Toldos- pcia Bs As)

– Lof Llanten Ka Huenu – Füscüg Menoco (Rio Negro )

– Wichan Üll (grupo de Arte y musica mapuche) Füscüg Menoco (Rio Negro )

– Lof Piutrillan (Puerto Deseado – Santa Cruz)

– Lof Pichiñan

–  Soraya Guitart DNI 22.239.948