Rejection of mining activity zoning law in Chubut

Rejection of mining activity zoning law in Chubut 150 150 The Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea

The Argentinian organizations of the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence express our rejection of Law XVII No. 149 on the zoning of mining activity in Chubut, passed by the Legislature of the province on December 15, 2021, and subsequently enacted by Decree No. 1285/21. While we celebrate the recent repeal of this law as an achievement of citizen mobilization, we reject and are greatly concerned by the repression exercised against demonstrators who led the protests in defense of water and the environment in general, as well as the unfortunate acts of violence that occurred during these days.

Open-pit mega-mining has harmful effects on the environment and human populations, mainly in terms of access to water, its availability, and quality. This fact is of utmost concern since water is a scarce resource in the province, and climate change scenarios project its reduction by 40% by the end of this century (CONICET – Centro Nacional Patagónico 2021). Therefore, this law represents a concrete threat to the conservation of watercourses and reservoirs for human consumption and the development of productive activities.

It is extremely important to consider that the sanctioning of the law takes place in the context of a provincial water emergency declared by Law XVI No. 148 of August 26, 2021. Likewise, its approval was carried out ignoring the General Environment Law (No. 25.675) and the Escazú agreement ratified in 2021 by the Argentinian Republic, regarding access to information, public participation, and environmental justice.

Coasts and marine environments in Chubut are key habitats for marine-coastal biodiversity, which sustains prominent economic activities such as tourism and fishing. There are numerous examples of irreversible damage caused by mining on freshwater courses and coastal-marine environments at a global level, which show the serious risk that this activity entails for the ecosystemic health of watercourses, bodies of water, and the provincial coasts.

For this reason, universities, scientific institutions, workers’ unions (including those of the fishing sector), religious organizations, indigenous peoples, civil society organizations, and society in general have expressed their opposition to the zoning and development of mega-mining in the province.

Therefore, given the repeal carried out by the Legislature and the Government of Chubut, we hope that from now on, economic development can be reconciled with genuine sustainable development for Chubut society. To this end, it will be necessary to address and transform conflicts with the participation of all those involved, without direct or institutional violence. Finally, we would like to highlight the important role played by the citizens of Chubut, who have been supporting the defense of water and the environment for decades. This case shows the enormous value citizens place on the environment, and imposes the need for authorities to genuinely adopt a serious and responsible environmental agenda.

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