By Darío Aranda
“Mining is a productive activity that the national government supports and develops. The extreme positions end up politicizing and discrediting productive activities that, when done seriously, bring well-being to the community ”. The phrases, in line with the speech of the companies, were said by the Minister of the Environment, Sergio Bergman, during his visit to Chubut. Since his inauguration, Bergman visited socio-environmental bastions such as Esquel, Andalgalá, Jáchal and La Rioja, with proposals for “dialogue” to advance extractivism. Eight months after his inauguration, the assemblies questioned them harshly. They also defined the minister. "He is a lobbyist for the mining companies," said Rosario Carranza, from the El Algarrobo de Andalgalá Assembly.
In late July, Bergman visited Trelew and Rawson. He explained that the Government promotes "serious debates" on mining and pointed out that the problem is the "lack of controls." He pointed out that it was "inconsistent" to oppose mining in a province with an oil history.
Companies and officials promote the Christmas lead and silver project in Chubut, in the hands of the Pan American Silver companies. Located between Gan Gan and Gastre, the undertaking has already been rejected by a dozen indigenous communities and assemblies throughout the province. On August 4 there were mobilizations in different cities of Chubut in rejection of the new attempts by the mining companies and governments.
In Esquel, an emblematic place where in 2003 80 percent of the population voted against the activity, there were demonstrations despite the rain and freezing temperatures. “We are once again in this square to express our repudiation of polluting and looting mega-mining. We demand the treatment of the Popular Initiative bill (presented by the neighbors) to stop mining companies forever ”, highlighted the document from the Esquel Neighborhood Assembly.
For their part, the Mendoza Assemblies for Pure Water (Ampap) repudiated "the continuity of the extractivist model" and denounced the attempts to deepen the "looting of mega-mining", which began with the removal of retentions last December. "But we are more concerned and alert that the ministries in charge of Juan José Aranguren (Energy) and Sergio Bergman (Environment) are working together to continue expanding the territories devastated by mega-mining," warned Marcelo Giraud, from Ampap.
Giraud affirmed that Bergman seeks "to break the opposition of the assemblies, communities and peoples of the Andean provinces." One way in this sense is the attempt by the governments, together with the mining companies, to repeal the laws that stop the activity, such as 7722 (in Mendoza) and 9526 (in Córdoba).
The government intends to move forward with the Potasio Río Colorado mining projects (of the denounced multinational Vale) and San Jorge. The Mendoza assemblies questioned the actions of the provincial Undersecretary of Energy and Mining, Emilio Guiñazú, promoter of "dialogue tables for sustainable mining."
Andalgalá has known about mega-mining for twenty years. There, Bajo la Alumbrera works and they promote the new Agua Rica project, rejected by large sectors of the population. Minister Bergman visited the city last May. And he repeated what he had done in Jáchal and Chubut: he proposed dialogue and "mining with controls", and asked to "respect the law" to advance with the activity. Rosario Carranza, from the El Algarrobo Assembly in Andalgalá, said that is why the minister "is a lobbyist for the mining companies." “His visit was disrespectful. It repeats all the same arguments of the companies and questions our knowledge, experiences and proposals ”, he explained.
Respect for the law is Bergman's recurring argument. In Andalgalá they suggested that there are key laws: Glacier Law (you cannot carry out activities that put these water sources at risk) and the precautionary principle of the General Environmental Law (given the risk of contamination and health effects, you must take preventive measures and stop risky activities).
"It was clear that he did not come to listen to us, he came to seek consensus for mining," said Carranza and recalled that Andalgalá - where every Saturday they march in the city square, there were roadblocks and even people of rejection - has already expressed against extractive activity.
The Assembly of Citizens for Life of Chilecito (La Rioja) was also issued last week. “The government of Mauricio Macri and Governor Sergio Casas are not only a continuation of the previous ones, but they also deepen the extractivist model that consists of handing over the country's natural resources to transnational companies, regardless of the economic and environmental costs that the peoples and future generations ”, he declared. The members of the Assembly also pointed out: "The visit of the media Sergio Bergman, the main lobbyist of the mining companies, is a sign of the decision of the national government that our province becomes a mining company at all costs."
Last July, the Jáchal No se Toca Assembly traveled to Buenos Aires to demand the closure and remediation of the Veladero mine (which in September spilled more than a million liters of cyanide solution into rivers in San Juan). They also demanded the application of the Glacier Law and questioned the Ianiglia (Argentine Institute of Nivology, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences), which, according to the same law, should have completed the inventory of glaciers throughout the country.