Oil Companies, Environment and Mapuche Communities

Oil Companies, Environment and Mapuche Communities

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By Alfredo Seguel

The actions of the Logko Puran Mapuche Community, aimed at putting an end to the exploitation of oil fields on their lands by a company in light of the serious damage caused, leave on the table the difficult situation faced by the Mapuche in their own territory in the face of the oil companies.

Invasion and destruction in Puelmapu - Argentina

The actions of the Mapuche Community Logko Puran, located 20 km from Cutral Co, Neuquen province, Argentina, aimed at ending the exploitation of oil fields on their lands by a company due to the serious damage caused, again the table the difficult situation that the Mapuche must face in their own territory before the oil companies

The Puelche community in Cutral Có for several years has been exercising various forms of mobilization against the company Pioneer Natural Resources, which has been awarded the exploitation of the deposits in this area, granted by the government of Sobisch of the province of Neuquén. One of them was the one that occurred in the blockades carried out in November 2001. Already at that time, the Mapuche families denounced the serious contamination for people and animals, which ended with strong repressive measures by the Argentine police as a reply.

However, last December, the events became greater. On the 28th of that month, the anti-riot police forces (UESPO) violently attacked the Mapuche families who were blocking roads in their territory on roads used by the company. As a result of the repression, Carlos Marifil was wounded with a lead bullet when he tried to defend a 69-year-old woman who was dragged and violated by the uniformed men. (1)

Pioneer Natural Resources, has also been denounced by individuals. Such is the case that occurred in February 2003, where the owner of a field located in Fernández Oro, in whose subsoil there is a hydrocarbon deposit, denounced the oil company that exploits the area for contamination of the land before the federal Justice. The owner, Miguel Angel Tomás, denounced the public opinion "First I made a police report because they were polluting the field. They threw the oiled earth into a 200 meter per cent pool. Even in some places, the water was draining into the river Negro. A few months later, I made the same complaint but in federal justice, "said the owner of the field (2). These complaints were for land contamination; for damages and for the payment of servitude, which reflects the irresponsibility of this company in environmental matters.

But, while the communities in Puelmapu once again defend themselves, the oil companies continue to increase their profits. In the case of the American Pioneer Natural Resources Company (NYSE: PXD), it increased its production of Argentine natural gas considerably, taking advantage of Argentina's low operating costs and high gas prices due to the implementation of a decree that gradually increases them. during these years. Indeed, according to Pioneer. prices are expected to rise to US $ 1.00 per thousand cubic feet in 2005, and to return to pre-devaluation levels in 2006. (3)

The Pioneer Natural Resources in Cutral Có is not an isolated event, it has been a repeated story in the province of Neuquen about the contamination of the soil, air and water, as well as the socio-cultural impact on the Mapuche communities. One of the most upsetting cases is that of Loma de la Lata, with one of the largest deposits in South America, where some 25 families that make up Kaxipayiñ and Paynemil, with more than a hundred inhabitants, must live with the 65 wells that they operate gas venting pipelines and lighters in their territory, the objective of which is the extraction, purification and distribution of natural gas. The gas supply is produced mainly to the urban centers of Argentina and gas is exported to Chile.

The deposit is exploited by the multinational REPSOL / YPF and its concession is another fact that is repeated again in relation to the concessions granted by the Government of Neuquen to oil companies and that further stresses the conflicts, since the provincial government of Neuquén granted Repsol-YPF the concession that in principle had a contract until 2.017 to exploit loma la lata, which was extended by 10 years, without considering the health and environmental conditions and the rights of the communities, adding the complaints of irregularities and unlawful in said administrative procedure, which is pursued to date by various instances that demand the absolute nullity of the contract (4).

Pollution in the population and ecosystems of Loma de la lata is serious. the technicians of the consulting firm of German origin Umweltschutz Nord Argentina SRL (5) established in their report that the individuals of the two communities have levels of presence of "toxic elements" above normal. The report notes that high values ​​were found "especially for aluminum, manganese, thallium". It is also indicated that "some significantly high values ​​for lead, cadmium, arsenic and nickel were found". In the case of aluminum, high values ​​were detected in 11 people, five women and six men.

A case that moved Argentine public opinion was that of a young pregnant woman, a partner of one of the members of the Mapuche community, whose unborn child suffered malformation (anancephaly), absence of brain and skull, a fact that was related to the pollution that affects the hydrocarbon exploitation area of ​​Loma de la Lata. (6), to which it is added that young animals from the place had already been born with problems for years (7).

The loma de la lata case was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the OAS in August 2002, represented by the werkén of the C.O.M Verónica Huilipán on behalf of the families of Kaxipayiñ and Paynemil. Likewise, the affected Mapuche families are currently suing the Repsol-YPF company for 445 million dollars in respect of the damages they suffered in their territory as a result of the hydrocarbon exploitation. (8).

In general, in the province of Neuquen, there are multiple pending issues on protection and repair plans on issues such as: soil and water remediation; revegetation; wildlife repopulation; soil restoration and erosion control; zoning of archaeological areas; quality certification and completion of tasks; the extreme control and domination of the territory by the oil companies to the detriment of the rights of the Mapuche communities; Dismemberment, denaturalization and Mapuche cultural loss, among other damages and impacts that continue to increase,

But, regardless of any repair, restoration, mitigation or compensation measure, in the face of costs caused by oil companies, which even many of them are considered irreparable, the underlying problem for the communities is the refusal to exercise their rights for control and administration its territoriality, its resources and biodiversity; the lack of political control through their original authorities; or the limitations for the application of Mapuche Law and respect for their worldview.

The Argentine State and its authorities have not duly assumed their responsibility, whose conflict has always been classified as a problem between individuals, which prevents a real and effective understanding.

Equality before the law and access to opportunities, the right to disagree, self-determination of the type of development, participation, opposition to activities and actions that have negative consequences are many times forbidden premises for communities and that often denote in racist attitudes, which is repeated in many places of the Mapuche territory, both in Chile and Argentina and as it happens with the communities affected by the oil companies.

The need for environmental justice and full recognition of Mapuche Rights are still stagnant issues in Argentina, despite some instruments tending to this, such as ILO Convention 169 or constitutional recognition, which have served to substantiate complaints but not to change the conditions and limitations in the case of the oil companies and the Mapuche communities on their territories and lack of protection of resources, such as the subsoil.

* Member of the Association of young technicians and professionals Konapewman of Temuco. (2005) .-
Mapuexpress - Informative Mapuche

1.- See press releases and reports Argentina Indymedia Indigenous peoples.
2.-. El Clarín newspaper report from Argentina, February 2003.
3.- Source: Julian Dowling-Bnamericas.
4.- The agreement to extend the concession "with peaceful use and enjoyment" until November 14, 2027 is signed by the Minister of Economy and the other parties on 12.05.2000 and is perfected by Decree PEN 1252, dated 28 December 2000.
5.- evaluation of cultural / environmental damage due to oil activity in the region. Loma la lata / Neuquen? 2001. Made by Umweltshutz de argentina S.R.L.
6.- The event occurred in May 2002, where the authorization of an abortion was even judicially requested. The woman was a minor, 17 years old.
7.- Interview with Verónica Huilipán, Werkén C.O.M. Neuwkén.
8.- The lawsuit against the transnational was filed in April 2002 and has not yet been resolved.
* Puelmapu: eastern Mapuche territory (Argentina)

Video: The Environmental Partnership: Who We Are (June 2022).


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