After five consecutive days of protests and roadblocks across Argentina’s Chubut province against extractivism, on December 20, the provincial governor, Mariano Arcioni, finally repealed the ‘Mining Activity Zoning Law’ that paved the way for mega-mining in the province. Arcioni called for a plebiscite for citizens to express their opinion on this matter.
“I deeply respect those who have demonstrated peacefully these days … we have decided to repeal the law and promote a plebiscite at the provincial level to listen to all the voices of the people. During this time, I will open a new process of social dialogue with all the actors involved in this project, whether they are for or against it,” the governor wrote in a series of tweets.
Last week, on December 15, with 14 votes in favor and 11 against, Chubut’s Provincial Legislature approved a new zoning law that authorized cyanide-free mining exploration in the Telsen and Gastre departments. The next day, the governor promulgated it, provoking widespread popular discontent and a wave of massive social protests across the province.
Numerous civil society organizations and environmental groups demanded the immediate withdrawal of the law, raising concerns over environmental wreckage, health problems and water crisis that follow mining activities.
Meanwhile, the citizens condemned that the law was approved without a prior popular consultation, and that it benefited the Canadian mining company Pan American Silver, which wants to start a multi-million project, called Navidad, for the extraction of silver in the province’s central plateau. In 2013, Chubut passed a law that prohibits open-pit mining and the use of cyanide in mineral processing. This norm hampered the development of the Navidad project.
Following the abrogation of the law, thousands of people took to the streets of the provincial capital, Rawson, to celebrate the victory of their struggle. During the last decade, a strong pro-environmental movement has strengthened in Argentina, and Argentinians have blocked a number of such laws in recent years, especially regarding water-intensive mining.