Lavaca.org – Canadian miner Yamana Gold has signed an agreement with an Argentine group led by Israeli Eduardo Elsztain to revive the Suyai gold mining project in Esquel. The activity is prohibited in the province of Chubut since Esquel itself, precisely, there was a plebiscite (March 2003) that rejected by 82% of the votes the intention to install a mining company, at that time Meridian Gold. A WhatsApp that arrives from Esquel with the news poses three words to Lavaca: “again the drama”.
Elsztain is the owner of IRSA, the largest real estate group in Argentina with shopping malls such as Abasto and Alto Palermo, Patio Bullrich, the Llao hotel, Cresud (one million hectares of fields) and a third of the Banco Hipotecario, among many other things. “Urban, soybean and financial extractivism now seeks to be a miner,” states in the note that we reproduce below the site No to the Mine.
Elsztain has already been entering mining in Salta, San Juan, Río Negro and Santa Cruz through the Austral Gold company, and has control of Israel’s largest economic group, the IDB (Israel Discount Bank).
While the world is awaiting the pandemic, Yamana Gold reported that Elsztain, with his partner Saúl Zang, will invest $ 2 million to join the project as a first step to reach 40% of the share package.
What will be the role of the new partners? Yamana Gold explains: “The Argentine group will assume responsibility for all environmental, social and government (ESG) matters and, in particular, will lead the permitting efforts aimed at advancing the project through its different stages of development.” The obvious translation of the sentence is: lobby. Elsztain will be in charge of trying to make the hitherto unsuccessful Yamana Gold project possible.
It may be remembered that last December President Alberto Fernández announced that progress would be made with mining in both Chubut and Mendoza. He did so in a meeting before the Argentine Business Association, speaking before figures such as Paolo Rocca (Techint), Héctor Magnetto (Clarín) and Eduardo Elsztain, among others.
Despite these effusions, the maneuver to repeal the Mendoza law collided with a historic social mobilization that slowed down the mining outpost, as reflected in the MU magazine: https://www.lavaca.org/mu145/el-mendoaguazo/
In the case of Chubut, the news reaches a province devastated by the crisis that mixes years of macrism, the government or misgovernment of Mr. Mariano Arcioni, and the pandemic: a typical strategy of what Naomi Klein called “The Shock Doctrine”, that the corporations use with state guarantee to increase power, concentration and profits, and to advance with extractive projects before societies shocked by other problems. The company’s trick this time is to present Suyai as an underground project that will not use cyanide.
Everything indicates that a conflictive situation is looming again since the citizens of Esquel and Chubut have historically rejected this type of project as long as they do not have a social license.
They have suffered legislative fraud ( https://www.lavaca.org/notas/fraude-a-cielo-abierto-la-maniobra-para-habilitar-la-mineria-en-chubut/ ), state repressions / patoteras, ( http : //www.lavaca.org/notas/violencia-minera-en-chubut-patotas-de-la-uocra-golpean-a-vecinos/ )
And even espionage to the assemblymen by the Federal Intelligence Agency ( https://www.lavaca.org/notas/esquel-espionaje-de-organismos-de-inteligencia-contra-cinos-y-ley-antiterrorista-contra -the-mapuche / )
A first symptom of what is to come is this note from the prestigious website No a la Mina , one of the main international news references on the mining issue in Argentina and the world, which we reproduce in full.
Mining Stalking Esquel: Yamana formed a partnership for the Suyai project
The Canadian mining company reported that it closed an agreement with Eduardo Elsztain and Saúl Zang, Argentine businessmen who will obtain participation in the venture if they manage to modify the set of laws that prohibit the activity and, above all, if they do not collide with a people that has already proven to know defend your territory.
We review the history of the project, its name change and who are the entrepreneurs who today are betting on making it happen.
Yamana Gold and Suyai
Yamana Gold is a multinational company based in Canada, already known in Argentina. It owns the Cerro Moro deposits and projects in Santa Cruz, Gualcamayo in San Juan, Agua Rica in Catamarca (stopped by justice after a lawsuit filed by the population) and the Suyai project. It also holds a 12% stake in La Alumbrera, a company with complaints of contamination, and was reported in Chile and Honduras for leaks in its deposits.
Suyai is the name with which the company presents the project internationally in the Cordón Esquel. In 2011, residents realized that the project, already rejected by the famous 2003 plebiscite and prohibited by provincial legislation that same year, was being secretly promoted. In addition, the project is located in a red area protected by the Forest Law and violates the Glacier Law according to independent studies on permafrost .
The name change is one more strategy of mining companies and governments that do not give up: in 2014 they tried to make the Popular Initiative a mining law, in 2018 the minister Juan José Aranguren offered Esquel at a mining fair in Canada; in 2019 the outgoing government added Chubut to the Unified Mining Cadastre and the incoming government told businessmen that they “had achieved” mining in Chubut. But the laws are still in force, and they have not yet accomplished anything.
New attempt: this time with new “local” partners
Yamana Gold announced the signing of an agreement in which an Argentine business group, paying an initial amount of two million dollars, will assume responsibility for all environmental, social and government issues and, in case of project approval, will have the right to acquire up to a maximum of 40% of participation in it. In other words, the local group will risk obtaining the social license, the environmental permit, the modification of the provincial laws and everything that the successive companies that own the project (Meridian Gold and Yamana Gold) have not been able to achieve since 2002 to the date.
And who is this group? It is the largest real estate company in Argentina (shopping malls in Abasto, Alto Palermo, Patio Bullrich and Hotel Llao, among others), which has outstanding investments in banking (one third of Banco Hipotecario) and agriculture (Cresud + one million hectares). Urban, soy and financial extractivism is now also seeking to be a miner. In the country we know it as IRSA (Investments and Representations Sociedad Anónima), but it has a strong participation in the New York Stock Exchange as well as in the management of one of the first three banks in Israel, the country where it has bet the most in recent years with chains supermarket, real estate business and technological development.
Its president, Eduardo Elsztain, one of the richest men in the country, and his vice president, Saúl Zang, have been awarded in the business world for trading on the stock markets for the past 25 years. These are entrepreneurs eager to take advantage of economic fluctuations to buy when prices are low and sell later: Elsztain knows the famous phrase that crises are opportunities well. This may be true for entrepreneurs like him, more than for those who really suffer crises.
A context for speculators to speculate
In the midst of a pandemic, the capitalist world seems to be falling apart. But in reality, many are winning and the gains for some do not stop, they may even increase. In times of uncertainty, properties and precious metals are presented as the possibility of investment in the face of uncertainty: their price does not drop. This means that, as the price of oil collapses to historical levels, the value of gold rises, and businessmen begin to take an interest in projects that until recently were unfeasible, such as the one in Esquel, where today they assumed the management of community relations and they commit to obtaining the legislative and environmental permits that they lack today.
The situation at the provincial level in Chubut is distressing. Structural, historical problems have led us to a crisis that rulers strive to worsen. In the last three years, almost uninterruptedly, the government has impoverished its workers and delayed the payment of wages, leading the rest of the provincial economy to collapse. Provincial debt taking acts as it does throughout the old third world: debt escapes, it is not invested, and it is paid by exporting nature, conditioning the territory to more debt. The historical fall in the price of oil seems to come as the coup de grace to a province that seems, it seeks to impose mega mining as a way out that we know is not. And if not, just look at the mining provinces that are far from being an example of development and well-being.