Elder hurt in clash between Argentinian Indigenous community, police over mining project

Catamarca police clash with Peñas Negras Indigenous community. (Image by Agencia Tierra Viva, Twitter/X.)

Representatives from the Peñas Negras Indigenous community, in northwestern Argentina, clashed with heavily armed police officers who were escorting Elevado Gold personnel up the Alto de Salle hill, in the Catamarca province.

The hill, situated more than 4,000 metres above sea level north of the department of Belén, almost borders the province of Salta and hosts the Alto El Mulato mining project.

As the executives from the Australian miner and the police were heading up, residents blocked the way, arguing that the project was moving forward without their free, prior and informed consent.

They rejected the fact that the Catamarca Mining Ministry renewed the company’s exploration permit, even though the community agreed in a public assembly that it would not consent to the mining project.

As the skirmish was taking place, the Belén public prosecutor, Marina Villagra, ordered the provincial police to take action. They shot the protesters with rubber bullets and severely hurt 80-year-old resident Félix Escalante.

According to local media, this is not the first confrontation between police and Peñas Negras residents.

On March 27, the local chief, Sebastián Gutiérrez, and other community members took the complaint to the Belén Prosecutor’s Office. They exposed a series of violent situations they have been victims of and said that both police and people from other communities hired by the company visit the area regularly to confront and harass them, as well as to destroy their property and steal their farm animals.

The chief also said that he requested a hearing with the Catamarca Security Secretariat but received no response.

“We denounce that the Province is complicit in this violent situation that the Indigenous Community of Peñas Negras is enduring,” a communiqué issued by the local leaders reads. “Our rights to prior, free and informed consultation and self-determination are being disrespected.”


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