“We are not allowed to speak”: Some thoughts about a consultation process around lithium mining in Northern Argentina
ESCOSTEGUY, MELISA; CLAVIJO, ARACELI; PAZ, WALTER FERNANDO DIAZ; HUFTY, MARC; SEGHEZZO, LUCAS
Extractive Industries and Society
Lugar: Amsterdam; Año: 2022 vol. 11
In October 2021, the government of Catamarca, a province located in Northern Argentina, announced the beginning of a consultation process to debate about a lithium mining project located in the Salar del Hombre Muerto. According to several laws and international treaties passed by Argentina, before any program, project or law that affect Indigenous peoples, their territories and resources, a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) consultation has to be held. In Argentina, the provinces are in charge of controlling all mining activities and carrying out consultation processes. However, in many cases the provinces have not upheld this right to consultation and local communities have regularly protested. Therefore, consultation processes often take place in conflictive scenarios. The aim of this Viewpoint is to illustrate, through an ethnographic approach, how concretely a consultation process around lithium mining was carried out in Catamarca. Our findings show that the fairness of this particular consultation process was compromised by limits imposed on access to transparent information and by barriers imposed to local participation. We conclude that in order to to move towards a fair energy transition it is imperative to address the vulnerability of local communities, to guarantee greater transparency of information about lithium projects, and to hold FPIC according to the spirit and the letter of international conventions.