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Cellulose Factory Celulosa Aurauco S.A., Valdivia, Chile

Celulosa Aurauco S.A. was held accountable for the ecological disaster which decimated black-necked swans' population.


The construction of a pulp and paper factory, Celulosa Aurauco S.A., using highly toxic chemicals next to the riverbed of the Cruces River, which is the essential water source for the whole valley and the nearby RAMSAR Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary, caused an immediate wave of protests from local communities and environmental associations, struggling to safeguard the Protected Areas extraordinary biodiversity.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Cellulose Factory Celulosa Aurauco S.A., Valdivia, Chile
State or province:X Region Los Lagos
Location of conflict:Valdivia
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Cellulose
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The project envisaged the construction of a factory for wood-processing to produce pulp and paper which, by exploiting pine and eucalyptus plantations, planned to create an estimated 550,000 tons of unbleached Kraft cellulose per year.

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Level of Investment:1045000000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2004
Company names or state enterprises:Celulosa Arauco S.A. from Chile
Relevant government actors:CONAMA - Chile, Government of Chile, Consejo de Defensa del Estado
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The Citizen Movement Action Group for the Swans, Action for the Swans of Valdivia/APC - Acción por los Cisnes, The Lonko Council of Pikunwijimapu, The Tralco Indigenous Community, The Steel Workers Trade Union Association of Valdivia, OLCA - Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales, Valdivia local community, José de la Mariquina local community, Lanco local community, Loncoche local community, Mehuin local community, World Wildlife Fund [WWF], Mehuin Fishermen association
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Noise pollution, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Global warming, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsCarlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary, RAMSAR Site
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Accidents, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Because there has been irreversible damage to the environment and citizens. But their has been succesful curt case 2013 blaming the factory for pollution and death of the Black-necked Swans.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

RAMSAR Convention on wet lands
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Aproximacion Critica al Modelo Forestal Chileno: Impactos de la Produccion de Celulosa. OLCA. 1999
[click to view]

Mehuin, Sustentabilidad y Resistencia. Lecciones de una Comunidad Organizada. OLCA. 1999
[click to view]

Chile: Pulp mill destroy biodiversity and people’s livelihoods. WRM's bulletin Nº 104, March 2006.
[click to view]

Contexto economico y social de las plantaciones forestales en Chile: el caso de la Comuna de Lumaco, region de la Araucania. World Rainforest Movement. 2005
[click to view]

Informe de Observaciones y Recomendaciones, WWF, Chile, 2005
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Final Report of the Consultive Commission RAMSAR, April 2005
[click to view]

Final report of the Chilean Austral University (UACH), April 2005
[click to view]

Celulosa Arauco en Valdivia: El desastre ambiental en el Río Cruces, resultado del modelo forestal chileno, L. Cuenca Berger, OLCA
[click to view]

Lucio Cuenca: "Con este categórico fallo, Celco debería cerrar su proyecto", 31/07/2013
[click to view]

Celulosa Arauco no apelará condena por severo daño ambiental en río Cruces de Valdivia, 22/08/2013
[click to view]

Condenan a Celulosa Arauco por desastre ambiental en Río Cruces de Valdivia el 2004, 27/06/2013
[click to view]

Chile: Pulp mill destroy biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, World Rainforest Movement
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Tragedia de los cisnes de Valdavia Part 2 (Spanish, German Subtitles)
[click to view]

Tragedia de los cisnes de Valdavia Part 1 (Spanish, German subtitles)
[click to view]

Other documents

Black-necked swans in Cruces River Veoverde
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lucie Greyl & Joan Martinez Alier & Talia Waldron
Last update04/01/2016
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