Cellulose industry in Gualeguaychu, Uruguay and Argentina


The Government of Uruguay approved in 2006 the building of two pulp mills in the city of Fray Bentos, along a bank of the Uruguay River. The first was to be managed by the Finnish company Metsa Botnia, while the Spanish ENCE had planned to build a second plant near the Finnish one but later announced it was studying plans to set up a site in Conchillas, the south-west region of Colonia, Uruguay. The activities started in 2007. The two mills were expected to produce up to 2 million tons of cellulose pulp per year, threatening the surrounding area with becoming one of the most polluted territories in Uruguay. On the Argentine bank of the river is the town of Gualeguaychu, crossed by the Gualeguaychu River, a tributary of the Uruguay River, and which would suffer the direct consequences of any pollution provoked by the two pulp mills’ activities. The construction of the pulp mills was strongly opposed by the Uruguayan and Argentinean people. The bridge between Argentina and Uruguay at Gualeguaychu was closed down several years by the citizens movement on the Argentine side which is articulated by the Citizens Environmentalist Assembly of Gualeguaych. The collective was founded in April 2005 and its mobilization is still ongoing.

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Basic Data
NameCellulose industry in Gualeguaychu, Uruguay and Argentina
ProvinceEntre Rios
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Chemical industries
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe plants are expected to produce up to 2 million tons of cellulose pulp per year.
Level of Investment (in USD)1800000000
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date2002
Company Names or State EnterprisesEnce from Spain
Botnia from Finland
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Argentina, Government of Uruguay, ICJ - The Netherlands, DINAMA - Uruguay, MVOTMA - Uruguay, Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development - Argentina
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCitizens Environmentalist Assembly of Gualeguaych (Asamblea Ciudadana Ambiental Gualeguaychú )
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
The bridge between Argentina and Uruguay at Gualeguaychu was closed down several years by the citizens movement on the Argentinean side.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Global warming, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesThe stop of the activity and a compensation for the damages caused.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The Argentinian Government presented a lawsuit to the International Court of Justice, but the sentence in 2010 was that the paper mill has to respect all the environmental regulations and is allowed to continue its activity.
Sources and Materials

The 1975 Treaty between Argentina and Uruguay.


Tree plantations: Impacts and struggles. World Rainforest Movement. 1999

Pulp mills. From monocultures to industrial pollution. World Rainforest Movement. 2005.

Plantations are not forests. World Rainforest Movement. 2003

Plantations campaign. Pulpwood plantations: a growing problem. World Rainforest Movement. 1999

Maquillaje verde. Anlisis crtico de la certificacin de monocultivos de rboles en Uruguay por el FSC. Carrere, Ricardo. World Rainforest Movement. 2006


Se fue ENCE, pero sigue en pie el proyecto, Fernandez, N., 19/05/2009
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Parque de la paz para Argentina y Uruguay, Perasso, V., 21/05/2009, BBC Mundo
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Asamblea Ciudadana Ambiental Gualeguaychú website
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Marcha del 26 de Abril 2015, Asamblea Ciudadana Ambiental Gualeguaychú
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La Argentina recurrirá a la Corte de La Haya por el conflicto de la pastera que opera en el río Uruguay, Telam, 13/06/2014
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Conflicto entre Argentina y Uruguay por la papelera UPM vuelve a La Haya , Gubin, A., LaGranEpoca, 14/06/2014
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Media Links

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Other Documents

The UPM-Botnia paper mill on the Uruguayan-Argentinian border lanacion.com.ar
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A 2006 mass mobilization on the frontier bridge near the paper mill site territoriodigital.com
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update17/04/2018