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Mahuide Bell (Popular Consultation), Loncoopué, Neuquén, Argentina


The Muhaida Bell Project was initially developed by the Provincial Corporation Mining Corporation of Neuquén (Cormine), which left environmental liabilities of the previous exploitation, of copper, which affect the daily life of the Mapuche communities that live that territory. In 2008, the company China MCC (Metallurgical Construction Corporation) intended to continue with an exploration program, with the support of the provincial government, but had a strong resistance from local communities, which had already rejected another metalliferous project (Lonco), in Lancoopué. The project had been exploited in the Cerro Three Tips, sacred place from the Mapuche indigenous worldview. To the already shaped Aval (Assembly of autoconvocados neighbors of Loncopué) joined the Assembly of Autoconvocated Neighbors of Bell Mahuida (Avacam), and the Mapuche Mellao Morales community, since the mining project was intended to settle in its territory, without having made the consultation , mandatory according to the legislation in force in the country. Local institutions were also added, such as the hospital, the presence of teachers favored that the issue was present in schools, and rural cranks and associations were also adding up. The local parish was constituted in a meeting place and information collection on the subject, and the national team of the aboriginal pastoral (Endepa) provided advice to the Mapuche community, who initiated a judicial cause for the lack of prior consultation.

The project was temporarily stopped by Amparo resources, which prevented the realization of the public audience of the project, because previous information had not been provided on it to the local population. Marches and other activities were performed on LancoPué. Finally, in 2009, and before a context of escalation of the conflict, which already had environmental organizations and human rights agencies by supporting the struggle of Loncopué in Neuquén, the provincial capital, the Superior Court of Justice (TSJ) of Neuquén was issued. The TSJ returned the First Instance court, because it had not followed the appropriate way, but it took the precautionary measure of suspending the entire administrative process until the resolution of the trial determining whether the Cormine with MCC was legal or illegal. With this decision, not only the public hearing was suspended, but the whole process.

Subsequently, the movements of Loncopué decided to carry out a consultation to the population, to PLASMAR The "Non-Mine" from an ordinance (municipal law) that prevented the realization of mining activities in the municipal ejido. In this referendum voted 72% of the registered people, from which 82% voted for the YES to the Ordinance. Unlike the plebiscite of Esquel (Chubut), the first popular consultation on the installation of a mining project in Argentina, and the second in Latin America after Tambograde (Peru), in the case of Loncoopué the consultation was binding, that is, if Half plus one of the register voted by the yes, the preliminary draft became ordinance, as happened.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Mahuide Bell (Popular Consultation), Loncoopué, Neuquén, Argentina
State or province:Neuquén.
Location of conflict:Lancopué.
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mining exploration and/or ore extraction
Specific commodities:Copper

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Mahuide bell is the only mine that is evaluated in the province, that is, it is in feasibility, ready to start working.

It is located in the Paraje de Campana Mahida, and is owned by the province (through Cormine), who signed an agreement with the Chinese company.

Mahuide bell is a small disseminated copper mine, it has 600,000 tons of copper.

Project area:66,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:7,000.
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:Metallurgical Construction Corporation (MCC) from China
Corporación Minera del Neuquén (CORMINE) from Argentina - Dueña de los derechos mineros
Relevant government actors:Provincial Government of Neuquén. Cormine Loncoopué mayor. Lancopué deliberant Council (Legislative Power). Zapala's court. Superior Court of Justice of Neuquén (TSJ) Provincial direction of mining. Minister of Territorial Development of Neuquén. Neuquén Security Minister. Municipal Commissioner Board (JUCOM). Defender of the people of Neuquén. Provincial deputies (legislators).
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Aval (Assembly of autoconvocados neighbors of Loncoopué), Avacam (Assembly of self-supporting neighbors of Mahuida bell), Mapuche Mellao Morales community. Rural Development Association (AFR) Huecú Co. National Team of Aboriginal Pastoral (Endepa) Permanent Forum of Neuquén (Foperma), Madres de Plaza de Mayo of Neuquén and Alto Valley.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsBreach of existing environmental and indigenous legislation.


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The project was slowed down by demonstrating its non-compliance with environmental and indigenous matters. A coordinated network was generated between different organizations that, also led a referendum, the second consultation carried out in Argentina. The brake on the mining project in Locopué constituted a triumph also shared by organizations of the provincial capital, which had accompanied the resistance. Jurisprudence was generated in terms of environmental and indigenous law.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

El TSJ de Neuquén falló a favor de la comunidad Mellao Morales, 2009

El Tribunal Superior de Justicia de la Provincia del Neuquén ha dictado una medida de no innovar en un expediente minero, ya que en el mismo se había omitido el derecho de consulta a una comunidad indígena (Comunidad Mapuche Mellao Morales), tal como lo establecen el Convenio 169 de la OIT, el art. 75 inc. 17 de la Constitución Nacional y el art. 53 de la Constitución de la Provincia.


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

Accion de Amparo Ambiental presentada por Juan Carlos Caminatta en la justicia de Neuquen

Edición especial NAPA´L. revista del equipo de Pastoral Aborigen. A cuatro años del referendum.

La resistencia antiminera en Loncopué (Neuquén). Una lectura desde las teorías de los movimientos sociales.

Gisela Hadad

Wagner, Lucrecia (2018). “Propuestas de inversiones chinas en territorio mapuche: resistencias a la minería metalífera en Loncopué”, Dossier “Nuevos capitalismos y transformaciones territoriales en la Región Andina" (Michiel Baud, Rutgerd Boelens y Gerardo Damonte), Estudios Atacameños: Arqueología y Antropología surandinas, Instituto de Arqueología y Antropología de la Universidad Católica del Norte (en prensa).

REPORTE sobre EL INFORME de IMPACTO AMBIENTAL presentado por la empresa EMPRENDIMIENTOS MINEROS SA (Expediente Minero N° 13595/89)

La minería a cielo abierto mantiene en alerta a Loncopué. Diario Río Negro, 15.02.2018

Elecciones de vida. La Vaca, 26/11/2011

Fiebre minera en territorio mapuche, 2009

Loncopué hizo historia con un referéndum que rechazó la megaminería. La Vaca (por Darío Aranda). 04/06/2012

Loncopué se transformó en una ciudad dividida por una mina de cobre. Una empresa de capitales chinos quiere explotarla. Compró el yacimiento a Cormine, sin licitación. Diario Río Negro, 07 DIC 2008.

Nuevo y contundente reves judicial para el proyecto en Campana Mahuida, 5 de abril de 2011.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Series of Fotos

Meta information

Last update12/06/2018
Conflict ID:728



Mapuche communities opposing mining

No a la Mina. marcha septiembre 2009. Foto de AVAL


No pasarán. Fotografía de AVAL, 2009.


Loncopué libre de megaminería, por decisión de su gente.

Mural realizado sobre la pared de la parroquia local. Foto de Lucrecia Wagner, septiembre de 2016.