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Heilongian/Beidahuang in Rio Negro, Argentina


On October 15th, 2010, Miguel Saiz's government and a 'Chinese State Company' � Heilongjian State Farms - reached an agreement for irrigation rights, access to the San Antonio Port, and to lease 320,000 hectares in the Rio Negro Valley, Argentia.

The land is relatively arid and at the time of the agreement was covered in native vegetation grazed sparsely by local farmers' cows.

$20 million was immediately invested by the Chinese companies to install irrigation and test the plots. No environmental impact study or public hearings took place before the agreement, which violates multiple national statues.

Environmental organizations, citizens, and government officials together legally opposed the project, which the judge of the Superior Court of Justice of the province upheld on November 24th, 2011 nullifying the agreement.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Heilongian/Beidahuang in Rio Negro, Argentina
State or province:Rio Negro, Patagonia
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Water access rights and entitlements
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Wheat
Rape Seed, vineyards, feed

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The firm attempted to develop 320,000 hectares of previously unfarmed land for irrigated crop production on a lease for 20 years, as well as access an investment proposal to build a new terminal in the Port area of San Antonio Oeste and access to the port for a period of 50 years with automatic renovation, with the promise of the creation of 100,000 jobs.

The government would also facilitate the usage of San Antonio Oeste airport. The agreement stipuilated provincial taxes exemption, notarization and trade mark fees. It also envisaged cooperation in seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, oils and agricultural machinery (1).

The deal would have entailed making individual contracts with private land-owners rather than purchasing or leasing land.

Project area:320,000
Level of Investment:1,500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:15/10/2010
Company names or state enterprises:Beidahuang Economic Group from China
Cresud SA from Argentina
Heilongjiang State Farms from China
Relevant government actors:Governor of Rio Negro, Miguel Saiz, Sodero Nievas, Deputy Silvia Horne

Rio Negro Legislative Body,
International and Finance InstitutionsInter-American Development Bank (IADB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:FUNAM,, Foro Permanente por una Vida Digna, Associacion Ecologista Piuke de Bariloche, Catholic Church, Greenpeace Argentina, San Javier Cooperative, Foro de Agricultura Familiar, Universidad Nacional de Comahue, Universidad de La Plata, Grupo de Reflexion Rural (GRR), Grupo Soberania Alimentaria del Foro Permanente por una Vida Digna, Asamblea de Organizaciones y [email protected] movilizados por la soberania Alimentaria Region del Alto Valee, Rio Negro

Conflict and 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
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
The Mapuche
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Targeted protests outside government/media offices, the GRR lodged a criminal complaint against the governor for abuse of authority

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: displacement, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Project cancelled
legislation was passed which limits foreign individual or company ownership to 1,000 hectares
Development of alternatives:The Mapuche demanded the right to free prior informed consent and mentioning that this right is enshrined in ILO Convention 169, which Argentina has ratified (Law 24.071)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The Court of Justice upheld an appeal and ordered stoppage of the project on the grounds that it would endanger uses of the soil, water resources and the port and that it thus infringed Rio Negro Provincial Constitutional Laws.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

ILO Convention 169, which Argentina has ratified (Law 24.071)

Rural Land Law, law 4584, limiting foreign acquisition of land

Constitucion de Rio Negro, art 70 (soil and natural resources), art 74 (soil usage and rural & urban development), art 91 (right to community participation in decision-making)

Provincial Law Environmental Impact Assessment No. 3266, and the National Environmental Act No. 25675, Criminal Code: article 248, Civil Code: Article 1207

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

, 2010, 'Soja: China y Río Negro hacen acuerdo illegal'

, 2010, 'Inversión en Río Negro para producir granos'

, 2011, 'La Justicia frena el megaproyecto sojero de China en Rio Negro'

, 2011, 'Global Food Crisis: China land deal causes unease in Argentina'

, 2011, 'El cambio de gobernador en Río Negro congela megainversión china'

The Wall Street Journal, 2011, 'Argentina Fences off Land to Foreign Buyers'

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

, 'Soja: China y Río Negro hacen acuerdo illegal'

, 2010, 'Inversión en Río Negro para producir granos'

, 'La Justicia frena el megaproyecto sojero de China en Rio Negro'

, 'Global Food Crisis: China land deal causes unease in Argentina'

The Wall Street Journal, 'Argentina Fences off Land to Foreign Buyers'


, 'El cambio de gobernador en Río Negro congela megainversión china'


Meta information

Contributor:Aliza Tuttle & Leah Temper
Last update17/04/2018