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Resistance to Chevron-YPF Fracking, Argentina


Significant deposits of shale oil and gas were discovered in Neuquén province in the Loma de Lata field in 2010, adding to Argentina's overall shale reserves which are estimated to be the second largest technically recoverable reserves in the world. The country ranks fourth in the same category for shale oil. Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation, also in Neuquén, is estimated to hold an amount of oil and gas nearly equal to the reserves of the world’s largest oil company, Exxon Mobil. The country  has over 150 shale wells in production, more than any country in the world aside from the U.S. and China (4) Argentina has claimed all oil and gas fields as government land but exploration and exploitation permits and the final product are in control of the provinces and extraction companies. Argentina's environmental protection regulatory frameworks have been criticized for being weak, with one key area for concern fresh water use and waste. Another concern regarding fracking is its potential to contribute to earthquakes in a part of Argentina experiencing increasing volcanic activity (4). On June 15th, 2013 Chevron signed an agreement with the newly state-controlled YPF (formally controlled by Spain’s Repsol) in Argentina to begin resource extraction anew in the region of Neuquén (3). The pilot stage of the project involves 1.24 billion invested for 161 wells drilled in a 20 sq km area. The second phase of the extraction project would involve 1500 more wells in a 395 sq km region. Chevron and YPF hope that 50,000 barrels of oil and 3 million cubic meters of associated natural gas could be produced daily from the project (1). The Vaca Muerta region might contain as much as 23 billion barrels of oil, according to a YPF-released report (6). There has been a court-ordered probe into suspected irregularities in the YPF-Chevron agreement. A court in May 2014 began to investigate President Cristina Fernandez, who is accused of abusing her authority regarding the YPF-Chevron agreement. While a lower court had dismissed the charges, a federal appellate court in Buenos Aires overruled this decision.

Fernandez was accused of ‘abuse of authority, breach of public duty and potential environmental damage’ (1). The YPF-Chevron agreement makes the company Argentina’s largest foreign producer of natural gas and shale oil (6). The YPF-Chevron project is set to take place in Mapuche territory, though the Mapuche people claim that throughout the entire process there has been no consultation and their demands are not being heard. (X; 3) Of particular concern is the risk to Auca Mahuida natural protection area, a ceremonial and spiritual site. (X) Elías Maripán, lonko (authority) of the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, stated that the Mapuche would continue to defend Wallmapu, their ancentral territory, for thousands of years to come. Jorge Nahuel, lonko of the Newen Mapu community, stated that the extractive industry threatens the cycle of life (3). Extraction activities carried out when YPF was still associated with Repsol in the Loma de la Lata region in Neuquén have already caused major negative environmental impacts, including contamination of water, land and atmosphere, along with chronic heavy metal poisoning in dozens of people. The activities have also increased social conflict and repression against Mapuche authorities (3). Since Chevron’s agreement with YPF to begin extraction in Vaca Muerta, Neuquén, the lonko of Maripe Purran have denounced the arrival of company trucks in their territory as well as the rise in repression and aggression towards local activists (3).

A manifesto signed by the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén laments, “One of the most contaminating companies of the continent has arrived in our territory. This same company in Ecuador devastated the territory of the Kofán and Siona people” (translated from Spanish).

Representatives from indigenous groups affected by Chevron’s activities in Ecuador have visited Neuquén to warn the Mapuche of the dangers to indigenous territories that the company poses (3). On August 28th 2014, a mobilization against the project was met with heavy police repression. Within 7 hours more than 25 people had sustained injuries from tear gas and rubber bullets, and police detained several people. Shortly after, 10,000+ people marched in the streets against the YPF-Chevron agreement and the repression being faced by local activists. In the next two days four Campo Maripe Mapuche houses were burnt to the ground in retaliation for the resistance. Mapuche people and local organizations occupied mining pits to hold those involved in the attack responsible (2). The Argentinian organization Obervatorio Petrolero Sur (OPSur) has called to alert the international community of the situation, warning that the Chevron agreement is just the tip of the iceberg (2).  Update 2016 (in Spanish): Ante la falta de diálogo y la ausencia de un proceso de consulta, hacia finales de 2013 la comunidad comenzó a emplear acciones de fuerza. Tras la toma de las primeras torres, se inició una estrategia conjunta con otras comunidades, que incluyó cortes de ruta, movilizaciones y tomas de tranqueras. El conflicto es cada vez más grande, debido a que mes a mes aumenta la ocupación territorial con la construcción de nuevos pozos.   La realización de una mesa de diálogo permitió que la comunidad pudiera comprobar su ocupación "tradicional y pública" del territorio. Así lo señala un informe realizado a petición de la comunidad y el gobierno provincial. Este indica que desde la década de 1920 “hay permanencia probada en cada década a través de documentos escritos, las marcas en su territorio y en el relato y la memoria de sus integrantes”. El informe agrega que se ha podido documentar cabalmente los límites de la ocupación actual de la comunidad, y que el reconocimiento de su existencia tiene “un claro carácter de reparación histórica”.  Hacia inicios de 2016 más de 500 pozos de shale estaban operativos, convirtiendo a la comunidad en la zona más afectada por el fracking en todo el mundo, por fuera de EEUU. La urgencia por aumentar los niveles de extracción ha significado también un aumento de los accidentes, que cada cierto tiempo llenan las páginas de los diarios y vuelven a poner en la discusión pública el riesgo de los impactos de explotación no convencional. El Lonko (lider) de la comunidad, Albino Campo lo sintetiza en una frase: “donde hay un pozo hay un derrame. Acá pasa lo mismo que pasó en Loma La Lata, en la comunidad Kaxipayiñ. Uno escarbaba 80 cm y no llegaba al agua, era gasolina que brotaba. Acá pasa lo mismo, lo que cae de arriba se filtra y llega al río. De ser tierra de producción, después no va a servir nada”.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Resistance to Chevron-YPF Fracking, Argentina
State or province:Neuquén province, wall mapu territory
Location of conflict:Mapuche Community Campo Maripe, among others
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Shale gas fracking
Specific commodities:Land
Natural Gas
Crude oil
Shale oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

-Área de 395 Km2 cuyos limites se superponen con el territorio de la comunidad indigena mapuche Campo Maripe.

-Cerca de 500 pozos operativos a inicios de 2016, transformandose en el área más afectada por el fracking en el mundo, por fuera de EEUU

-En junio de 2015 producía por día 3125 m3 de petróleo y 1.8 MMm3 de gas en sus 372 pozos operativos

Project area:395 km2
Level of Investment:2.480.000.000 (monto inicial anunciado por YPF y Chevron en partes iguales)
Type of populationUnknown
Affected Population:599,683
Start of the conflict:15/05/2013
Company names or state enterprises:Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF Argentina) from Argentina - partner with Chevron Corp.
Dow Chemical Company (Dow) from United States of America - also partnering with YPF in region
Chevron from United States of America
Relevant government actors:MPN party (Neuquén's government)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Obervatorio Petrolero Sur (OPSur);
Neuquén Platform Against Fracking;
Mapuche Confederation

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Other Environmental impacts, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Accidents, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsheavy mental poisoning
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Other socio-economic impacts, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsHouses of Mapuche activists burnt down in retaliation for their involvement in protests


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:Mapuche authorities and local organizations are asking for proper consultation regarding resource extraction projects in accordance with the International Labour Organization Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO 169), ratified by Argentina in 2000. Currently, Argentina is violating this convention.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Though resistance is ongoing, the damages already done to the environment and lives of the Mapuche people and other inhabitants of Neuquén are severe.

Sources & Materials

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

International Labour Organization Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (Convention 169) Article 6 (1a) "governments shall consult the peoples concerned, througha ppropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly".

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

3. El Fracking Vaca Muerta Chevron y la Resistencia Mapuche (article in Spanish)

4. Argentina Indymedia news article

2. Anti-fracking Mobilization Suppressed and Indigenous Houses Burnt Due to Resistance Over Chevron-YPF Agreement (article)

1. Argentina-YPF Defends Partnership With Chevron in Wake of Court Ruling (article)

4. Fracking Frenzy: How the Fracking Industry is Threatening the Planet? A report on fracking in the global south.

5. El Pueblo Mapuche: La Dignidad en Medio del Petroleo

6. Chevron to Invest 1.6 Billion with YPF in Argentina Shale Wells (Bloomberg article)

Mapuexpress - Campo Maripe, el resurgir mapuche en medio del avance petrolero

Meta information

Contributor:Lena Weber, Lund University Human Ecology Department
Last update18/08/2019



Mapuche authority Elías Maripán along with other Mapuche authorities in Neuquén (5)

Mapuche resist fracking in territory (5)

Mural in the community of Newen Mapu depicting the struggle of the Mapuche people against colonizers, the government, and corporations. Marici Wew means 'ten times we will triumph' (5)