Adapted from original in Spanish, here
We began this week with great sadness at the news of another oil spill in South America – this time, in Chilean Patagonia. Nearly 40,000 liters were spilled into the sea, according to Sachurger Huachipato, a subsidiary of CAP mining company.
The causes are still unclear. The Chilean navy first claimed it was crude oil that was spilled during a fuel transfer operation – authorities later confirmed it was diesel.
The environmental crime took place 250 kilometers northeast of Puerto Natales at Guarello island, where the ancient indigenous Kaswésqar community lives. In an interview with El País, representatives from the community in the town of Puerto Edén described the spill-affected area:
“The Madre de Dios (Mother of God) archipelago is the birthplace of our elders and a place of great significance for our canoeist community. The ocean and its resources are integral to this culture. There are cave paintings of our ancestors which are very culturally and archeologically significant.”
They add that within the geographical area there are sacred taboo sites, which are specifically protected and where it is not permitted to eat or make noise, much less pollute.
“Many of these sites protect ancestral marine resources that we have protected for thousands of years. The area, in addition, is a transit zone for aquatic mammals and home to sea lion and seabird colonies, with which our community has a close biocultural bond.”
It’s horrifying each time we get news of a spill. We have so many technologies available to replace fossil fuels and make a just transition to renewable energy sources, but unfortunately families have to continue to live in contaminated areas.
We hope prosecutors will complete all the necessary investigations and that legal authorities find those responsible for the spill that will also affect the work and livelihoods of fishermen in this area of extraction.
Livia Lie – Digital campaign coordinator of 350.org Brasil and Latin America, part of the Brazil Climate Coalition for water, life, and no fracking.