France, 2011: Following a very significant civic movement, a bill was
passed prohibiting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on French
territory. This eventually resulted in the repeal of the license of
Montelimar, originally granted to Total.
But this corporation is free to go and exploit shale gas and shale oil
elsewhere in Europe and around the world. As the second gas operator in
Argentina, and before any other large multinationals, Total acquired
unconventional gas permits in the province of Neuquén in Patagonia,
including one within a protected area. The Vaca Muerta basin, which
covers over 30,000 km 2, quickly also became the new El Dorado of other
oil companies such as Chevron, YPF , Shell, Apache: Argentina is the
third largest country in the world in terms of potentially exploitable
shale gas and oil reserves.
Local communities, and in particular small farmers members of the Mapuche communities, have already been suffering from the impacts of decades of conventional oil and gas exploitation and are again trapped by foreign corporations and YPF, the re-nationalized State company. The government secured this agreement without a single
consultation. Resistance begins.
For the release of the documentary Fracking Patagonia, we were joined by two representatives of affected communities in Argentina,
who have attended Total’s annual general meeting
on May 16th, in an attempt to hold this corporation to account for its actions.
This was also an opportunity to challenge the French government on the need to recognize
the legal liability of multinationals’ parent companies and namely on the activities of their subsidiaries and subcontractors abroad.
The Argentinean speakers have then travelled to the Netherlands (headquarters of Shell), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, and finally Spain.