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.
This corporation remains 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.
Land grabbing , repression … local communities, and in particular members of the Mapuche communities and small farmers, 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.