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Green hydrogen advances despite Mapuche opposition

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Río Negro gave the go-ahead to the concession of more than 600,000 hectares to the Australian company Fortescue. The native communities demand the protection of the territory.

The production of green hydrogen in Argentina is close to becoming a reality. The legislature of Río Negro has already approved the law that sets the basis for the concession of 625 thousand fiscal hectares in the Somuncurá Plateau, a remote area in the center of the province, where the Australian group Fortescue will install a plant of this fuel generated by electrolysis (decomposition of water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen) from electric energy obtained from wind farms, in charge of the same company. The concession will be for at least 50 years and production will begin in 2026.

In November, the Government had announced that Fortescue would invest USD 8.4 billion and create 50 thousand jobs for a project that would transform Argentina into the seventh country to produce green hydrogen. “Our country will be able to become one of the world suppliers of this fuel, which will drastically reduce carbon emissions,” said Alberto Fernández. The hydrogen molecule has three times the energy density of conventional fuel. In its “green” version it is used, among other industries, in the steel industry.

Criticism on the rise

One of the first critics had been the radical deputy Jimena Latorre, for whom it is an exporting model that will not contribute to the replacement of the energy matrix or to a local planning that would strengthen, for example, the sustainable transport industry. Former rugby player Agustín Pichot, in charge of the regional branch of Fortescue, acknowledged that “we would love Argentina to incorporate hydrogen for its mobility, but that will be another stage”.

The project also arouses the opposition of native communities, who warn about the lack of a management plan for the plateau, “a site as unexplored as it is full of natural wealth in its subsoil”, according to a Clarín article. While the company said it was committed to “attend to local needs”, the spokesman for the Mapuche-Tehuelche Parliament Coordinator, Orlando Carriqueo, assured that the provincial demand for an annual royalty and guarantees for USD 115 million “is minimal”, although “the most serious thing is that they are ceding land with the people inside”.

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