The Argentine government has earmarked some 70 million dollars, in three years, for the construction of an Antarctic Logistic Pole in Ushuaia, capital of the extreme south province of Tierra del Fuego. Some US$ 25 million will be invested next year to begin the development of the strategic project aimed at consolidating Ushuaia as the support hub for scientific research in Antarctica.
The initial sum will be invested in the construction of a jetty and for the incorporation of types of equipment to the naval base in Ushuaia. This will be followed by another US$ 25 million in 2013 and US$ 20 million in 2024, when the first stage of the Logistic Pole should have been completed, while in parallel there will be an effort to attract foreign investors to join the initiative, according to the Buenos Aires media.
Tierra del Fuego governor, Gustavo Melella was quoted confirming the start of the project and emphasizing, we can't lose this opportunity, there are ongoing works to prepare the land in an area belonging to the Navy and in plots belonging to the province. There are foreign investors interested in the project, and so are Argentine investors. Once we have defined the issue of the land, we intend to advance in this public-private project.
Ushuaia is disputing with neighbouring Punta Arenas in Chilean territory to become the logistics hub for Antarctic research, with the difference that Chileans are far more advanced and have decided to invest more funds.
Likewise, there is a political side to the Argentine project because originally the Pole was to be constructed and managed by China, as part of a major cooperation project. However a surprised Washington strongly objected to Beijing's continued penetration in the region, and finally, the Alberto Fernandez administration pledged that the Argentine navy would be in charge of managing the project.
The issue is controversial since back in 2014 the Argentine administration of president Cristina Kirchner signed a secret agreement with China to establish and operate a deep space station in the Patagonian province of Neuquén. The 50-year equity-free agreement restricts Argentina's sovereignty control of the land (two square kilometres) and operations, provides tax exemptions and enables the free movement of Chinese labour, working under Chinese labour law.
In China, the space program is run by the People's Liberation Army, and the Neuquén station is managed by the China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General, which reports to the PLS's Strategic Support Force, according to the Pentagon and US Congress.