* Mapuche community wants U.S. energy firm to leave
* Neuquen province home to large shale resources
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Indigenous protesters disrupted operations at an Argentine natural gas processing plant operated by U.S.-based Apache Corp , a company source said on Thursday.
The Mapuche Indian protesters, who want the company to leave the area, managed to halt activity at the plant in Neuquen province on Monday. It has been operating at partial capacity since then.
“They’re stopping people from getting in. Work is continuing, but with difficulty. At the moment, the plant’s operating at 70 percent capacity and we hope this will be resolved soon,” the source said, asking not to be named.
Apache is one of the biggest energy companies active in Neuquen, where huge resources of non-conventional natural gas and oil have been found, raising hopes for a transformation in the country’s energy industry.
Neuquen, Argentina’s most important gas-producing province, accounts for between 45 percent and 50 percent of total output of the fuel.
Argentine natural gas production has been declining since 2004, reaching 47 million cubic meters last year compared with 50.6 million in 2003, according to data from the Argentine Institute of Petroleum and Gas (IAPG).