Argentina Vetoes Law to Protect Glaciers, Favors Mining Projects


Picture: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner at the Perito Moreno glacier. Dyn via Critica Newspaper.

As usually happens in Argentina, authorities seem to have favored big corporations over environmental common sense. Last Friday, Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner vetoed a law that protected the country's glaciers and that could have restricted mining and oil drilling.

The law had been approved last month and according to Reuters and other media outlets, it was in conflict with gold mining giant Barrick Gold Corp and its Pascua Lama project, which seeks to extract gold from the Andes in a region shared by Argentina and Chile and close to four glaciers (Estrecho, Los Amarillos, Amarillo and Guanaco).

Fernandez argument? "Banning mining and oil exploration and extraction would give environmental considerations preeminence over activities that could be undertaken in a way that protects the environment." Keep reading for more.Vetoed Law to Protect Glaciers, Mining Interests
According to Critica newspaper, behind the veto are San Juan province government's interests: "there are over 180 mining projects in that project and 90% of them are located in glacier areas," informs the media.

Another common nonsense seen everyday in Argentina: the authorities of provinces with the most wealthy environmental resources are the first to step ahead and sell them to the best bidder (as happens with the provinces of the north, rich in native woods and happy to deploy them to plant soy).

"The norm would have forbidden any type of operation over a glacier and the Pascua Lama project needs to detonate and translate goods around the glacier its exploiting in San Juan. It's logical: they weren't going to miss a three million dollar business," says Critica newspaper.

Apart from banning damaging works that could affect the natural condition of glaciers or that implied their destruction or moving, the law also proposed to make an inventory of the country's glaciers in order to monitor them over satellites. The vetoed law is now going back to the Congress for revision.

The Pascua Lama Project

Although approved by Chilean and Argentinean governments, the Pascua Lama project continues to face protests from environmental activists in Chile (with websites like No to Pascua Lama and a documentary about the project -- Parts 1, 2, 3).


Map showing the location of the Pascua Lama project.

Fear is, among other things, around the danger this project could raise to water supply for locals, as many basins in the area feed from glaciers.

Latin American Herald Tribune quotes the Argentine website noalamina.org, which says: "The seriousness lies in the fact this giant open-pit mining project will have an enormous environmental impact on the glaciers, causing them to melt, affecting a very large reservoir of water."

However, Reuters informs that Barrick has not been able to start work on the mine due to lack of definition on how to share tax proceeds of the project between Argentina and Chile.

Via Reuters. Additional information: Critica newspaper, Latin American Herald Tribune, ADN Mundo
More glacier-related news:
World Bank and Andean Countries Will Spend $32 Million To Study Glacial Retreat and Create Adaptation Plan
Argentine Glacier (Perito Moreno) Breaks in Winter for the First Time Ever

Tags: Argentina | Chile | Conservation | Glaciers | Water Conservation