Congress Bans Mining Near Glaciers

Argentina´s Senate narrowly passed in September 30 a law that will prohibit mining and hydrocarbon industry near the country´s already threatened glaciers.

But analysts and industry members say the law will due little to curb current projects, particularly the Pascua Lama gold mine. Barrick Gold´s Pascua Lama mine, an enormous open-pit gold-copper project, straddling the Argentine-Chilean border, has alarmed environmentalists and local residents that it would destroy the glacier-fed water supply for the lush agricultural valley where it is located. Pascua Lama would be the world´s biggest binational gold mine, but it is still unclear whether the law will affect the project, which has an initial budget of around US$3 billion.

The legislation was cheered by environmental organizations, who noted the particular victory amid pressure from mining lobbyists.

“The law is the first fundamental step to saving the glaciers from the threat of mining and oil, but there is still much to do,” said Greenpeace Argentina in a statement.

Two years earlier, President Cristina Fernández vetoed a lighter version of the glacier protection bill, saying it hindered the lucrative industry from doing business in the country. But she said she would not veto the stricter bill that Congress is about to send her for signature into law.

Argentina´s glaciers, like those around the Andean chain, are under threat from rising temperatures.

 

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