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Argentina: frosty reception for glaciers bill overturned

The Andean glaciers, critical ‘solid water reservoirs’, are melting because of climate change. They are also being threatened by open-pit mining projects.
glacierIce break at Pertito Moreno, Argentina. Credit: Daryl Mulvihill

After the conflict over the Barrick Gold Pascua-Lama project in neighbouring Chile, legal initiatives to protect glaciers were put forward in Chile and Argentina. In 2008, the law was passed by the Argentinean Congress, but then vetoed by the Argentinean president. Several organisations, including Friends of the Earth Argentina, submitted a letter to the president requesting that she review the decision. Together with over 100 organisations they also initiated a campaign to collect signatures calling for the passage of the bill.

The Glaciers Protection Campaign successfully reached out to a wide range of social sectors. Actions were carried out in cities along the mountain range, in Buenos Aires and elsewhere. 156,350 signatures were eventually submitted to the House of Representatives.

Congress was forced to reconsider the initiative. Following two years of demands and protests, and after eight hours of debate in the Senate, the bill was approved on 30 September 2010.

This new law is supposed to safeguard all areas with frozen soils and it prohibits mining near glaciers. It is also the most progressive step forward in the fight against climate change since it demands that climate change policies be in line with the goal of preserving glaciers, both at the national level and in international agreements on climate change. Hence it can be used to challenge the current global temperature targets that threaten glaciers’ survival.

Many longstanding mining concessions are affected, and Barrick Gold Company took the country to court. On 4 April 2011, environmental and civil society organisations started a new campaign aiming at 2 million signatures asking for the full implementation of the law and the rejection of Barrick Gold’s legal actions.

 

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