Argentina: Barrick mines no threat to glaciers?

The government of the western Argentine province of San Juan released a report the week of Jan. 28 finding that two controversial mines owned by the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation have no “potential or actual environmental impact on glaciers or peri-glaciers in the areas” surrounding them. The Argentine branch of the environmental group Greenpeace had charged in July 2011 that Barrick’s Pascua Lama and Veladero mines were damaging three small glaciers, in violation of a 2010 federal law meant to protect Andean glaciers. Barrick challenged the law, but the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice made a July 2012 ruling that left the law in effect for the time being.

The Veladero mine is in San Juan province, and the massive Pascua Lama mine, not yet opened, extends from San Juan province into Chile’s Huasco province. The provincial government has joined Barrick’s challenge to the law, claiming that provinces have jurisdiction over environmental issues. “We are going to continue complying with the law, but always defending our rights,” San Juan Gov. José Luis Gioja said when the report was released.

Argentine environmentalists dismissed the report. “[W]hat’s happening in San Juan is surreal,” said Enrique Viale, president of the Argentine Association of Environmental Lawyers (AAdeAA). “The person in charge of the ‘auditing,’ the current director of the provincial department of hydraulics, Jorge Millón, was a Barrick employee when he produced the environmental impact report that he later approved from the other side of the counter as a public official. Now, once again as an official, he’s the one directing an ‘audit’ of his former employers.” (Dow Jones, Jan. 30, via Fox Business; Palermonline Noticias, Buenos Aires, Jan. 30)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 3.

See our last post on the climate crisis in the Andes.