Greenpeace Puts Up Fight against Mining Company to Protect Glaciers

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Yesterday, environmental organisation Greenpeace protested in front of the Canadian Embassy in Buenos Aires for the urgent implementation of the Glaciar Law and environmental audits of mining companies.

Greenpeace activists were dressed as pirates and moved on wheelbarrows full of gold bullion to the Canadian embassy, to represent the relationship between the interests of a Canadian mining company ‘Barrick Gold’ and its legal strategy to avoid the full enforcement of the new legislation in the province of San Juan.

“We must find a way to stop Barrick Gold. The Canadian company has already affected glaciers on the Chilean side in the exploratory stage of the ‘Pascua Lama’ project. Now, with legal protections, it is preventing the audit to confirm whether it is affecting glaciers on the Argentine side, as has been suspected,” announced Hernán Giardini, campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Climate Change.

Ultimately the federal government has authority over mining activity, according to legal scholar Gregorio Badeni.

At the end of  September 2010 a Glacier Law already passed by the Argentine senate, which stated that the glaciers of Argentina are to be protected, rather than threatened by the mining industry.

The law put new restrictions on the country’s mining industry, which made up the main opposition to the law being passed. It also serves to protect the freshwater supplies that the glaciers provide to the country. Part of the law also calls for the creation of the National Inventory of Glaciers, which shall be used to compile data on the glaciers in order to monitor their upkeep and protection.

But on 2nd November Miguel Ángel Gálvez, federal judge of San Juan, granted an injunction which prevented protection of glaciers by suspending the implementation of the Glacier Law. This due to the request of Chamber of Mines, Mine Workers Association Argentina (AOMA) and the San Juan branch of the General Labour Confederation (CGT), which had filed an appeal stating the law to be unconstitutional.

“If the law had been approved, Barrick Gold and other miners would not be able to continue with their projects,” Badeni told Reuters in November 2010. “But Barrick could have demand hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from the Argentine government because these mining activities were not banned when they made these investments.”

Gardini stated: “The protection regulation which was filed in by Barrick and a set of suppliers of mining in San Juan is an act of self-incrimination. The most serious problem is that the government is acting as an accomplice by failing to advance the inventory and environmental audits to businesses. We call on all Argentines to slow down Barrick and its accomplices.”

Greenpeace, along with more than 40 citizens’ assemblies, social and environmental organisations and politicians launched a petition on the streets and on their websites. In here they want to seek “full force of the Glacier Law around the country, the urgent conducting environmental audits and the preparation of interim measures submitted by the company Barrick Gold.”

The campaign is being widely accepted by the people: in one week more than 75 thousand people has been involved with it.

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