Bill passed by Congress last month would have reportedly protected water supplies
BUENOS AIRES -- Environmental groups expressed their displeasure with
the decision by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez to veto a
glacier-protection bill that would have restricted mining and oil
bill that was passed last month and which Fernandez vetoed on Monday
would have complicated the investment plans of Canada's Barrick Gold,
the world's largest gold miner, the environmentalists said.
company plans to invest $2.4 billion in the Pascua Lama open-pit mine,
which is one of the biggest untapped gold reserves in the world and
which straddles the border between Argentina and Chile. The mine,
located about 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of the northern
Chilean city of Vallenar, has sparked controversy due to the mine's
proximity to glaciers in that remote, mountainous region.
Montenegro, president of the Environmental Defense Foundation, or
Funam, said Fernandez "has made it clear that she doesn't care about
the people whose water supply comes from (glacier-fed) water basins and
that she is not interested in the future of the Argentine people."
the statement, Montenegro accused the Argentine government of being
part of a "power structure" that helps ensure that companies in general
"don't have headaches."
Fernandez said she issued the veto
because governors of Argentina's Andean provinces feared that the
measure would threaten development projects, adding that it is
"excessive" to prohibit mining or oil drilling on glaciers or areas
that border the giant rivers of ice.
She said in her decree that
signing the bill into law would "give environmental considerations
preeminence" over economic activities.
Lawyers' Association said Fernandez's veto allows "indiscriminate
mining exploitation," and that the main beneficiary of the executive
action is the Pascua Lama mine, "which will now be developed without
any environmental consideration despite the existence of numerous
glaciers in the area that is to be exploited."
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," a statement on the
Argentine Web site noalamina.org, which alerts the public to the
environmental destruction caused by different types of mining activity.
Pascua Lama project was approved in Chile despite the opposition of
environmental groups after Barrick Gold pledged not to touch the Andean
glaciers that surround the mine.
It later obtained approval from
Argentine authorities as well, although work on the mine has not gotten
underway because of a dispute between Chile and Argentina over how to
share the tax revenues from the mining project. EFE