By Darío Aranda
“It is one more proof that confirms that Veladero is outside the law and must close now. If it has not yet done so, it is due to the complicity of the political power and sectors of the judiciary, ”said Saúl Zeballos, from the Jáchal No Se Toca Assembly.
“Technical report DGARHyA 99/2016. Report of the mining project and the ING (National Glacier Inventory) ”is the name of the official document made public by the organizations Greenpeace, the Association of Environmental Lawyers and the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN). Dated on July 13, it recognizes that there are 77 mining projects in the "sub-basins" surveyed by the Argentine Institute of Nivology, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (Ianiglia), of which 44 are in a restricted area by law. The provinces that are in violation of the law are Catamarca, San Juan, Chubut, La Rioja, San Juan, Santa Cruz and Río Negro.
“There are 44 projects that cannot be in those places, it is a clear breach of a national law,” explained Enrique Viale, from the Environmental Lawyers organization. Viale denounced that the Minister of the Environment of the Nation, Sergio Bergman, "withheld this information from the population because he acts in total collusion with the mining companies."
The official report was prepared by the National Directorate for Environmental Management of Water and Aquatic Resources, of the Ministry of the Environment, and is part of the material that federal judge Sebastián Casanello seized in the ministry, within the framework of the criminal case investigating the cyanide spills in the Veladero mine of the Barrick Gold company in 2015 and 2016. The document was transferred to environmental organizations by the Jáchal No Se Toca Assembly, the plaintiff in the case.
The Glaciers Law (No. 26,639) was approved in September 2010 and granted 180 days to Ianiglia - dependent on Conicet - to carry out a survey of all the glaciers in the country. The standard prohibits polluting activities in bodies of water, ice and their surrounding areas. The law, at first, was judicially stopped by an injunction that responded to a Barrick Gold presentation in San Juan. It was not until July 2012 that the Supreme Court of Justice ratified the validity of the rule.
“More than five years of approval have passed and the survey is not yet complete. It must be said that there is also the complicity of ‘scientific power’, which accepts pressure from mining companies and provincial and national officials, ”Zeballos said. The activist explained that the Jáchal No Se Toca Assembly criminally denounced the Ianiglia because "in an arbitrary manner they only surveyed the glaciers of more than one hectare of surface", when the law does not establish those dimensions, but establishes that all the bodies of ice.
Gonzalo Strano, from Greenpeace, highlighted that the report of the Ministry of Environment analyzes only 10 percent of the National Inventory of Glaciers.
Among the projects in areas prohibited by law are the Pascua Lama (San Juan and Chile, owned by Barrick Gold), Pachón (San Juan), Suyai (Esquel, Chubut), and Pachón (to be started in San Juan) mines. The Filo Colorado and Agua Rica projects also appear, rejected by the population of Andalgalá, in western Catamarca.
Minister Bergman visited Andalgalá this year. He affirmed that all extractive activities that "are within the law" will be developed and defended the Agua Rica project, stopped by a populace in 2010, after a fierce repression and later suspended by a judicial ruling. Last September, the Deliberative Council of Andalgalá banned mega-mining in the department, which became another brake on Agua Rica. However, Governor Lucía Corpacci, with the support of Nación, insists on the new project, just 17 kilometers from the city and where the water springs that feed the town are born.
Pía Marchegiani, from FARN, stated that the official report "shows the seriousness of the situation of glacier protection in the country." "It is essential that no further project be advanced until the glacier inventory is finalized," he warned. He also specified the seriousness of the progress of the Agua Rica, Pachón, Pascua Lama and Los Azules projects, the last three in San Juan. The joint statement of the three organizations concludes that the 44 mining projects in areas prohibited by law "evidence the lack of national government controls over the mining sector and the lack of interest in defending a primordial natural element such as water."