Argentina glacier-protection bill one step closer to law
Proposal considers all Argentina's glaciers 'strategic reserves of water resources' and 'public property.'
Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 07:56 PM
IT'S WILD: The Andes form a backdrop to Lake Argentina and Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. A bill aims to ban mining and oil extraction around glaciers' mineral-rich watersheds. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
A government-sanctioned bill to protect mountain glaciers and surrounding land from mining concerns and other encroachment cleared the lower house of Congress Thursday and was one step closer to becoming law.
The bill was approved by a 129-86 vote, but its 12 articles have to be debated individually before it goes back to the Senate for a final vote. The Senate has already approved unanimously a different version of the bill.
As it now stands, the lower house bill considers all Argentina's glaciers "strategic reserves of water resources" and "public property."
First presented in 2008, the glacier bill was vetoed by President Cristina Kirchner for technical reasons. Her administration now favors the Senate version over the House of Deputies' — the difference stems in how land surrounding the glacier is defined.
The bill approved Thursday bans "mining and oil extraction" around the glaciers' mineral-rich watersheds. Opposition lawmakers tried to tweak the bill to get Kirchner's legislative faction on board but failed.
The Kirchner administration has come under opposition fire for "serving private interests" in pushing its version of the bill, with lawmakers pointing to Canada's Barrick Gold and a Chilean-Argentine joint mining venture standing to benefit from it.
Ruling Justicialista Party lawmaker Agustin Rossi, who tried but failed to delay Thursday's vote, said that unlike 2008, the government this time will accept the final version of the glacier bill.
"The president told me that whatever gets approved will not be vetoed. If this bill is ratified by the Senate, it will become the law," Rossi said, reminding reporters that the 2008 veto came in response to pressure from the governors of Andean (mountain) provinces.
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition