Argentina Supreme court upholds glacier protection law

Argentina's Supreme Court has upheld the country's glacier protection law, rejecting an effort by mining giant Barrick Gold Corp. to have it declared unconstitutional

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentina's Supreme Court upheld the country's glacier protection law Tuesday, rejecting an effort by mining giant Barrick Gold Corp. to have it declared unconstitutional.

The decision was praised by environmentalists and marked a setback for one of the world's biggest gold miners.

Barrick argued that the 2010 law could affect its projects near glacial areas in Argentina. But the top court said Barrick had not proved that the law curbing mining on and around the country's glaciers to protect water supplies caused any damage to the company.

Barrick owns Pascua-Lama, a high-altitude mine that straddles the Argentina-Chile border. It also runs the Veladero mine in Argentina's San Juan province.

The Argentine law broadly defines glaciers, so it protects not only the icy masses most people think of but also "rock glaciers" and frozen groundwater on mountaintops where glaciers have melted away from the surface. The Argentine National Glacier Institute, which had a big hand in drafting the law, pushed the definition because it is believed most glacial water actually comes from such reserves.

"We celebrate the ruling because there's no doubt that glaciers must be protected," Greenpeace Argentina spokesperson Gonzalo Strano said in a statement.

"Barrick's request to declare the unconstitutionality of the national law was a perverse play that fortunately lost," Strano said. "Now, the law must be followed and Veladero must be closed. We can no longer allow mining on Argentine glaciers."

Representatives at Barrick could not immediately be reached for comment.