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11/28/17

Barrick Veladero: Another scandal looming on the horizon

News out of Argentina today is that five people, including three public employees who worked in the Cristina government's Environment Ministry in 2015, have been charged with breaking the so-called 2010 "Glacier Law" which protects high Andean glaciers and water sources. They've been put on a 5 million peso (just under U$300k) bail and are prohibited from leaving the country, so these charges are clearly serious.

The interesting bit is the reason behind the charges. After an investigation that started due to the infamous waste spillage at the Barrick Gold (ABX) Veladero mine in San Juan province, these separate criminal charges have arisen because the judge in charge of the original investigation found out that the functionaries deliberately perverted the law by stopping the mountainous area in the immediate vicinity of Veladero from being included included in the national census of glaciers and water sources demanded by the 2010 law. Those zones should have been included and it's obvious that their non-inclusion was of great benefit to ABX, as if they were some specific zones would have been protected by the law.

So, what made a group of public officials inside the Environment Ministry of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner decide to help ABX and keep zones near its mines out of the Glacier Law and its protection? An altruistic desire to see gold mining develop in the country? A love of capitalism? The thought that they were already protecting enough mountains and one or two extra didn't matter much? Or, are we about to find out when the trial started that ABX bribed those officials in order to keep on keeping on at Veladero without sticky government beaks messing with their mine plans? 

Time will tell on that, but one thing is sure: The zones "forgotten in the Glacier Law survey have now been ordered investigated, mapped and included in the database and what happens after that could well be interesting. Shandong are bound to be happy with their new partner






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