Argentine judge accuses former ministers of breaking glacier law

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

An Argentine judge has filed charges against three former environment ministers related to their alleged responsibility in breaching the 2010 glacier protection law.

The charges filed by judge Sebastián Casanello follow an investigation into a series of cyanide spills that affected Barrick Gold's Veladero mine (pictured) in San Juan province in 2015 and 2016, daily La Nación reported.

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Casanello accused former ministers Omar Judis, Sergio Lorusso and Juan José Mussi of abuse of authority, alleging they deliberately violated the law by imposing highly restrictive criteria that prevented glaciers around Veladero being included in the national glacier and water resources census that the 2010 law demanded.

In September 2015 a cyanide leak caused by a valve malfunction caused the mine's operations to be halted temporarily and the company was fined. Another cyanide leak took place in September last year and a third incident in March this year.

The judge said the officials deliberately delayed the work that was necessary to include the glacier resources in the census, despite being a priority area for review, the report said. He also ordered the area to be surveyed, mapped and included in the glacier database.

Casanello set bail at 5mn pesos (US$286,900) for each and prohibited them from leaving the country.

Daily Clarín said the judge also asked the environment ministry to implement all necessary measures for the protection, cleanup and restoration of the area, and to establish whether there was environmental damage.

The government of President Mauricio Macri is said to be considering introducing changes to the 2010 glacier law in an effort to jump start mining in the regions along the Andes mountains.