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Calingasta Glacier – San Juan, Argentina

About CHRE’s Glacier Inventory

In the year 2010, with the passage of the National Glacier Protection Act, and with a view to encourage the evolution of the official registry of glaciers in Argentina, CHRE initiated its own glacier inventory (a registrar of individual glaciers and periglacier features such as rock glaciers), prioritizing those glaciers that are especially vulnerable to mining projects. We’ve already registered over 4,000 glaciers and rock glaciers, not only in Argentina but also in Chile, California and around the world!

To this end, CHRE’s staff received specialized training from glacier experts at UN-organized courses on glacier inventorying. We also were assisted in our initial work by trained national and international glacier experts through a network of voluntary support from experts from around the world.

CHRE has already completed the very first ever publically available inventory of all rock glaciers in the Aconquija Mountains (in Catamarca and Tucumán provinces), as well as all glaciers and other perennial ice features (protected by law) in La Rioja province in Argentina. We chose these two provincial regions, first of all because it  was not known to most Argentines that glaciers even existed in provinces such as Catamarca, Tucuman, La Rioja, Jujuy and Salta, but also because of the potential impact we perceived by select mining projects that were projected or underway in those provinces, including Agua Rica (Yamana Gold) and Filo Colorado (Xstrata Copper) in Catamarca and Cerro Verde (Anglo American). Thanks to this mapping exercise, we were able to complete a full analytical report on the Impacts to Glaciers and Periglacial Environments by Agua Rica and Filo Colorado and an additional report on the glacier inventory and mining activity in La Rioja. While we were commencing our work in La Rioja, the provincial governor stated publicly that there were no glaciers in La Rioja and that people should stop bothering him about glacier vulnerability in his province; we found more than 400 and widely circulated our inventory and analysis to La Rioja residents, who have since invited us to show our work and disseminate this valuable information.

We then moved to explore the high Andes region of San Juan Province, due to the large number of mining projects (nearly 200) that are projected for the area, most of which is glacier and periglacial environment areas. We are extremely concerned over the potential mining impact to glaciers particularly because public officials responsible for environmental protection and mining in San Juan have denied that any glaciers exist where mining is taking place. It is evident that there are indeed glaciers where mining companies are looking for minerals, and lots of them. CHRE’s Glacier Inventory for Argentina already includes over 3,000 glaciers, with more than 1,000 only in San Juan, where some estimate there may be more than 10,000 glaciers in total!

We then moved to study, identify and register “periglacial environment” , or permafrost areas, which are frozen grounds that are even more obscure than glaciers to most, but actually may provide much more water reserve than visible ice. We recently published a report on the presence and location of permafrost areas in Argentina along with an analysis of mining-related vulnerabilities they face.

The Diaguita-Huascoaltino indigenous community in Chile, which learned of our glacier inventory work, got in contact with CHRE and asked that we carry out an inventory in their territory, which was facing risks from two large mining operations, including the world’s largest gold mining project sited in their teritory, Barrick Gold’ Pascua Lama project. We completed the inventory and issued an analytical report on the more than 400 glaciers we identified in the Diaguita-Huascoaltino indigenous territory. We then traveled to Chile and held several capacity building workshops with the indigenous community and with local stakeholders to present our findings, offer maps of glaciers and rock glaciers, and exchange information with local stakeholders about the vulnerabilities we see in allowing mining to occur in these environmentally sensitive environments. We’ve also contacted numerous public officials and agencies offering our work to inform public policy related to mining. Since CHRE’s activities, public officials have engaged Barrick Gold and have ordered closures of Pascua Lama due to environmental problems caused by the project, including glacier impacts.

Several mining companies argue that you cannot inventory glaciers using satellite imagery available through public programs like Google Earth. This is simply false. In the past, inventorying glaciers was a task reserved primarily to scientists with difficult access to aerial photographs and satellite imagery that were very hard to come by. However, in the very recent past, this task has been made much easier. Today, all glacier inventories carried out by the most sophisticated glaciolgists, begin with an analysis of satellite imagery, and many glaciologists, if not all, use Google Earth inearly stages, just like we do, to do their work. With these images we can identify uncovered glaciers, covered glaciers, and active rock glaciers. The technique is the same technique we’ve learned at CHRE, it’s standard and highly accurate. Site visits are reserved for verification and analysis of some elements and possibly some images that may not be so clear (due to lack of resolution) in Google Earth, and to confirm specific information about the glaciers you can inventory, such as whether they are active or fossil, or to verify the presence of permafrost). It is not necessary to go to a glacier site to obtain very detailed information about the presence of glaciers!

CHRE’s work is in evolution. Surely we have made many mistakes in this task, however, we are convinced that we are contributing critical information that is highly useful. This information, alternatively is not available in the public domain, or it is very difficult to obtain. Our objective is to “Democratize Glaciers” for all persons interested in protecting them!

We are very concerned when we see for example, that some glaciologists that are hired by public institutions, carry out glacier inventories under contract with mining companies, that then prohibit them from making their inventories public. Barrick Gold does this for example, with glaciologists from the IANIGLA, which is tasked with carrying out the national glacier inventory, which despite already being a year late by law, is likely not to include detailed glacier inventories from mining sites because mining officials do not want this information in the public domain.

We are open to receiving comments, help and any other support (including financial) with our task!

CHRE’s Complete Glacier Inventory (work in progress)

How to Navigate CHRE’s Glacier Inventory

Technical Questions on CHRE’s Glacier Inventories

Glacier Inventories Carried out by CHRE (in case of download errors contact:; kmz files are for viewing in Google Earth
Complete Inventory (unverified draft version)
Inventory of Aconquija Glaciers (Tucuman Province)
Inventory of Calchaquí Summit Glaciers (Tucuman Province)
Inventory of Aconquija Glaciers (Catamarca Province)
Inventory of La Rioja Province Glaciers (excel; kmz)
Inventory of Glacier for Jujuy Province (work in progress)
Inventory of Glaciers for Salta Province
(work in progress)
Inventory of Glaciers at the El Pachón project (Xstrata)
Inventory of Glaciers at the Los Azules project (Minera Andes)
Inventory of Glaciers at the Filo Colorado & Agua Rica projects (Catamarca)
Inventory of  Glaciers in the Diaguita/Huascoaltino Indigenous Territory (Chile, by CHRE)
Inventory of  Glaciers in the Diaguita/Huascoaltino Indigenous Territory  (Chile, by CONAMA)
Inventory of Glaciers for Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama and Veladero projects – Argentine Side
Inventory of Glaciers for Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama project – Chilean Side

GLACIER TOUR of the Veladero and Pascua Lama access road and project areas

Other Inventories and Information about Inventories

Oficial Preliminary Provincial Glacier Inventory – San Juan 2010 
Inventory of Glaciers of the Sierra Nevada, California

Inventario Cuenca Rio Copiapó  (Chile) – Vivero Andrade (2008)

World Glacier Inventory – National Snow and Ice Data Center
. The World Glacier Inventory (WGI) contains information for over 130000 glaciers. Inventory parameters include geographic location, area, length, orientation
Chinese Glacier Inventory. The full Chinese Glacier Inventory Data had been managed and archived in GIS file format, e.g. ArcView shapefile, and ArcInfo coverage.
Canadian Glacier Inventory Project. Canadian Glacier Inventory Project is a project being developed by fourth year students in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University
Guidelines for the compilation of glacier inventory data from digital …
Landsat-based inventory of glaciers in western Canada, 1985–2005

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