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On September 30, 2010, Argentina became the first country of the world to adopt a Glacier Protection Act. “The Regime of Minimum Standards for the Preservation of Glaciers and Periglacial Environments”, was born from a long political and social process, that placed the importance of glaciers as water reserves in the center of public attention as well as the risks that mining operations pose for this critical water reserve.

The road to the National Glacier Act began two years earlier in Congress, when a glacier Law was passed in 2008, only to be vetoed by the President shortly thereafter. Following intense debates in both houses of Congress, which CHRE helped inform through many of the publications we circulated to Congress about the draft law, a new version of the law prevailed, negotiated by Congressman Miguel Bonasso and Senator Daniel Filmus. (for information on this process follow this link: (The Legislative Process of the Glacier Law). Also, CHRE’s Director wrote a book that tells the story of the behind-the-scenes politics of the fight for the glacier law, called, Glaciers: The Politics of Ice, which also helps educate about glaciers and their role in nature and for society.

The Law that was finally approved is grounded on the basic minimum requirements to protect glaciers, it has constitutional stature, above and beyond that of the provinces. Of particular importance is the call for an inventory of Argentina’s glaciers and periglacial features like permafrost (which are also very important to the water supply), as well as the requirement to conduct environmental impact studies for human activity occurring near glaciers, and the prohibition of certain activities where there are glaciers (including mining).

One of the greatest challenges that the law now faces, is opposition from select provinces, particularly those where mining is occurring near glaciers. These jurisdictions are opposing the national law and have adopted there own glacier laws in an attempt to win jurisdiction over glacier protection so that they can make the calls about where mining is permitted and where it is not. Environmentalists fear (and experience has shown) that provincial authorities are more inclined to allow for mining even if it means destroying glaciers. Some mining companies in glacier territories are aslo attacking the glacier law because they want to extract minerals and to do so, they need to introduce roads where there are glaciers and permafrost grounds. Today, thanks to the Glacier Law, such activity is illegal. Barrick Gold for example is presently fighting the national law in Argentine federal courts because both of its projects in Argentina, Pascua Lama and Veladero, are currently in violation of the national glacier law. While initially winning an injunction order just hours after the national glacier law was passed, a reversa lof that decision by the Argentine Supreme Court has again put Barrick Gold’s claims to develop Pascua Lama in the middle of glacier territory, on hold.

Another challenge is the task of carrying out an inventory of the tens of thousands of glaciers in Argentina, which is in the hands of the IANIGLA (a scientific institute) along with the National Environment Secretariat. Because CHRE fears that politics will get in the way of science, as we see that is already occurring in Argentina, and because we anticipate that the official glacier inventory may come too late, if ever (it is already long overdue past its five year mandated publication since the glacier law was enacted), CHRE is carrying out its own glacier inventory, and already making many of our findings public

World’s First Laws and Regulations to Protect Glaciers


Other Countries that Address Glacier Protection in their Laws or in other Public Policy

Reports for Congressional Debates (in Spanish Only)