BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s Senate passed a law on Thursday that curbs mining on the nation’s glaciers, a measure praised by environmentalists but criticized by supporters of the industry as a deterrent to investment.
Senators approved the law with 35 votes in favor and 33 against after hours of debate, eventually agreeing to accept changes made in the lower house that pro-mining provinces had opposed.
President Cristina Fernandez, who angered green campaigners by vetoing a similar law two years ago, has indicated she will sign the law this time around. She blocked it previously on the grounds it would hamper the growth of provincial economies.
Analysts say it could make it more expensive or even impossible for the world’s biggest gold producer Barrick Gold Corp to develop the huge Pascua Lama site high in the Andes, although the company says the ore body it has permission to mine does not lie on a glacier.
Mining-friendly provincial governments such as northern San Juan might try to challenge the law in the Supreme Court, arguing that it is their responsibility to decide how to manage their natural resources.
Anti-mining sentiment is strong in the South American country, making the debate over the glacier law a sensitive political issue a year from the next presidential election.
Reporting by Helen Popper and Luis Andres Henao; Editing by John Picinich