Chile’s mining industry is cheering a decision to drop a glacier-protection bill, saying the proposed rules were conceived to thwart mineral extraction. One academic says the move imperils glacial networks.
Environmental Minister Marcela Cubillos requested the withdrawal of the bill from the lower house last week, nullifying former President Michelle Bachelet’s push for special protections that included banning certain activities on and around glaciers.
The slow moving masses of ice high in the Andes Mountains will now come under more general protections for environmentally sensitive areas, newspaper La Tercera cited Cubillos as saying.
“The bill’s hidden objective was to prevent mining from happening, rather than protecting glaciers,” Joaquin Villarino, executive president of the Mining Council, which represents large producers in Chile, said in a telephone interview Thursday. “The new law will protect glaciers and all other environmental assets with a more rational and reasonable legislation.”
The government’s decision has sparked controversy because some glaciers are outside protected areas and two large copper mines — owned by Codelco and Anglo American Plc — sit beside a group of glaciers that feed water to capital Santiago. Chile is the biggest copper-producing nation.
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