MAC: Mines and Communities

Argentina: No open-pit mining at "the end of the world"

Published by MAC on 2011-10-05
Source: MarketWatch, Diario del Fin del Mundo

Tierra del Fuego joins six other Argentinian provinces that have restricted mining activities

A gold rush hit Tierra del Fuego back in 1880. The metal was found by chance when black sand and mud were being collected along the Eastern coastline. Announcements of the findings attracted waves of fortune seekers.

On Islas Lennox and Nueva over 2,000 kilograms of gold were extracted in just three years. But, by 1910, all activity came to a screeching halt, and no mining projects are currently planned.

However - just in case any company might be tempted to revive mineral extraction in the province - a  new law prohibits open-cast mining and the use of a number of forbidden chemicals.

This brings Tierra del Fuego into line with six other Argentinian provinces that have passed similar legislation.

The full text of the provincial law 852 can be accessed here (Spanish):


Open-cast mining is banned in Tierra del Fuego

The Law prohibits the large scale exploitation of mineral ores in the form of open-cast mining and the use of contaminating substances for the exploitation of these natural resources. This law was sanctioned at the end of August and published in the Official Newsletter a few days ago. 

El Diario del Fin del Mundo - [Translated from Spanish by Rosie Maule, MAC]

24 September 2011

From last Wednesday, the 21st of September, large scale and open-cast exploitation of mineral ores is forbidden in the province of Tierra del Fuego, which has now become part of a group of provinces limiting the use of this extraction method in Argentina: Chubut, Río Negro, Mendoza, Tucumán, San Luís and Cordoba.

The law also prohibits the use of a series of substances which are considered to be harmful to the environment and which pose a potential threat to human health “in the exploitation of mineral ores, including prospecting processes, prospecting, exploration, exploitation, profit and industrialization in situ, regardless of the extractive method used”. Some of these forbidden substances include sulfuric acid, sodium cyanide and mercury.

Provincial Law 852 was sanctioned by the Legislature on the 25th of August and was enacted by the Executive Power by decree on September the 14th last year.

The law “has as its objective the application of preventative environmental principles to mining activity, precaution and equality as established in National Law 25.675, as well as the principle of sustainable development, established in Provincial Law 55, to guarantee the rational and upright use of natural resources; protect provincial and shared water resources; maintain the balance and dynamic of ecological systems; ensure the conservation of biological diversity; prevent toxic or harmful effects of mining to the environment; promote ecological sustainability, economic and social development; minimize environmental risks of mining and prevent environmental emergencies”.

Tierra del Fuego bans open-pit mining

Shane Romig


29 September 2011

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina's remote Tierra del Fuego has joined a handful of other provinces to ban open-pit mining and the use of chemicals common in the industry such as cyanide, effectively putting the area off limits to large-scale mining projects.

"The law aims to apply preventative, precautionary and inter-generational environmental ideals," Tierra del Fuego environment minister Ariel Martinez said in a statement following the publication of the bill by the governor's office.

According to the federal mining secretariat, there are no large mining projects in the province, limiting the impact of the legislation.

The law, dated Sept. 28, was passed by the provincial Legislature early this year. It also requires any company looking to move forward with mining or exploration to pay 5% of the estimated investment into an environmental repair fund which will be used to clean up the site if damage remains after mine closure.

With the ban, Tierra del Fuego joins six other provinces who have imposed similar prohibitions. A number of other provinces, including the mining areas of San Juan and Santa Cruz, are strongly in favor of the industry.

Meanwhile, miners are casting a wary eye towards a strict, federal glacier protection law, which threatens to derail a number of projects.

The law limits economic activity in the areas surrounding glaciers. The government has started conducting a nationwide inventory of glacial ice that will determine which areas will be put off limits. The full study is expected to be completed in five years, with preliminary data available within a year.

Local environmental groups charge that a host of projects are violating the law by impacting ice, allegations denied by the companies and the mining minister.

The glacier law is facing several legal challenges, with a number of provinces questioning its constitutionality.

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