A controversial mining law that sparked massive protests in the province of Mendoza in Argentina’s western-central region was finally abolished. The province's governor Rodolfo Suárez presented a formal request before the legislature on Monday, and with 34 votes in favor and 2 against, the Senate approved the annulment.
In the Lower Chamber, however, it took a bit longer and there were four negative votes and one absentee. Despite the lengthy discussion, before the end of the day, Law 9209 which modified Law 7722 and allowed for the use of cyanide and sulfuric acid in mining operations was abolished.
On publication in Mendoza’s Official Bulletin on Tuesday, December 31, Law 7722 will be reinstalled.
According to some lawmakers interviewed by local media, people from all around the province clearly expressed their opposition to the possibility of allowing mining companies to use toxic chemicals.
Talking to Los Andes newspaper, lawmaker Guillermo Mosso said that even though he voted negative, he understands Suárez’s decision and respects him for pushing for a peaceful solution to the issue. Mosso said that he still believes that it is important to allow mining operations in Mendoza to promote social development and that authorities and stakeholders need to find ways to reconcile mineral extraction with water preservation and agriculture.
The Association of Metallurgical Industries of Mendoza issued a communiqué saying that abolishing the law seems to go against the urgent need to diversify Mendoza’s economy. In the group’s view, it is possible to advance large-scale mining projects in a responsible manner with the highest quality standards of environmental protection.
Concerned citizens and environmental organizations said they worried about the possibility of cyanide and sulfuric acid contaminating the province’s waterways and water supply.
“This is an unprecedented and historic achievement. People in Mendoza protected their province’s water,” Enrique Viale, the spokesperson for Greenpeace Argentina, said in a media statement. “The regulation was approved in a moment when Mendoza is experiencing the worst drought ever registered.”