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Environmental Activists Climb The Obelisco To Demand Barrick Gold’s Veladero Mine’s Closure

By | [email protected] | June 9, 2016 5:52pm


Seven Greenpeace activists scaled the Obelisco in the City of Buenos Aires’s center this morning to demand that President Mauricio Macri close a mine in San Juan Province that saw a massive cyanide spill last September on periglacial ground — i.e. close to glaciers.

It was unclear at first whether these climbers were merely training as part of a real-life simulation for a future Aconcagua expedition, but around 10 AM, they cleared the air and hung up a sign that read, “Macri, save the glaciers.”

“This morning from the Obelisco, we showed what 180,000 people are demanding of the President: #MacriShutDownVeladero”

Activists have been protesting against Canada-based mining company Barrick Gold’s Veladero mine for years. The 2010 sanctioning of Argentina’s Glacier Protection Law prohibiting the contamination of glacial and periglacial (meaning close to glacial) landscapes seemed to be one step in the right direction, but the mine continued to operate. Last September’s incident, which saw 1 million cubic liters of cyanide solution spill into the local Jáchal River, appeared to finally be environmentally destructive enough to garner national attention. Environment Minister Sergio Bergman even stated that the mine’s closure might be a possibility.

According to the Center for Human Rights and the Environment, Argentina was the first country in the world to enact a law protecting glaciers. The law aims to restore the importance of water reserves in the public eye as well as decrease the risks that mining operations pose. It allows for the inspection of areas that requires this kind of protection.

The Glacier Protection Law was met with much resistance and pressure from mining companies. In 2010, this pressure led to a federal court judge suspending the implementation of the law within the province of San Juan. But the law was restored again in 2012.

Inconveniently, this morning’s activists didn’t have a permit to either practice their climbing skills or hang signs from 68 meters in the air, so they were arrested when they made it back safely on the ground.

The Obelisco has seen its fair share of rarities (let’s vow to never forget the time it was dressed as a condom), but has only been climbed a couple times in the 80 years of its history.

Scaling the Obelisco is only the latest feat by Greenpeace activists to persuade the government that the environment breathes a lot easier without deadly chemicals in its lungs. Last month, “liquid cyanide” cocktails were handed out at a bar in Rosario to display the effects of such chemicals (don’t panic: activists didn’t actually get their hands on the real stuff. Symbolism, people.)

The bartender went home with very little tips, and the toxic drink hasn’t gained enough popularity to stay on as a special, but demonstrations like these have had a fair impact spreading the word and adding signatures to a petition to close the mine down at

But as these things go, closing the mine wouldn’t be all rainbows and butterflies (although a few more might survive) since mining operations in San Juan are crucial to the economy: shutting down the mines would translate to a loss of 4,000 jobs, so some workers have marched in defense of Barrick.

But we’re a little curious to what other stunts these folks can pull. And whether or not they’ll apply for next season’s Fear Factor.