When a survey performed by prominent glaciologist Ricardo Villalba did not result in the closing of an Argentinian gold mine, environmental activists had him thrown in jail for “abusing his authority and violating his duty as a civil servant,” Nature.com reported.

Villalba, head of the Institute of Snow, Ice and Environmental Research (IANIGLA), was brought before a federal judge after Argentine environmentalists filed a lawsuit claiming that Villalba’s 2011 glacier survey “did not comply with a law enacted in 2010 that was designed to give extra protections to Argentina’s glaciers.” The court put a $300,000 lien on his property.

Environmentalists claim that Villalba rigged the glacier survey to favor mining interests, but the glaciologist denied the accusations. Villalba is being backed by other scientists who overwhelmingly agree that the lawsuit is really a politically-motivated witch hunt.

According to the environmentalists, Villalba should have counted smaller glaciers that would have resulted in a government audit of a mine owned by the Canada-based Barrick Gold Corporation. Such action would have likely resulted in an audit, and regulators would have forced the operations to shut down, say activists who contend that this would have averted three cyanide spills in the past two years.
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