La Serena, Chile — The Environmental Assessment Commission of Coquimbo, headed by Regional Intendant Claudio Ibáñez, will vote tomorrow whether to approve or reject the project's environmental qualification. This is the last resort of the assessment process of project Dominga, which has been strongly questioned by public and private organizations. The session will also be attended by Ministerial Regional Secretariats of a number of Ministries and the Regional Director of the Environmental Assessment Service.
"This is the last resort to stop this project, which if approved, will cause irreversible damage to a unique ecosystem in Chile," warned Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. "It would be a shame if the Assessment Commission were to approve this project, considering all the illegal actions that have been reported," added van der Meer.
Dominga's environmental assessment process has been strongly questioned by entities such as CONAF and a number of environmental organizations, in spite of which the Environmental Aassessment Service (SEA in Spanish) of Coquimbo endorsed the approval of the Andes Iron project. Oceana reported some of the infractions of the process, among them, the dismissal of observations made by citizens and a few public services. The most serious one being that the SEA of Coquimbo dismissed the observations made by CONAF regarding the protection of flora and fauna present in the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve.
"It is unbelievable that for a second time a project of this size makes it to these instances, in the same area where in 2010 a country took action to block the construction of a thermal power plant," stated van der Meer. "It's both a shame and a setback that the SEA tried to dismiss the observations made by a number of services and deliberately questioned their competence to endorse this project that will cause irreversible damage to this unique ecosystem," she added.
In relation to this, the Forestry Corporation (CONAF) publicly criticized the project and determined that the environmental impact assessment presented by Andes Iron did not rectify fundamental aspects throughout the environmental proceedings. Among the controversial aspects reported by the Corporation are that Dominga underestimated the project's area of influence, incorrectly identified and assessed the environmental impacts, and failed to conduct an actual assessment of the impacts of the navigation routes.
"Once again, we cannot allow the installation of a project where artisanal fishermen have built a sustainable economy and where tourism has achieved recognition at an international level. It makes no sense for us to continue to bury sustainable communities and install new sacrifice zones," stated van der Meer.
Today, and for the second time, the special session of the Chamber of Deputies was suspended because the ministers of Mining and the Environment, both guests at the meeting, did not confirm their attendance. The special session will address “the serious reports related to mistakes, corruptions and infractions during the environmental assessment procedure of mining project Dominga, in the Coquimbo Region.”
Dominga involves the construction of two open pit mines for the annual extraction of 12,000,000 tons of iron ore and 150,000 tons of copper concentrate with a life cycle of only 22 years. In addition, it includes a port facility to be located 10 kilometers from CAP steel company’s Cruz Grande port. Both industries will be located near the marine reserves of Choros and Damas Islands and Chañaral Island, and the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, home to about 80% of this species’ global population. In addition, this area is a breeding, feeding and migration ground for animals such as the marine otter, the Peruvian diving petrel, and blue and fin whales, all of which are endangered species.