The marine conservation organization, Oceana, launched a new campaign to ban mining companies from throwing their tailings into the Chilean ocean. With an animated video called “Submarine tailings: a brilliant idea from large mining companies”, the NGO makes an irony of an actual proposal being assessed by these companies in Chile. The video quickly became viral with over 9,000 views in less than two days.
“Large mining companies are looking at the ocean as a potential dumpsite. This would entail terrible impacts not only for the environment but also for the fishing community and the health of seafood consumers. We expect that the bill banning this practice can be passed as soon as possible”, stated Alex Muñoz, Vice President for Oceana in Chile.
Currently, the Senate’s Environmental Committee of the Chilean Congress is discussing the bill that bans the disposal of mining tailings into the ocean and is expected to vote it in the next few weeks. This bill, submitted by Oceana, was sponsored by five senators from the full political spectrum. During the debate, representative of the Chilean Navy, academia and fishing officials, have rejected the idea of mining companies disposing their tailings into the ocean.
Codelco, Antofagasta Minerals and Anglo American are some of the mining companies evaluating throwing their tailings into the Chilean ocean. This is due to the fact that Chile’s main copper reserves are located in the country’s central area, where population densities and the competition for space among several users prevent the establishment of new land-based tailings deposits.
The disposal of mining tailings would take place through a pipeline carrying tons of waste to a submarine canyon, a sort of valley in the sea bottom which is considered as a vulnerable ecosystem worthy of protection by the United Nations. In fact, according to scientific research conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), tailings dumped into the ocean result in severe ecosystem impacts, including damage to human health due to the intake of seafood polluted with heavy metals typical of mining operations.
Studies also warn about the reduction of marine species and biodiversity abundance, which would impact fishing activities. In Chile, this would entail considerable impacts particularly for the artisanal industry that operates in the first five marine miles catching fish such as common hake, conger-ell, anchovy among many others.
The bill was sponsored by senators Antonio Horvath, Alejandro Guillier, Adriana Muñoz, Baldo Prokurika and Lily Pérez.