Santiago — Marine conservation organization Oceana, reported illegal actions in the administrative process during the assessment of port mining project Dominga, and requested that the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA in Spanish) of Coquimbo reject the proceeding due to lack of essential information.
Oceana identified three infractions and asked the environmental authority to void the Consolidated Report of Clarifications, Rectifications or Amendments N°4 (ICSARA N°4) because it is noncompliant with the law. First, the project’s titleholder was allowed the unjustified presentation of a fourth Addendum; second, the observations presented by the National Forest Corporation (Conaf in Spanish) were dismissed; and third, Dominga was requested a new base line.
The environmental assessment process includes a number of steps in which public services can provide their observations regarding the projects. These observations are collected by the environmental authority in a report known as ICSARA, while titleholders provide their reply in a document known as Addendum. Regulations of the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA in Spanish) establish that titleholders may present up to two Addendums, in addition to a third one, exceptionally and if justified.
“Current environmental assessment procedures do not include a fourth Addendum, therefore if a project cannot be previously modified, it should be rejected,” warned Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. “In Dominga’s case, the observations made by public services have been overwhelming and many of the questions remain unanswered by the titleholder. Despite this, the SEA opens a new ICSARA, ignoring a great number of these questions,” she added.
In addition, Oceana reported that the SEA of Coquimbo dismissed the observations made by Conaf regarding Dominga, which addressed critical aspects of the project that had not been answered by the titleholder in previous Addendums. The SEA argued that the forestry service has no authority to refer to pollution caused by hydrocarbons or the preservation of hydro biological resources of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, though by decree this reserve is under the care and administration of Conaf.
“The fact that the SEA claims a role that does not belong to this organization, such as determining the competences of other services, constitutes a serious violation of law. By disregarding observations made by Conaf, the road is paved for the approval of a project that clearly does not comply with environmental regulations,” stated van der Meer.
Last, and according to SEIA regulations, one of the minimum requirements in an Environmental Impact Assessment is the detailed description of the base line, which if incomplete or absent, authorizes the SEA to terminate the assessment process in advance. In this case, only in ICSARA N°4 does the environmental authority request Andes Iron to identify species that up until Addendum N°3 had not been considered or described by the titleholder.
“The lack of essential information is blatant, which is why the SEA of Coquimbo should have terminated this project’s assessment in advance. The lack of a base line and essential information remains, and has not been explained after three Addendums, therefore, it should be rejected,” said van der Meer.
The project 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.