Campaign Launched to Prevent La Higuera from Becoming a New Sacrifice Zone | Oceana
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Campaign Launched to Prevent La Higuera from Becoming a New Sacrifice Zone

Press Release Date

Monday, January 9, 2017
Location: Santiago, Chile

Santiago — With this video, Oceana, the marine conservation organization, seeks to prevent the setup of mining-port megaprojects Dominga and Puerto Cruz Grande in the commune of La Higuera, an area globally known for its rich biodiversity.

Through the campaign “Save La Higuera,” several organizations and coast-related groups have come together to protect this ecosystem.

“La Higuera has been identified as a priority conservation site by different organizations like the Chilean Forestry Service (Conaf) and the Ministry of the Environment, reason for which it is part of Chile’s natural heritage,” stated Liesbeth van der Meer, Oceana Vice President for Chile. “This area shelters not only marine reserves, which have been created based on its priceless biodiversity, but also communities that have developed sustainable and profitable activities, including tourism and the extraction of razor clams and abalones,” added van der Meer.

Currently, Dominga is in the final stage of its environmental proceeding, waiting for the resolution by the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA). Oceana identified severe flaws in the process and found out that Andes Iron, Dominga’s titleholder, failed to submit relevant and critical information from the outset, underestimating the project’s marine area of influence.

In several occasions, the mining company stated that Dominga’s marine area of influence was restricted to the Totoralillo Norte bay, place where the port will be located. However, after the authorities insisted, the company recognized a larger area of influence and only now did it consider the impacts of ships carrying the mineral on the marine environment.

“It’s impossible to assess new impacts so late in the process, so we expect the SEA to reject the Dominga project,” stated van der Meer. “We cannot doom such a landmark place in terms of biodiversity and productivity to lose its richness. Decision-makers need to define the type of development they want for our country, whether it is supporting and promoting local sustainable activities or sacrificing them to favor a project with an expiration date,” concluded van der Meer.

The project consists on the construction of two open pit mines for the annual extraction of 12 million tons of iron and 150,000 tons of copper concentrate in only 22 years of service life. Additionally, it includes a loading port expected to be located only 10 kilometers away from CAP’s — a steel company — Cruz Grande port. Both industries will be near marine reserves in Choros and Damas islands and Chañaral Islands, and the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, home of approximately 80% of the global population of this species. In addition, the area is a breeding, feeding and migration ground of relevant fauna such as the sea otter, the Peruvian diving petrel, and blue and fin whales, all of which are endangered.

In 2010, this area was threatened by the imminent setup of thermal power plants. As a matter of fact, the President in office at the time, Sebastián Piñera, had to intervene to stop the construction of the Barrancones power plant, after the action of citizens. Barrancones was only one of three power plants planned to be set in La Higuera.

Contact: Cristián Arroyo: +56 9 4451 5945 

Press Materials: video, audio clips and photos