La Serena, Chile — The Environmental Commission rejected the Environmental Qualification Resolution of Dominga port-mining project. In a tied vote, the Intendant of Coquimbo, Claudio Ibáñez, had to settle the matter. After delivering a long speech, he voted against the Andes Iron project.
“Institutional operation has been respected in the rejection of this project, which would’ve meant the sacrifice of one of the areas in the country with the richest biodiversity,” said Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. “The Intendant and regional secretariats considered the technical and environmental arguments that were so convincingly presented, and it was important for us that they be made clear,” she added.
The regional secretariats of the ministries of Environment, Mining, Housing, Public Works, Economy and the Regional Director (S) of the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) voted in favor of Dominga, while the regional secretariats of Health, Social Development, Transport and Telecommunications, Agriculture, Energy and the Intendant rejected the project. According to the Commission’s regulations, when the poll is tied, the Intendant’s vote is definitive.
"We never thought Dominga would be rejected, considering that the SEA had endorsed its approval,” said Andrés Álvarez Alcota, president of MODEMA. “This is our chance to strengthen the sustainable development of our commune,” added Álvarez.
Outside the Intendance, a large number of Dominga opponents gathered in expectation of the voting results, and burst with joy when hearing the outcome.
“We’re happy; we thought the authorities wouldn’t listen. This is great news for La Higuera commune,” said Álvarez.
The mining project had been strongly questioned by public and private institutions, and Oceana had reported illegal actions and infractions during its environmental assessment process.
Dominga involved two open pit mines for the extraction of iron ore and copper, a port, a desalination plant, and a tailing basin in the La Higuera commune. This is where the marine reserves of Choros Damas Islands and Chañaral Island are located, as well as the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, all of which are highly vulnerable and internationally recognized ecosystems.