Santiago, Chile — Marine conservation organization Oceana described the resolution issued by the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) of Coquimbo as an outrage, because it endorses the approval of port mining project Dominga, in La Higuera commune.
In spite of the illegal actions during the environmental assessment process, which were reported by a number of organizations, the authority determined that the project did comply with the regulations and corrected the mistakes, omissions and inaccuracies identified during the environmental proceedings.
"It is outrageous that the Environmental Assessment Service endorses the approval of a project that did not provide relevant or essential information from the beginning in order to correctly assess the impact it would have on a unique marine ecosystem,” stated Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. "We informed the SEA on the infractions that have been committed throughout the environmental process and the countless impacts of the project, but none of this has been considered,” added van der Meer.
Oceana reported a number of the infractions that may have occurred during the environmental assessment of Dominga. First, that the SEA allowed the project to go forth despite the lack of necessary and sufficient information for its assessment, and even allowed the titleholder to present four unjustified addendums. In addition, the observations made by citizens have not been properly considered, as well as those made by public services. Even worst is the fact that the SEA dismissed the observations made by CONAF regarding the protection of flora and fauna of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve.
"We are deeply concerned by this situation; not only does the State of Chile and its institutionality not comply with their obligation to protect the country's biodiversity and natural heritage, but it undermines the few organizations, such as CONAF that are effectively trying to fulfill their duties,” said van der Meer.
The SEA's endorsement to the project's approval is not the end of the process. During the next stage, the Environmental Assessment Commission of the Coquimbo Region, comprised by the regional intendant and regional secretaries of a number of ministerial posts, will have to analyze the information and decide whether to approve or reject the project's Environmental Qualification Resolution.
"We expect the Assessment Commission to realize the serious mistakes made by the Environmental Assessment Service of Coquimbo and the irreversible damage that would follow the approval of such a project. We are certain, and we have proved so through careful analysis and reports, that port mining project Dominga should be rejected,” stated van der Meer.
In addition, Radio Biobío recently reported that former Chilean president Sebastián Piñera and his family were partners of Andes Iron mining company when Dominga began its development in 2009. This information adds a new aspect to an already controversial project.
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.