Today, the Ministerial Committee confirmed rejection of port mining project Dominga, a decision that was described by marine conservation organization Oceana as a great achievement.
In a divided vote, the ministries of Environment, Health and Agriculture dismissed the claims made by Andes Iron, for not presenting suitable mitigation measures and not managing impacts on people’s health and the environment, according to Marcelo Mena, Minister of Environment.
“The technical arguments, the lack of a base line, the dismissal of existing science regarding the study of environmental impacts finally took precedence in this rejection”, said Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. “Institutionality has done its work and this Ministerial Committee did nothing more than take into account the reports submitted by nine public services expressing their opposition to the approval”, she added.
The Andes Iron project had already been rejected by the Environmental Assessment Commission of Coquimbo in March this year, but the mining company appealed the decision, causing the final verdict to fall on the Ministerial Committee. This entity requested reports from 14 public organizations, nine of which stated their objections to the project’s approval.
Dominga’s environmental impact assessment was strongly questioned by civil society organizations, because it didn’t include basic information and didn’t gauge the impacts that two open pit mines and a mega port would have on the marine ecosystem and Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. Through an open letter, the scientific community warned authorities of the irreversible damage to the environment that would be produced by project Dominga.
“The construction of contaminating industrial projects should not be considered in this area, whose ecosystem has been recognized by science as being unique. This is why the initiative to create a Coastal Marine Protected Area for Multiple Purposes (AMCP-MU in Spanish) needs to be encouraged, to foster sustainable development, as occurs today with artisanal fishing and whale watching tourism”, said van der Meer.
Artisanal fishermen of the La Higuera commune, who account for 85% of the regional production of Chilean abalone and limpets, in addition to a large amount of macha clams, were pleased with the news.
“In the last few years we’ve attained great wealth thanks to the sustainable management of our resources. We know that an economy with these characteristics is possible on the coast of La Higuera, we’ve been able to demonstrate it and we’re happy that authorities rejected project Dominga”, said Aliro Zarricueta, president of the La Higuera Fishermen Federation.
The “Salvemos La Higuera” (Let’s save La Higuera) campaign was a coordinated initiative to protect the area’s richness. It was developed by Oceana, Sphenisco, Chao Pescao, the La Higuera Fishermen Federation, AG Punta de Choros, Modema and several environmental organizations of the Coquimbo region.
Dominga’s rejection was announced a few weeks prior to the start of the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4), to be held in La Serena, the same region where the project would’ve been built.