Santiago — By means of a study conducted by experts, the marine conservation organization, Oceana, found out that Andes Iron, the titleholder of the Dominga port-mining project, underestimated the marine area of influence and failed to consider the impact of ships carrying the mineral through the marine environment from the outset. After several remarks made by the authorities, the mining company did include such an impact in October 2016; however, its inclusion comes three years after the beginning of the environmental assessment process.
“It’s unconceivable that only now, three years after the beginning of the environmental process, the Dominga project identifies new impacts over the marine environment, since at this point it’s impossible to assess them adequately,” said Liesbeth van der Meer, Oceana Vice President for Chile. “From the beginning, the titleholder underestimated the marine area of influence, in spite of repeated remarks by authorities,” added van der Meer.
Oceana noted that the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) failed to apply the regulations that require the Service to put an end to the assessment of a project when relevant or key information is missing, as in this case. On several occasions, Andes Iron stated that Dominga’s marine area of influence was restricted only to the Totoralillo Norte bay. However, after the authorities insisted, the company admitted that the area of influence would be larger. At this time, it also included the impacts of ships expected to take the mineral through the marine environment.
La Higuera is an area known worldwide for its rich biodiversity, with 80% of the global population of Humboldt penguins and other endangered species, such as marine otters, Peruvian diving-petrel, blue and fin whales, which face severe threats should this megaproject be approved. For this reason, the NGO stated that the SEA needs to refute Dominga’s environmental impact study and reject its environmental qualification resolution.
The project considers 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 port to be located only 10 kilometers away from CAP’s Cruz Grande port, a project which is also pursued in La Higuera.
“La Higuera has three reserves and has been considered a priority conservation area due to its ecosystem diversity by public agencies such as Conaf (the Chilean Forestry Promotion Agency) and Sernapesca (the Fishing Authority). Additionally, in the six coves located in the commune of La Higuera, fishing resources such as razor blades and abalones are being sustainably managed, with great gains for fishermen and tourism. Are we going to put all this at risk for a project that has only 22 years of useful life?” warned van der Meer.
According to the terms established, the SEA in Coquimbo should recommend the approval or rejection of Dominga’s Environmental Qualification Resolution during January.