“The Committee of Ministers has a unique opportunity to go down in history as defenders of biodiversity or to be remembered as part of the dark history of conservation in Chile”. That quote marks the beginning of a video with which marine conservation organization Oceana relaunched its campaign to save La Higuera, #SalvemosLaHiguera, in which renowned scientists explain the reasons why port mining project Dominga is irreconcilable with the marine environment.
“At this time, this is probably the richest area of marine birds and mammals known in Chile”, explains biologist and cetacean expert Juan Capella. The video also presents the arguments of Armando Mujica, Doctor of Animal Biology; Carlos Gaymer, Doctor of Biology, Ecology and Marine Conservation; Daniel Torres, former chief of the science department of the Chilean Antarctic Institute; Guillermo Luna, Doctor of Natural Science, Ecology and Marine Conservation and Yerko Vilina, biologist expert in water birds and marine mammals, who states that this is the most important area of the entire Humboldt current.
The #SalvemosLaHiguera campaign aims to protect the coastal ecosystem from the threat posed by the Dominga mining project, which involves a megaport located south of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, and two open pit mines. After a strongly questioned environmental proceeding, the Environmental Assessment Commission of Coquimbo rejected the Andes Iron project because it jeopardizes the area’s marine reserves, it doesn’t provide certainty as to whether the project will have a significant environmental impact and it provides unsatisfactory mitigation measures, among other reasons. After the project’s dismissal, the mining company presented an appeal to turn the decision around, which should be resolved by the Ministerial Committee.
“All the scientific information that explains this area’s richness and why it should be protected, is public; technically, this is a strong case which will allow the Ministerial Committee to clearly grasp what science has to say about this area”, said Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director for Oceana Chile. “We trust that the Committee will confirm the mining project’s rejection”, she added.
The video ends with scientists calling on the Ministerial Committee to protect this unique ecosystem and to consider the information that for years has been collected here. “If we interfere with this area there is no way to compensate with another equivalent area, because it doesn’t exist. Therefore, we can’t really think about compensation measures here, if this area is intervened and it disappears, it’s done with and lost forever”, ends Gaymer.
The campaign is launched a month before the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress, IMPAC 4 is held in La Serena, the same region where the project is to be installed. Voices have been heard that point to the contradiction of organizing the world’s most important meeting on protected areas in the Coquimbo Region, while there are industrial projects threatening one of the world’s richest ecosystems.
It should be noted that the Doming project involves the construction of a mega port and two open pit mines for the extraction of iron ore and copper concentrate, with a life cycle of only 22 years.