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Environmental commission again approves controversial mining project in Chile

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Environmental Evaluation Commission of Coquimbo, in northern Chile, approved this Wednesday the controversial Dominga mining and port project, close to a national reserve containing 80% of the Humboldt penguin species, amid protests from environmentalists.

Rejected in 2017 under the government of Michelle Bachelet, considering that its installation did not guarantee environmental safety, in 2018 – already in the mandate of Sebastián Piñera – another court ordered a new vote to decide on its construction.

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In April of this year, the claim of the owner of the project, Andes Iron, which includes an investment of US$2.5 billion, was accepted. The technical aspects that led to the 2017 rejection were ordered to be reviewed.

Dominga mining and port project. (Photo internet reproduction)
Dominga mining and port project. (Photo internet reproduction)

This Wednesday, the Environmental Assessment Commission of Coquimbo (450 km north of Santiago, where the project is located) approved the project’s Environmental Impact Study amid protests.

The project must now be reviewed by the Piñera government’s Council of Ministers.

“This is a process that is regulated,” Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt told the press, explaining that as she was presiding over the Council of Ministers, she could not refer to the substance of the matter.

For the independent opposition deputy Marcelo Díaz, it is a question of “accelerating a process to leave it tied up before the end of this government” since one of its owners is a close friend of President Piñera.

Dominga is strongly rejected by ecologists, who consider it a death sentence for an area of Chile marked by environmental diversity.

Oceana estimates that it threatens “one of the most important marine ecosystems in the world, recognized by national and international science as a biodiversity hotspot that must be protected”.

The project is to be built near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, created in 1990 around three islands between the Atacama and Coquimbo regions to protect a unique ecosystem that includes penguins of an endangered species that only nests in Chile and Peru.

It contemplates the construction of open-pit mines and a port for the export of metals.

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