The government of Chile has suspended a proposed copper and iron mining project in the port city of Coquimbo, worth up to $2.5 billion, to protect the mineral-rich area’s habitat and wildlife, especially its Humboldt penguins.
Mining.com reports that the project, awarded to Andes Iron, was estimated to produce 12 million tonnes of iron ore and 150,000 tonnes of copper each year. According to an unnamed Chilean government official, the project involved construction of a new sea port along with other huge infrastructure.
But environmental activists claimed the project would have brought complete changes to the area by destroying forests and the Humboldt Penguin Reserve, located a short distance off the coast of mainland Coquimbo.
The Humboldt penguin is a species of seabird, found only on the coast of Chile and Peru. Conservationists have consistently warned that the animals are on the brink of extinction due to human activities.
In addition to the penguins, the reserve also houses bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, humpback whales, sperm whales, sea lions, albatross, and many species of fish.
When officials of Andes Iron submitted their Environmental Impact Assessment, a document evaluating the likely environmental impacts of the project, the Chilean government found insufficient evidence of environmental guarantees.
High ranking government officials, who studied the document, unanimously rejected it, putting the project in shambles. Although, Andes Iron can appeal the decision.
In a Facebook post, Oceana Chile, a marine conservation NGO who campaigned against the project, said:
“Today we have lived a historic day! The Committee of Ministers decided to reject the mining-Port project Dominga due to a lack of information and shortcomings in mitigating and repairing damage to the environment. Let us continue to alert and support the communities in the area. This is a victory for all people!”
Chile is rich in mineral resources. The U.S. Geological Survey said in 2013 that Chile is the world’s leading producer of copper, accounting for 31.8 percent of world mine production; iodine, 63.2 percent; rhenium, 50.9 percent; and lithium, about 38.6 percent.
However, the country has recently been exercising caution regarding how it extracts these minerals. It has given priority to the environment than profit.
Can the same be said about the U.S.? Do you still remember the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline? Do you still remember the brutalities unleashed on Native Americans?