Chile: Scientists call for protection of La Higuera coast, endangered species in open letter

SANTIAGO – A group of scientists have sent an open letter to Chilean authorities in which they affirm that port mining project Dominga and port project Cruz Grande are incompatible with the marine biodiversity found in the La Higuera area, in Chile’s Coquimbo region.

In the letter, they outline scientific arguments that demonstrate why the conditions of this area are unique and irreplaceable and request that this ecosystem be preserved “for future generations”.

Scientists highlight that this region’s particular feature is an oceanographic phenomenon known as upwelling, which are deep cold waters, rich in nutrients that fertilize surface waters and foster the existence of abundant food for species that live there, many of them considered to be vulnerable, such as the Humboldt penguin, or endangered, such as the blue and fin whales.

Andes Iron, the company that owns Dominga, assured that the project would not affect the area’s ecosystem because it is located several kilometers south of the marine reserves, but scientists state in the letter that “the Humboldt current flows from south to north, and will drag and carry all sorts of pollution produced by mining and port activities”, classifying it as an “ecological disaster against biodiversity” that “cannot be allowed”.

It should be noted that last week, marine conservation organization Oceana successfully relaunched its #SalvemosLaHiguera campaign with a video featuring renowned scientists discussing the reasons why Dominga port mining project is not compatible with the marine environment. In 10 days it has been shared over 141,000 times from the Oceana Chile Facebook account.

The #SalvemosLaHiguera campaign aims to protect the coastal ecosystem from the threat posed by Dominga, which includes a mega port located south of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and two open pit mines that will operate for only 22 years.

After a controversial environmental proceeding, the Environmental Assessment Commission of Coquimbo dismissed the Andes Iron project for jeopardizing the area’s marine reserves, for not providing certainty as to whether the project would mean have significant impact on the environment, and for providing unsatisfactory mitigation measures, among other reasons. After the project was rejected, the mining company presented an appeal to turn the decision around, which should be resolved by the Ministerial Committee.

In addition to the campaign, regional organizations have announced a peaceful protest against the mega projects that are threatening the environment of La Higuera. This event will be held in the city of La Serena, on Saturday, August 26, at 11:00 am.