SANTIAGO – The Chilean government has shown its strong will to protect sea life, including endangered penguins by rejecting plans for a US$2.5 billion mining project after it failed to provide sufficient environmental guarantees.
Andes Iron, a Chilean company, had wanted to extract millions of tonnes of iron in the northern Coquimbo region as well as building a new port.
Coquimbo is close to the islands which form Chile’s Humboldt Penguin Reserve.
The area is home to 80% of the world’s Humboldt penguins as well as other endangered species, including blue whales, fin whales and sea otters.
Environment Minister Marcelo Mena said: “I firmly believe in development, but it cannot be at the cost of our environmental heritage or cause risk to health, or to unique ecological areas in the world.”
Mr. Mena said the decision of the ministerial committee had been based on technical aspects and the evidence of fourteen agencies and was taken without “political considerations.”
Chile’s National Mining Society (Sonami) was quoted by the Spanish news agency, Efe, as saying “this decision was bad news for mining and for the country”.
Andres Iron can file an appeal in the case.
Last week, A group of scientists sent an open letter to Chilean authorities in which they affirmed that port mining project Dominga and port project Cruz Grande were incompatible with the marine biodiversity found in the La Higuera area, in Chile’s Coquimbo region.
In the letter, they outlined scientific arguments that demonstrate why the conditions of this area are unique and irreplaceable and request that this ecosystem be preserved “for future generations”.