After the Coquimbo Environmental Assessment Commission (Coeva) approved the controversial Dominga mining-port project by eleven votes in favor and one against, Environmental organizations rejected the determination but clarified that this does not imply that it can be built, since there are pending appeals in the Supreme Court.
The project belonging to the Andes Iron company, controlled by the Délano family, considers the construction of two open-pit mines (of iron and copper) and a megaport in the commune of La Higuera, in the Humboldt Archipelago, a set of eight islands and islets that protect one of the richest ecosystems in the world, recognized by the national and international scientific world.
From the different organizations grouped in the Humboldt Alliance, they explained that the Coeva carried out the voting via telematics, despite the fact that there are pending judicial appeals. The instance, made up of ten regional ministerial secretaries, the presidential delegate and the regional direction of the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) “decided to approve the Andes Iron project, despite the fact that it had already been rejected twice for being incompatible with the ecosystem from the Humboldt Archipelago and for presenting serious technical shortcomings ”.
For this reason, they warned that they will complain to the Committee of Ministers, which would have to wait for the court cases to be resolved before taking a decision. “In other words, it is very likely that this government will not have the last word on the case,” they said.
To Ezio Costa, lawyer for the group and executive director of the NGO Fima, “It is regrettable the misuse of the right by the Coquimbo Environmental Assessment Commission, to favor private interests and against the public interest, which is the conservation, restoration and conservation of nature and the environment.” In addition, he adds that, despite the fact that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on Monday, warns that we are on a path of no return due to the climate and ecological crisis, “a project is approved that it is clearly very harmful. Bad for Chile, but we will continue to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on law and annul this vote, along with the ruling of the Environmental Court ”.
The directora ejecutiva de Oceana, Liesbeth van der MeerHe added that “the conclusion is that it is technically rejected and politically approved. This is the fifth opportunity for a project that should have been rejected early from its inception, but it simply continues to float because in Chile caring for the environment is not the priority ”.
From Greenpeace Chile, meanwhile, its national director Matías Asun He stated that “it is a disastrous project two days from knowing that the planet itself is on fire and that we have no more square centimeter of nature, oceans and forests to lose. This is a project that will transform the area inhabited by protected species such as Humboldt penguins, dolphins and blue whales, which should be treated as a sanctuary in our country ”. On the contrary, he indicated, the area “is going to be transformed into an area full of boats, with risk of spillage, with contamination, they are going to transform it into one more slaughter area. This is completely counterproductive, which goes in exactly the opposite direction and only proves that we actually have a hypocritical environmental discourse ”.
What should have happened, Asun argues, is that in light of the information available after the publication two days ago of the IPCC scientific report “and the clamor of the world scientific community concerned about the care of the oceans, it is that this area should declare herself immaculate ”.
It should be remembered that last May, fishermen, communities of the La Higuera commune and environmental organizations presented cassation appeals before the Supreme Court to invalidate the judgment of the First Environmental Court of Antofagasta (1TA) that ordered the vote that was carried out today, but the highest court has not yet ruled.
The Dominga project – which contemplates a useful life of 25 years – had already been rejected in 2017, both by the Coquimbo Environmental Assessment Commission and by the Committee of Ministers during the administration of former President Michelle Bachelet, due to the fact that it presented a deficient baseline of the marine environment, underestimated its area of influence and did not characterize the navigation routes, technical shortcomings of deep risk for one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems of the entire Humboldt current. Faced with these rejections, Andes Iron appealed and prosecuted the case.
The Commission is chaired by the presidential delegate of the Coquimbo Region, Pablo Herman (only vote against the project) It is made up of the Regional Ministerial Secretaries (Seremi) for the Environment, Energy, Mining, Health, Economy, Public Works, Agriculture, Housing, Transportation and Planning, as well as the regional director of the Environmental Assessment Service.
This vote was carried out in the midst of demonstrations on the outskirts of the city hall of Coquimbo.
After the result of the vote was known, the candidate for La Moneda of the Socialist Party, Paula Narváez, said that the approval of the Dominga project “is a mistake that will cost us dearly. This is not progress, it is the beginning of a new sacrifice zone. We do not want development at the expense of our territories and the well-being of people ”.
“The government has once again chosen the wrong path, putting economic interests above those of the planet. Let’s not deepen the climate crisis, not Dominga, “he said.
The presidential letter of Approve Dignity, Gabriel Boric, expressed, for his part, that “when we talk about overcoming the current neoliberal model, extractivism, this development model, we are taking charge of an issue that seems very distant, but the IPCC report shows us that it is current, now already. We want development but not at the expense of the present and the future ”.
In addition, he assured that “Chile Vamos and the right wing are doing irreparable damage. Our position on this is clear and we will keep it firm in a future government: we want development but not at the expense of the environment and communities ”.
The candidate of the Christian Democrats, Yasna Provoste, pointed out that “so far this is a matter pending judicial resolution but despite this, this government is seeking to accelerate the approval of a bad project. In our opinion, it is irresponsible in the midst of the climate and environmental crisis that the country is going through. Trying to approve a project that involves future generations is a bad idea, it is an unacceptable provocation to the environmental institutions and to all the organizations that have worked to make their adverse effects visible ”.
The general coordinator of the Provoste campaign, Marcelo Mensa – who was also Minister of the Environment during the second Bachelet government – argued that “this is a farce that will have to be corrected by the Supreme Court” and emphasized that ” Unfortunately, the project is being approved by private interests and is not in line with sustainable development. We don’t want another sacrifice zone. Approval is a shame. Not to Dominga ”.
From the Radical Party, the candidate Carlos Maldonado indicated that “just months after having elected regional governors for the first time by citizens, Piñera, through the Seremis, which ultimately depend on Santiago, approves a key project in the region of Coquimbo, without considering the objections and objections that the new regional governors have expressed, that is fine print, that is contrary to the spirit of decentralization. We will promote that the final decisions on the projects of each territory are taken by the authorities elected by the citizens of those territories.