Chile rejects $2.5 billion copper-iron project

January 18, 2023

Andes Iron’s proposed $2.5 billion Dominga copper and iron mining project was killed by Chile’s committee of ministers.

The project was to be built near the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve with a proposed openpit mine and project. The committee of ministers was unanimously rejected by left-wing President Gabriel Boric’s cabinet

Speaking at a press conference at the environment ministry in Santiago, Maisa Rojas, the environment minister said the committee voted unanimously to reject the project after considering impacts on wildlife, water sources, air quality and marine-protected areas.

“The evaluation was made considering multiple aspects that had to be evaluated, multiple reports that had to be considered,” Rojas said. “It was a robust decision.”

Reuters reported that the project aimed to extract millions of tons of iron ore and thousands of tons of copper in an impoverished area of northern Chile around 450 km (280 miles) from Santiago, the capital.

But the area comprises a nature reserve encompassing three islands that are home to 80 percent of the world's Humboldt penguins, which are an endangered species, as well as whales, sea lions and the world's smallest otter species.

Chilean company Andes Iron wanted to also build a treatment and deposits plant, a water desalination plant and a port for loading minerals.

When taking office in March 2022, Boric's government had expressed its rejection of the port's construction.

Andes Iron’s Dominga mine project first underwent an environmental impact evaluation a decade ago before it was rejected in 2017 by the socialist government of then-president Michelle Bachelet.

But under her conservative successor Sebastian Pinera, the supreme court ordered a new evaluation.

The controversy then turned into a scandal in 2021 when leaked documents known as the Pandora Papers implicated Pinera -- then serving his second nonconsecutive term as president -- in a seemingly shady deal surrounding the Dominga project.

Dominga was sold through a company owned by Pinera's children to a businessman close friend of his for $152 million.

Photo: Humboldt Penquin national reserve. Credit, Shutterstock.


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