In a rare victory for the environment, conservation, and penguins, the Chilean government has pulled the plug on a hugely controversial mining mega-project that was set to cause havoc with the area’s habitat and wildlife, especially its much-loved Humboldt penguins.
The Dominga Project is a proposed $2.5 billion copper and iron ore open mining project that the Chilean mining company Andes Iron hoped to construct in the Coquimbo region of central Chile. Due to its size, the project would also involve the construction of a new sea port along with other huge infrastructure changes to the area.
Once up and running, it would have the potential to produce 12 million tonnes of iron ore and 150,000 tonnes of copper each year, according to MINING.com.
However, after ongoing controversy and insufficient evidence of environmental guarantees, high-ranking political officials from Chile's Ministers' Committee have rejected the plans following a prolonged evaluation period, BBC News and Reuters report. Although, the reports note it will be possible for Andes Iron to appeal the decision.
Environmentalists railed against the project due to its proximity to the Humboldt Penguin Reserve, located a short distance off the coast of mainland Coquimbo. This nature reserve is a hugely important breeding site for the Humboldt penguin, a species of seabird only found on the coast of Chile and Peru that is vulnerable to extinction.
This reserve is also well-known for its bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, humpback whales, sperm whales, sea lions, albatross, and many species of fish.
“Today we have lived a historic day!” Oceana Chile, a marine conservation NGO who campaigned against the project, said in a Facebook post. “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!”
In terms of its geology, Chile is sitting on a gold mine, or at least a copper mine. In 2013, a United States Geological Survey report said it was “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, all this comes at a cost and the South American nation has recently been showing more caution when it comes to environmental concerns.
While worries about the environment were the final nail in the coffin, for now, the Dominga mining project has also been wrapped up in all kinds of trouble due to numerous politician’s business ties to the project.
Regardless, the future of the Humboldt penguins and Chile's other coastal wildlife now seems a little bit brighter.