Credit : El Ciudadano, Chile 

By Javiera Martínez and Cristóbal del Río, Corporación de Defensa de la Cuenca del Mapocho

It is widely known that Anglo American is negatively and irreversibly impacting glaciers in Chile, as well as the most important water reserves for the territory. Local communities and territorial organizations have denounced the irresponsible actions of the London-based mining company. Under the NO + Anglo movement, the communities of Lo Barnechea, El Melón, Til TIl, Colina and Lampa have joined in solidarity to stop the actions of the mining giant (1). Likewise, organizations such as Greenpeace have publicly denounced the looting and destruction of glaciers in Chile, caused by the company (2).

Anglo American recently presented an Environmental Impact Study for the development of the “Los Sulfatos Tunnel under the La Paloma Glacier” project. During the Citizen Participation process and citizen observations, the main concerns of the community were raised, due to the threats of the project presented by the company. The Consolidated Report of Request for Clarifications, Rectifications or Expansions (known as ICSARA in Spanish) has presented in a devastating way the consequences of this project in relation to glaciers and water reserves.

According to the Regional Government of the Metropolitan Region, the project presented by the company is detrimental to the sustainable and strategic use of water. In the same way, it generates an irresponsible and insecure use of the territory, due to the imminent risk of natural hazards in the region, directly affecting the ecological water services for the entire region.

The report also emphasizes that Anglo American is using a measurement method that is not appropriate for measuring pollution or impact on glaciers (3). The standard used is a Swiss standard called Ordinance on Air Pollution Control (OAPC) (4) which aims to measure air pollution in relation to the protection of soils and the health of the population. However, glacier ecosystems have complexities that cannot be measured by this standard, therefore the parameters used are not applicable to the ecosystems present in glaciers, nor to the situational characteristics of local mountain environments.

In addition, the Environmental Impact Study presented by Anglo American does not measure the pollutants that are transported by the winds (black carbon or soot), elements that directly affect the alteration of glacier masses. The Regional Government report highlights that “scientific research establishes as a causal link, the deposition of dust particles generated by mining activity and the critical loss of glacier mass, as is the specific case of the Olivares Alfa Glacier, among others”

Some of the relevant elements of the report is that Anglo American does not recognize the impact on the glaciers in the immediate vicinity of the project, such as the La Paloma glacier, nor others close by such as the Olivares Alfa glacier, so the company presented a project where it underestimates the area of actual influence of the project. In addition, the company has presented uncertain and contradictory airborne particulate pollution measurements with scientific research.

It is relevant to mention that the project presented by the company is located in the Fundo Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary, zoned as an Ecological Preservation Area, in a Priority Biodiversity Conservation Site (5), an area of the greatest importance for regional biodiversity, in the upper reaches of the Maipo and Mapocho River basins, which provide essential ecological services such as water supply to the entire metropolitan region.

It is important to note that 45% of the country’s population lives in the region where the project is located, more than 7 million people, and at the end of the project presented by Anglo American the population will grow by 1,300,000. The concern of the state entity SEA (Environmental Assessment Service), in charge of reviewing the project, is reflected in the following text included in the ICSARA “That aside from the deficiencies of the EIA presented by the owner, already mentioned above, there are external factors that add variables that increase the uncertainty about the environmental sustainability of the project; these are: the sustained prolongation of periods of drought and the cumulative effects of climate change, factors that have a potential negative and synergistic influence on the contribution of the glacier system around the project to the water system of the upper basins of the Mapocho and Maipo rivers (basin of the Olivares River tributary of the Maipo River)” (6).