Prior to the Decision – Three Protests in One Week

La Serena, Landau, December 10, 2016.

Dominga 1The environmental assessment of the “Dominga” Mega-Project, with the port facility Totoralillo Norte, is in the final decision phase. The responsible agencies are working on their concluding statements and observations, and some have already presented them. In order to get their way with the Dominga Mega-Project, the company Andes Iron offered citizens and citizens groups in the La Higuera community a pact:  the company would finance certain projects in exchange for a “yes” vote on the Dominga Project.

Although it did not initially appear to be the case, important fishing unions in the area decided not to take part in the “round table” Andes Iron was offering; actually, it was the opposite. Instead, on December 5th, they demonstrated against “Dominga” on Route V (the highway between La Serena and Copiapo), near Caleta Hornos (see photos). Between 200 and 600 registered fisherman informed the public of the project's dangers to fishing and the harvesting of shellfish by holding up signs, burning tires, and blocking the highway. The demonstrators came from all the communities in the area, but primarily from Chungungo and Totoralillo Norte, where the port facilities are intended to be built. This protest was covered in many media sources.

On December 7th, the first of numerous mandatory workshops was supposed to take place, as required under the expanded environmental impact assessment (see also “Protests Force Expanded Evaluation”, from November 10, 2016). In these workshops, Andes Iron must present a response to the environmental impact of the port project on the neighboring environmental sanctuaries. The organizers of this first workshop expected 40 participants, but more than 100 came. Most of those people stood outside and loudly protested when they were not allowed inside. They demanded that such workshops be conducted in every single fishing village that would potentially be affected, and that each and every citizen should have the opportunity to take part in them. As a result, the event in La Higuera did not take place, and should be made up for this week, and, as demanded, also occur in all the other affected communities. Unfortunately, many in the media are reporting about this event in an incorrect and defamatory manner.

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On Friday, December 9th, the government representatives Daniel Melo and Leonardo Soto visited Punta de Choros. Daniel Melo is a member of the Environmental Committee from the Chamber of Representatives. By order of the Chilean Parliament, both representatives are reviewing  irregularities in environmental impact assessments. During a boat trip to the environmental sanctuaries and collective meal, MODEMA and Nancy Duman (Sphenisco) informed the representatives in detail about the contested projects. The representatives and environmental protectionists had also arranged a meeting in La Serena with Coquimbo Region's President, Claudio Ibáñez. At that meeting, 11,000 signatures against the Dominga Project, collected by MODEMA, were supposed to be handed over to Mr. Ibáñez. However, shortly before the meeting was to take place, the President excused himself from the meeting and had his Second Deputy represent him. During that meeting with the regional government and the media, Daniel Melo and Leonardo Soto took a clear position. They demanded that the “Dominga Project” be rejected. In the event a permit to build would be nevertheless approved by the government, they have made it clear that they will file with the Committee of Ministers for an annulment of the environmental review.

Three protests within one week strengthen the constructive forces. It might thus be possible to prevent this mega-project, despite massive economic and political interests.


translated by Erich Greiner

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