Bachelet Cabinet Votes to Protect ʺLa Higuera-Isla Chañaralʺ

La Serena, Landau 22. August 2017.

We have good news for the survival of the Humboldt Penguin in Chile. The Cabinet from President Bachelet have now also rejected the Dominga megaproject with the industrial port Totoralillo Norte, and thus confirmed the decision on March 9th of the Coquimbo Regional Government. The Committee of Ministers voted three to two, with one abstention, against the intended project from the Andes Iron Corporation. The Environmental, Agriculture, and Health Ministers voted against the Andes Iron project. The Mining and Energy Ministers voted for the project, and the Economic Minister abstained. The committee gathered numerous statements and analyzed them, in order competently review Andes Iron’s objection to the Regional Government’s decision. Environmental Minister Mena based the decision on the dangers to the environment and the fact that Andes Iron neglected to provide measures and means by which environmental damage would be prevented or offset. As in March, citizens and environmental protectionists celebrated this decision, and as in March, this decision caused a tremendous echo in the media – even internationally.

Prior to this decision, our employee Nancy Duman personally handed President Bachelet more than 357,000 signatures against the Dominga Project and for the Marine Protection Area “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” (s.a. The meeting with the President was set up on short notice and took place in a secure area of the airport at La Serena. Only three people were permitted to be present and no photos were allowed to be made. Nancy Duman again made it clear that not only the majority of the citizens in the region, but also people from many different countries want to prevent the destruction of the marine region “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”, and also want to see this precious marine area permanently protected. In connection with this, Nancy Duman reminded the President about the Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Chile had committed itself to put 10% of its ocean area under protection. The President referred to the coming decision of the Committee of Ministers, in which she did not wish to meddle, but said however that she would pass on to Environmental Minister Marcelo Mena the signatures and opinions regarding the conflict in northern Chile

With the recent decisions, the politicians in Chile have created a schizophrenic situation:  the Coquimbo Regional Government and the National Committee of Ministers have rejected the intended project from Andes Iron Corporation and the Port Totoralillo Norte.  The similar project from the corporation Compania Minera del Pacífico (CMP), along with the Port Cruz Grande was approved by the regional government and the Committee of Ministers. The lawsuit from the citizens’ movement MODEMA against CMP’s project was dismissed by the environmental court and is now in pending status at the Chilean Supreme Court. The planned industrial ports for the shipping of iron ore lie only five kilometers apart from each other, and equally threaten this precious environment. At the moment, it is totally open as to how the judiciary and politicians intend to resolve this contradiction.

The handing over of the signatures to the President, just as before with the Coquimbo Regional Government, were both part of the Campaign “Speak Out for Chile’s Humboldt Penguins!”. Together with Rainforest Rescue, Sphenisco will continue collecting signatures during the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress in La Serena/Coquimbo, Chile. During the Congress, we will challenge the politically responsible parties to act quickly to improve the protection of this valuable ecosystem and finally establish the marine protection area that was applied for many years ago. We request professionals throughout the world to support the online petition with the slogan “Yes to the marine protection area”.


translated by Erich Greiner