Projects in Chile

Today we Celebrate, Tomorrow we Fight for a Marine Protection Zone

Landau 25 January 2023. On 18 January, the Committee of Ministers (1) approved 12 appeals against the Dominga mining and port project and unanimously rejected the controversial project. 

Before the decision, supporters and critics were very active. The broad alliance Alianza Humboldt invited to the cultural campaign "Music and Protest – No to Dominga" on the Plaza de Armas in La Serena. In the more than 4-hour program, very different artists performed. The performances in front of several hundred people were complemented by speeches by representatives from Chungungo and Punta de Choros, Alianza Humboldt and regional authorities. The speakers reaffirmed their commitment to a marine protection zone and a Humboldt Archipelago free of megaprojects.


On 16 January, at the request of some MEPs, the Chilean Parliament's Committee on the Environment discussed the 'Dominga case'. Nancy Duman was invited to the meeting to present the views of Alianza Humboldt.

On the day of the decision, citizens from La Higuera and the region demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Environment in Santiago against "Dominga". The trip to the capital was organized by the NGO, Oceana. 


Around 50 parliamentarians appealed to the Committee of Ministers to reject the mining and port project. 

Over the past 20 years, the conflict over the Humboldt Archipelago has been widely reported in the media. In Chile, all printed and online newspapers took up the "Dominga" case, and on an international level  Deutsche Welle, the Guardian from England and the news agency Reuters. The coverage was often not very balanced, and itwas especially annoying that some media did not or hardly criticized fake news and half-truths.

A few examples: Andes Iron can assert without being contradicted that the project "not only meets but exceeds all standards and is in line with the principles set by the government for the sustainable development of industrial and mining projects in terms of environmental protection". Already forgotten? Two and a half weeks ago, the competent state specialist services (2) critically stated:

"suggest an unfavorable environmental assessment of the Dominga project", 

"…it is clear that it does not comply with current environmental regulations", 

"…there was no adequate definition of the scope of action throughout the process, thus preventing scientific argumentation" (see state specialist services criticize ...). 

Andes Iron has not responded to this current criticism of the state specialist services, nor does it try to justify its owen positive assessment. The company remains true to itself and continues its "Pippi Longstocking Strategy", which has been practiced for years: We make the world ... how we like it.

Some proponents, e.g. Yerko Galleguillos, mayor of La Higuera, not only ignore facts, they also discredit the orientation towards them as "politically biased" or "partisan". It is recalled that Gabriel Boric spoke out against the implementation of the mining and port initiative during the presidential campaign. Instead of dealing with the reasons and arguments of the president or now the ministers, the proponents simply assume that it is judged and decided according to political and not factual-technical criteria. 

If you point your finger at others, 3 fingers are known to point back. In 2021, the Pandora Papers revealed that the family of then-President Sebastián Piñera and his partners had a 56% stake in the Dominga Project. In 2010, billionaire Piñera sold shares to his close friend and business partner Carlos Alberto Délano. According to the Pandora Papers, there were irregularities.  The third instalment of the payment was tied to a clause in which the government undertook not to protect the area designated for the mine. President Piñera has always denied the allegations. He barely survived the impeachment proceedings in the Senate triggered by the revelations.


Before the decision, Yerko Galleguillos, mayor of La Higuera, was particularly committed. He is quoted as saying, "People talk about the extinction of the penguin and the yunco  (Peruvian Diving Petrel) (3), but I'm talking about the extinction of my neighbors who don't have jobs. ... When will we finally talk about people and stop talking about fish and birds?" The mayor deliberately ignores the fact that it is about preserving a particularly valuable ecosystem, on which many jobs in artisanal fishing and tourism depend. Analyses show that more jobs are lost as a result of "Dominga" than new ones are permanently created. The mayor does not explain how he comes to another result, a positive result. 

Señor Galleguillos also likes to claim that in a referendum in 2022, 96% of the citizens of La Higuera voted in favor of the mining and port project. The number is correct. However, the mayor  does not mention that the survey was irregular because it did not meet the criteria of the municipal ordinance for citizen participation. He also fails to mention that only 18% of citizens (827 out of 4,505 voters) took part in the survey, while 82% responded to the call for a boycott or did not vote for other reasons.  As far as is known, a clear majority has rejected the "Dominga" project for years. (see "... the "Caravan of Life" moves on", March 2022 and "Thanksgiving 18 January ́23")

Mayor Galleguillos has been campaigning for years to develop the municipality of La Higuera with the help of the "Dominga" project. Strictly speaking, partisanship is not compatible with his office. As mayor, he represents all citizens, so he would also have to take into account the position of the  critics and strive for a balance of interests, instead of deepening the rifts again and again.

Already in 2017, "Dominga" was rejected both at the regional level and by the Committee of Ministers during the government of President Michelle Bachelet. The company Andes Iron appealed to the Environmental Court in Antofagasta and the Supreme Court. The Corte Suprema finally referred the "Dominga" case back to the Committee of Ministers for a decision. Andes Iron has announced that it will sue again. "The same procedure as the last years? Hard to say.


In April or May, a plan for a bi-regional marine conservation zone will be presented and discussed. If everything goes according to plan, the Committee of Ministers could decide in June on the declaration of an AMCP-MU (4) and the cornerstones of its design. 

Last October, Nancy Duman's action for annulment began its march through the legal courts. The action seeks to prove that the procedure of the Regional Assessment Commission (COEVA) was invalid or unlawful (see "The Environmental Court gives the action ...", October 2022). 


Both processes (the potential AMCP-MU declaration and the action for annulment) have the potential to fundamentally change the conditions for Andes Iron's mining and port project.

Even the singer and comedian Otto Reuter (1870-1931) knew: "Everything wouldn't be half as difficult if the word  ‘if’  weren't there".


(1) Environment Minister Maisa Rojas, Minister of Health Ximena Aguilera, Minister of Economy Nicolás Grau, Minister of Economy Esteban Valenzuela, Minister of Energy Diego Pardow and Minister of Mines Marcela Hernando

(2) Regional Ministry of Environment and Health, Undersecretariat of State for Fisheries, CONAF, Directorate-General for Water and the Departmentof Agriculture and Livestock

(3) Garnot Petrel - Pelecanoides garnotii
(4) Áreas Marinas Costeras Protegidas de Múltiple Uso (AMCP-MU), protected zone of the sea and the coast with multiple uses

translated by Erich Greiner

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