Projects in Chile

Public comment on the decision of the Antofagasta Court of Appeal

La Serena 18th May 2023.

With misleading information they want to force the Dominga project on us. Tendentious publications point out that the Court of Appeal gave "support" to the Dominga project even though the Committee of Ministers rejected it.

With regard to the publications made by La Tercera newspaper on 11th May 2023 and, in particular, by Radio Cooperativa on 12th May 2023, I would like to make the following comment:

In all clarity, it is hereby underlined that the Committee of Ministers unanimously rejected the Dominga Port mining project on 18th January when it accepted the objections raised by civic and environmental organisations and individuals (including myself) to this body on the grounds of the project's impracticability.

The Antofagasta Court of Appeal's ruling, published this week, upheld the Environmental Court's decision. The court declared inadmissible the appeal against the environmental classification decision and all administrative acts leading to the processing of the project by the Coquimbo Environmental Assessment Authority. The claim that the court "supports" the Dominga project with this ruling is therefore a serious distortion of the facts.

It must be noted that the Environmental Court initially allowed our claim and only after the SEA and Andes Iron appeared in court did it change its criteria and declare the claim inadmissible.

We strongly deny that the matter discussed in this complaint has anything to do with the technical and political aspects considered by the Committee of Ministers. We are aware that the owner of the Andes Iron project will also appeal against this decision. But be that as it may, in our opinion such a procedure suffers from the same taint as the fruit of the poisoned tree.

The flaw is that the clear legal mandate was not followed, according to which the regional authority should have submitted to the opinion of the SEA Executive Directorate whether the project is bi-regional or affects only one region. It was only subject to the opinion of the state administrative bodies with environmental competence (OECDA) of the Coquimbo region. In this action for annulment, we claim that the environmental impact assessment of the project and the decision on the environmental impact assessment (RCA) were carried out by a body that was not competent. 

There are pronouncements and technical documents that demonstrate the biregional scope of this project, as its sphere of influence covers the entire Humboldt Archipelago, which stretches between the Coquimbo and Atacama regions.

The ruling is not only nonsensical, but also a threat to environmental organisations and protectors. It contradicts the wording and the spirit of the Escazú Agreement, which our state propagated and ratified before the world public.

We see this arbitrary publication as part of a disinformation campaign and distortion of the truth about what happened to this project. Since the then President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, brought down the Barrancones Thermoelectric Power Plant "in favour of the nature reserve", only to find out later that he was the main owner of the Dominga shares.

This is a purely legal question. Therefore, lawyers Paulin Silva and Ivan Oyarzún are reviewing the verdict and will appeal to the Supreme Court to have it overturned in accordance with the law.

Nancy Duman Brito, environmental activist and member of Defensa Ambiental Región de Coquimbo and Alianza Humboldt Coquimbo-Atacama.

translated by Claudia Fawer


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