Campaign against the power plants

A further Stage Win and a Huge Question Mark

Landau, 9 February 2020.

On 7 February we published the text "A further Stage Win“ here: „Five years ago, on 30 January 2015, the Cruz Grande Port Project of the company CMP (Compania Minera del Pacífico S.A.) was approved. At that time Sphenisco, together with Chilean environmentalists, called attention of President Michelle Bachelet and relevant authorities to the dangers for the sensitive maritime region and to serious shortcomings in the environmental impact assessment. Without any success.

For unknown reasons the company CMP has not started the construction of the Cruz Grande Port in the last few years. The approval was limited to five years and expired end of last month. Therefore, the NGO Oceana is requesting an official confirmation from the Ministry of the Environment of the Coquimbo region that the deadline for the construction project has expired and thus also the approval is no longer valid. Sphenisco rejoices with the inhabitants of the coastal villages in the municipality of La Higuera and their fellow campaigners in Chile.“

All facts are correct and yet, unfortunately, there is a significant snag in the good news, as we have learned in further research. The company CMP (Compania Minera del Pacífico S.A) could not or did not want to start building the port. Instead, they intend to start planting trees, a compensatory measure to which the company was committed when the port was approved. They applied for planting trees to CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal) in Coquimbo in January, which was within the deadline. However, the plot which has been chosen to be planted is too small for the required number of trees. So far CONAF has not decided on the application. CMP now takes the view that the construction of the port began with the application and that therefore the licence has not expired. Given the current orientation of government policy, it is unfortunately not impossible that CMP will get away with this "trick" at CONAF and the Ministry of the Environment. Oceana and the environmental movement view things differently. They are considering legal action and want to provide clarity with the initiative at the Ministry of the Environment..

CMP's (unsettled) hesitation has improved the prospects of saving the precious ecosystem, so it is already a stage win. To preserve it, however, a lot of work and commitment are still required in the future.


translated by Angelika Veelken

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Partial Victory! Chilean High Court Rejects the ‟Dominga”Project.

Santiago, Landau, 27. September 2019.
Penguins, nature and environmental protectionists have again prevailed. The Chilean High Court in Santiago sustained the environmental protectionists’ lawsuit against the environmental court’s verdict in Antofagasta. The environmental court in Antofagasta had agreed with Andes Iron Corporation that the Coquimbo Regional Government and the Committee of Ministers had incorrectly disallowed the ‟Dominga”project. The High Court  however, came to a different conclusion, and in the sound reasoning for its decision, stated that most of the critics’ arguments against the project were in fact, well-founded. The court therefore referred the case back to the environmental court in Antofagasta, with the specific requirement that the court address the professional and technical arguments against the project.
translated by Erich Greiner
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Summary of the Efforts for a Marine Protection Area

- Sphenisco organises a conference in La Serena -

Landau 24. September 2019.
SeminariaoThe Coquimbo Region has been waiting since March for the decision from Chile’s highest court on “Dominga” (s.a. Article from 5. March), and along with that, also on the issue of the ̏Humboldt Archipelagoʺ. During the preliminary stages of the UN Climate Conference (COP 25) in Santiago, it appeared that the Chilean government was making efforts to prevent negative press, so as not to affront either potential investors or environmental protectionists. The conflict in the Coquimbo Region was, as much as possible, not mentioned, and they were hoping that it would be forgotten.
That alone is enough reason to speak out about it. Sphenisco will be staging a conference on 3. October called “Áreas Marinas Costeras Protegidas a dos años del IMPAC IV” (Marine Protection Area Two Years After the Global Congress for Marine Protection Areas – IMPAC IV),  together with the municipal authorities in La Serena, Coquimbo and Los Villos, the faculty of the Marine Science Department of the University of Coquimbo, and the Humboldt Alliance. The keynote speaker will be Philipp Robert from France, a marine protection area specialist from the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Chilean scientists and environmental protectionists will analyze the present situation and present options for sustainable development of the controversial marine and coastal protection areas. Parallel to that, Sphenisco has organized a market at the Plaza de Armas, with booths where local initiatives will inform the public and offer products from the local region.
translated by Erich Greiner


Arguments Against ‟Dominga”

Nancy Duman Rosa RojasLa Serena, Landau 06 July 2019

On 11 June, 2019 Rosa Rojas (from the citizens action group, MODEMA) and Nancy Duman (from Sphenisco) spoke at the Coquimbo Regional Government’s Environmental and Energy Commission under the topic,‟The Infeasibility of the Dominga Mining and Port Project” (see PDF file). The presentation briefly summarized the most important arguments. The majority of the advisors did not allow themselves to be convinced by these arguments (naturally), but were nevertheless obviously impressed with the presentation.

translated by Erich Greiner

Straight to the Point! „Humboldt Alliance“

La Serena, Landau 5. March 2019.
On the 27th and 28th of February, as well as on March 4th, proceedings in the appeal against the verdict of the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta from April 27, 2018 were held at the Supreme Court in Santiago [see also, “Carta Abierta (open letter) to President Piñera, on this website]. The High Court heard the attorneys’ pleadings from eight different parties, six against (see first photo) and two for the Dominga Project from the Andes Iron Corporation. The environmental organizations Oceana and Geute pleaded against the project, as well as the citizens’ action groups and associations from the region (Modema, Drinking Water Committee, Association of Fishers and Small Farmers – see Remark 1). Those that pleaded for the project naturally came directly from Andes Iron Corporation and a regional citizens group that the corporation is very close to.

Campaigns and Events for a Healthy Environment

Landau 4. March 2019.

The mega-project from the Andes Iron Corporation has been rejected by the majority of the populace for some time now. The decision of the Environmental Court in Antofagasta and the plans of the Piñera government, to push large projects through without any consideration for the environment and the interests of the population, has outraged more and more people. Therefore, citizens have intensified their participation in campaigns in support of a healthy environment. Since the beginning of the year, environmental groups have organized many small and large campaigns and Events:

Civil Society Organizations Disgusted by Land Use Plan

La Serena, Landau 30. December 2018.
ZivilShame to the person who thinks badly of this. On 27. December – between Christmas and New Year’s, at the beginning of the summer vacation period – the Consejo Regional (advisory body of the Coquimbo Region) approved an intercommunity land use plan with thirteen votes to three. With this plan, it will be possible to industrialize areas that actually must be prioritized as protected areas. This plan would therefore allow port infrastructure to be built on the coast of La Higuera; the environmental importance of the region would thus be relegated to the background.
Numerous civil society organizations have already protested against this decision (1) before and inside of the Intendencia (the official seat of the Regional President) in La Serena. Nancy Duman was able to make a short statement to the Consejeros (regional council members) about the current plan’s one-sidedness and deficiencies:

1. an already-existing plan, as well as the collective, scientific literature regarding the coast and the ocean area of “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”, were not taken into account at all.

2. the residents of the affected area were not involved in the decision, and their interests and needs were not respected.

3. the plan opens the way for a contaminating industry (see Cruz Grande and “Dominga”), at the expense of an ecosystem of global importance.

“Reform” of the Environmental Review in Chile Planned

-Sphenisco Organizes a Seminar on the Ramifications-

La Serena, Landau 22. December 2018.
ReformFor over 20 years in the La Higuera Region (northern Chile), industrial projects have been planned that again and again threaten the “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”ecosystem, and with it, the natural habitat of the Humboldt Penguin. It is SEIA’s task (the agency responsible for conducting the environmental compatibility assessment) to properly and in conjunction with subject-matter experts’ assessments, review and appraise the planned projects. In this process however, through intensive lobbying and maneuvering, corporations have continued to attempt to minimize imposed environmental conditions and to push through concessions from the government. The review processes usually take many years to complete, and are often finally decided in court.
In July, the Piñera government drafted a bill to “reform” the environmental review process. The review should become more modern and optimized, the influence of politics reduced, the participation of citizens expanded and the access to justice eased. That all sounds good. However, the actual suggested changes speak a very different language, as shown in the following examples: thus, should the time of citizen participation be reduced from 60 to 30 days, the regional review committee should be dissolved and replaced by three nationwide commissions. The chronologically-shortened civic participation should be documented and its results submitted to the environmental court. Complaints are thus to be directed to the judiciary. With this, the court would simultaneously be the reviewer and the judge, and the separation between public authorities and justice would be removed. Overall, the possibilities for citizens to sue against a project would be drastically limited. According to the critical opinion of attorneys and experts, this “reform” would weaken the review of the environmental compatibility and open the floodgates for even stronger Manipulation.


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