Communities of Putaendo, in Chile’s Valparaíso region, have filed a judicial appeal with the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA in Spanish), demonstrating various omissions and inaccuracies made by the Canadian mining company during the Environmental Assessment of its Vizcachitas project. In a 28-page document, the communities explain how the questions they asked during the citizen participation process were not adequately answered by the entity.
Canadian mining company Los Andes Copper has been developing the Vizcachitas copper-molybdenum-silver mining project in Putaendo since 2007. The company has been undertaking exploration activities without the consent of the local communities or the appropriate environmental permits. The rural municipality of Putaendo, which is largely made up of agricultural and livestock communities, and the Putaendo Resiste collective, have opposed the project ever since they realized the company was carrying out exploration activities without their knowledge or consent. As Carmen Pérez, a member of Putaendo Resiste told us in 2019, “There was never any communication or knowledge that the company was working there initially until one day we noticed the roads and the buildings...they never asked - people in the region were shocked”. In August 2020, the Valparaíso Court of Appeals approved an injunction requested by the Putaendo community against the SEA for having denied their right to a citizen participation process in March of that year.
Below is a summary prepared by Putaendo Resiste highlighting the most important points from the judicial appeal:
July 5, 2021
Press release: Putaendo won't surrender; files judicial appeal against approval of 350 drill holes
Thirty neighbours, together with Putaendo Resiste, filed a judicial appeal with the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) against the Valparaíso Regional Environmental Committee's approval of drilling to be carried out by Vizcachitas Holdings, a subsidiary of Canadian mining company Los Andes Copper. This project seeks to drill up to 350 holes in the Las Tejas sector in the Putaendo Mountain Range.
As a community, we have objected that the citizen participation process was not done correctly, because it did not guarantee actual participation and excluded important local social actors. First, a citizen participation process was organized in the middle of a pandemic, without promoting it, leading to very low participation. The SEA only carried out this process to comply with the Supreme Court ruling that also cancelled the first approval it had given to the project. Second, the SEA rejected the participation of social organizations and ignored their observations on the basis of a procedural formality that they had not been duly informed of.
From the point of view of the evaluation process, the approval of the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is arbitrary and presents several flaws. Regarding water sources, the company made a substantial change to the initial EIS in a desperate attempt to resolve one of the critical points, the source of water for its operation. Unable to demonstrate that the watersheds the project used didn't come from the Rocín River basin, they report in their complementary annex that they will obtain water sources using tanker trucks. However, there is no impact study that shows how the increase in traffic in the area could affect the basin or the road in the historic centre of Putaendo. Therefore, the impacts on the road were not adequately assessed, despite all the observations made by the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism's Regional Ministerial Secretary, whose report is ignored in all subsequent stages of the evaluation done by the SEA. Regarding flora and fauna, the EIS disregards many plant and animal species in its baseline study, which were recognized in the Simbiosis consultants’ report commissioned by the municipality. Finally, regarding the human environment, the company arbitrarily minimizes the project's area of influence to avoid assessing the impact it is inflicting on the community of the Piguchén mountain range.
Once again, we face an environmental institutionality that fails expectations, demonstrating that its purpose is to approve flawed projects based on economic and political interests without considering the potential damage to communities and ecosystems.
For many years now, Putaendo has been reporting the incompetent behaviour of the Environmental Impact Evaluation System and government authorities, as well as illegal actions committed by the mining company, leading to several objections, sanctions, and fines imposed by the regional Superintendence. All these actions have forced Los Andes Copper to delay the project for about five years.
We welcome the judicial appeal filed by the new authorities of the Municipality of Putaendo. For all the above reasons, we see with optimism that the unity of social organizations will stop this criminal mining project.
Support the struggle of the people of Putaendo by signing this petition.