MAC: Mines and Communities

Chile: Pollution and gas leak hit community

Published by MAC on 2011-04-12
Source: AFP, Bloomberg

Yet Codelco's operations are allowed to continue

First it was closed - and then it wasn't.

Last month, a Chilean court ordered the shut down of Codelco's main copper smelter on the grounds that it was a source of pollution.

Just one day later, another court allowed it to re-open.

The original suit was filed by workers representing 135 former employees who died of cancer, and an environmental group representing some 40 people who fell sick last week following a gas leak.

The Chilean government is now reported to be considering the relocation of La Greda town, comprising 1,200 inhabitants, who live adjacent to the perilous plant.

Codelco is the world's biggest copper producer and owned by the Chilean state.


Court orders halt at Chile's main copper smelter


30 March 2011

SANTIAGO - A Chilean court ordered the world's biggest copper producer to shut down operations at its main smelter in Chile because of pollution.

The state-owned mining company CODELCO said on Wednesday it would appeal the decision and that copper exports would not be affected.

The court ruled that pollution from CODELCO's Ventanas smelter, located some 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Santiago, was adversely affecting local residents, including children at a nearby elementary school.

A suit was filed by former workers representing 135 former employees who died of cancer, and an environmental group representing some 40 people who fell sick last week.

"We are very happy because this is the first time that the courts accept a case like this," said Alejandro Navarro, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The La Greda elementary school was forced to close last week after a cloud of toxic emissions from the Ventanas smelter engulfed the school, sickening children and workers.

CODELCO said it was a one-time accident that was quickly corrected, and insisted measures have been taken to ensure "it can operate again safely with no problems for the population."

A spokesman for CODELCO, which called the court ruling unjustified, said the company had only begun shutting down operations at the smelter and that it was a "slow process."

The Chilean court must now address the substance of the claims, which call for increased environmental protection measures.

Chile Court Overturns Closure Order on Codelco Copper Plant

By Matt Craze and Nathan Crooks


31 March 2011

A court in Chile, the world's biggest copper-producing nation, revoked an order to close the Ventanas copper smelter operated by state-owned Codelco.

An order issued yesterday by an appeals court in the coastal city of Valparaiso was reversed because there isn't enough information that supports the decision, Chile's judicial authority said today in an e-mailed statement.

The halt on operations, at the request of a group of citizens and environmentalists after a gas leak, was "unjustified," Codelco said in a statement yesterday. The company was scheduled to present legal arguments late yesterday in a bid to resolve the case, it said.

Today's court decision clears Codelco to stop its preparations for shutting down Ventanas, which in 2009 produced 384,819 metric tons of copper. Codelco's own production accounts for 55 percent of Ventanas' processing volume while the remainder comes from small external producers.

Calls to Codelco's press department in Santiago went unanswered.

Chile: Codelco can keep smelting despite toxic gas

Associated Press

31 March 2011

SANTIAGO, Chile - A Chile smelting plant whose toxic gases sickened dozens of children and forced a nearby school to cancel classes can go back on line.

Appellate judges have accepted a government environmental report presented by Chile's state-owned Codelco copper company.

The press office of the court in the port city of Valparaiso says judges on Thursday annulled a court shutdown order.

Environmentalists and community groups have fought the Ventanas smelting plant over air pollution allegations and complaints people nearby have become sickened.

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