MAC: Mines and Communities

Communities file legal action against Los Pumas manganese project, Chile

Published by MAC on 2011-10-18
Source: Business News Americas

Communities in northern Chile want an Australian mining project's evaluation process to be declared invalid, for failing to include previous consultation with indigenous communities, as stated in the International Labour Organization's (ILO) 169 convention of which Chile is a signatory.

The prospective mine would consist of three open pits, and a processing plant for the production of 400,000t/y of manganese concentrates.


Communities file legal action against US$100mn Los Pumas manganese project

By Victor Henriquez

Business News Americas

11 October 2011

Indigenous communities from Chile's northernmost region XV have filed a legal action against Australian-based Southern Hemisphere Mining's US$100mn Los Pumas manganese project, community representative Richard Fernández Chávez told BNamericas.

The communities want the project's evaluation process, currently underway at the environment ministry (MMA), to be declared invalid for failing to include previous consultation with indigenous communities, as stated in the International Labour Organization's (ILO) 169 convention of which Chile is a signatory, according to Fernández.

"So far, the company has just held meetings with indigenous communities to inform them about the project. Those meetings cannot be considered public consultations under the ILO 169 convention," Fernández said.

Los Pumas is expected to have a significant impact on surrounding indigenous communities, affecting their cultural integrity, ancient economic systems and access to natural resources, according to Fernández.

"The system in Chile provides for public consultation to be carried out when the project is already under evaluation and not before the entire process begins, as the ILO 169 convention states," Fernández said, adding that Chile's environmental evaluation system cannot be above an international convention.

Evaluation Process

The most recent environmental impact study (EIS) for the project was submitted for evaluation at the end of August, following three previously failed attempts.

Southern Hemisphere originally submitted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project but it was withdrawn in January when the company was advised to submit an EIS including the participation of indigenous communities.

Two EISs, presented in May and June, were declared inadmissible after failing to comply with formal requirements, mainly related to inaccuracies between the electronic version and the paper document.

The EIS currently under evaluation passed the admissions test at the beginning of September. Copies of the study have been sent to local authorities and are available for consultation by local communities, according to the regional evaluation service.

The document doubles investment in Los Pumas from US$50mn to US$100mn, as it includes information from an updated JORC compliant resource estimate that was carried out as part of a final feasibility study.

The new report increased measured and indicated resources to 18.3Mt at an average grade of 7.58%. Based on the new resources, the company extended the lifespan from five years to eight years.

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