MAC: Mines and Communities

Antofagasta’s massive dump in Argentina

Published by MAC on 2016-08-01

Chilean mining company gets away with depositing potentially contaminated wastes

In 2004, the Chilean government gave Antofagasta Minerals the go ahead to install the Cerro Amarillo dump to dispose of waste materials from the Los Pelambres mine in a 52 hectares landfill located in Calingasta, San Juan Province.

Chile Apparently Aided Mining Company Dump Waste Into Argentina

The Chilean government took a literal dump in San Juan Province by helping Antofagasta Minerals SA, a Chilean mining company, get away with depositing potentially contaminated waste in Argentina.

Nina Ariana

29 July 2016

It’s a pretty well-worn tale of sibling rivalry. Chile lets the UK camp out on its lawn during the Malvinas War, really screwing things up with Argentina, then everything sort of not really repairs itself over the next few decades with “friendly” football games between the two Southern Cone nations, the most recent one turning our MVP into a National Hot Mess(i) of grown man tears. (Still not over it).

But then we still hobble along on a path cobbled in passive-aggression, pushing each other into the mud when we think the rest of the world isn’t watching, neither of us willing to admit the other is the prettier, more popular sibling, or even more, that we might actually not like each other. Because honestly, which family doesn’t have its share of squabbles?

But then Chile decided to take a massive dump, quite literally, in Argentina’s San Juan Province by helping Antofagasta Minerals SA, a Chilean mining company, get away with depositing potentially contaminated waste in Argentina, and this all came out in a leaked email exchange between Chilean Mining Minister Aurora Williams Baussa and some Antofagasta Minerals representatives.

So what exactly are the details in this new chapter in the epic love hate story between Argentina and Chile? Let’s take a look:

According to Infobae, in 2004, the Chilean government gave Antofagasta Minerals the go ahead to install the Cerro Amarillo dump to deposit waste materials from the Los Pelambres mining deposit. Between 2007 and 2012, the company dropped some 55 million tons of mining waste, until it came to light that more than 52 hectares of landfill are located in Calingasta, San Juan Province, in the El Pachon mine, which is run by Swiss firm Glencore.

On April 28 of this year, the San Juan Province government passed an agreement with Los Pelambres to “isolate” rather than get rid of the dump site.

Argentine politician Fernando Solanas is set to contest this agreement in court. He says it should have gone through Congress and is in violation of the Constitution that “prohibits entry of present or potential dangerous wastes” into Argentina. In addition, a bill has already been presented to Senate to be brought to the attention of the Foreign Ministry and the Environment Ministry.

The incident has caused problems in both Chile and Argentina. In Chile it has led to the resignation of a senior government official, and a full-blown investigation into the incident. The ties between Chilean Mining Minister Aurora Williams and Antofagasta Minerals are also clearly and awkwardly apparent: Williams was once the manager of administration and finance for Antofagasta Minerals, which is controlled by Chilean conglomerate, the Luksic Group.

Williams met with representatives of Antofagasta Minerals on March 24, where Deputy Secretary Moreno made a presentation on the results of tests done in the area to rule out contamination which were prepared by The Binational Temporary Working Group (GTBT) to solve the conflicts between the two nations. However, in the end it seemed, the tests were done by a private consulting firm payed for by the mining company itself, and was not official.

Glencore conducted a study on its own about the damaging affects of the mineral deposits in the dumping zone: the quality of and quantity of water levels, and the erosion of the area. A test done by URS AECOM also concluded that there are 470 toxins that will be released into the environment, and that Antofagasta Minerals should have created a containing material. All of these accusations led to the agreement that Antofagasta Minerals will make the proper arrangements to remove what needs to be taken out.

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