Chile calls for better mining industry recognition of enviro-social concerns to avoid project stranding

Chile, the world’s biggest copper producing country, has warned that the global resources sector needs to pay far more attention to its environmental and social licence obligations if new projects worth billions of dollars are to get up.

Addressing the second day in Sydney today of the Paydirt 2015 Latin America Downunder Conference, Chilean Copper Commission Executive Vice President, Mr Sergio Hernandez, said that while his country had taken the initiative to introduce stricter controls on mining operations and smelter emissions, nonetheless public expectations were now playing a greater influence on final investment decisions for new projects.

“Chile for example, has something like US$75 billion worth of new mining projects, primarily copper, earmarked for development over the next 8 years,” Mr Hernandez said.

“Just over half of these are what we would regard as ‘normal’ projects which will proceed along conventional approvals.

“However, something like US$8.3 billion worth have been delayed due to internal issues.”

The Copper Commission head said the resources sector had to recognise that proponents of some new projects had to learn to deal in a new way with society.

Empowered citizens and greater social awareness meant there had to be a better search effort to find mutually beneficial and legal frameworks which could operate successfully.

One of the dominant public issues being raised with increasing concern Mr Hernandez said, is the consumption by new mine projects of greater amounts of water – whether potable or sea water.

“The volumes of water and the quality of water demanded for new mining projects is now high on the public agenda and is a key environmental and social licence issue that is being addressed by miners and the Government,” he said.