Antofagasta faces charges, fines for environmental breaches in Chile

Centinela copper mine. (Image courtesy of Antofagasta Minerals.)

Chile’s Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) has files charges against Antofagasta’s (LON: ANTO) Centinela copper mine in the country’s north, citing environmental damage on a water source and local wildlife.

The infractions go from “minor” to “very serious” and could see Antofagasta pay around $10 million in fines.

The agency said on Wednesday that one charge, described as “very serious,” was for not reporting or taking necessary actions to control and mitigate impacts on Loa frogs.

This amphibian is considered a critically endangered species that only lives in that part of the planet, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the SMA said.

The watchdog noted that audits carried out at and around the mine site between June 2019 and January 2020 confirmed community complains related to the use of water, which was a threat to Loa frogs. 

The Centinela mining complex, located in Chile’s Antofagasta region, was created in 2014 from the merger of the Esperanza and El Tesoro mines.

The company draws water from an aquifer to supply El Tesoro mine and from a desalination plant for Esperanza.

“Our audits revealed that the company has had an impact on the drop in water levels in the area, worsened by the fact that it did not report the impacts on the Loa frog,” nor took preventive actions about it,” the acting superintendent of the environment, Emanuel Ibarra, said in the statement.

The other charge, considered minor, is linked to non-compliance with a water source including the lack of monitoring reports and flow measurement. This, according to the agency, prevented the SMA from having flow records to “analyze the behaviour of this body of water over different years” and determine what “negative impacts the operation could have.”

Antofagasta said that it is analyzing the charges, adding that is open to providing information to clarify and clear up the situation.

“The company declares its surprise at the charges made, since more than 92% of the water it uses to operate is seawater without desalination,” Antofagasta said in a statement.

The miner now has 10 business days to present a compliance program addressing the deficiencies outlined and 15 business days to respond to the charges laid out by the SMA.

Antofagasta faces charges, fines for environmental breaches in Chile
Critically endangered Loa water frog. (Image courtesy of SMA.)