A regional Chilean environmental commission on Wednesday approved Andes Iron’s $2.5 billion Dominga project, giving the green light to the proposed copper and iron mine after years of wrangling in the country’s courts.
The commission had previously rejected the proposal, but in April, an local environmental court breathed new life into the project, ruling the information provided by the company was sound and requiring regulators take another look.
The Coquimbo regional commission on Wednesday voted 11-1 in favor the project, saying its environmental impact study had met all legal requirements.
The victory marks a rare win for a major new project in Chile, the world’s top copper producer, and provides a fresh prospect for the South American nation’s cohort of sprawling, but aging, mines.
The copper concentrate and iron mining project would be located about 500 km (310 miles) north of the capital Santiago, and near ecological reserves.
Critics say its proximity to environmentally sensitive areas would cause undue damage. Andes Iron, a privately held Chilean company, has long rejected that assertion.
Environmentalists and community activists criticized the decision.
“They don’t want to protect the environment or the communities, they only look after economic interests,” said leftist lawmaker Gonzalo Winter on social media.
Diego Hernandez, president of Chile’s National Mining Society, an industry group that represents the country’s largest miners, said the eight-year permitting process had been “excessive” but praised the final result.
He warned, however, that further legal challenges promised by some critics could still see the project’s progress stymied.
“Surely its opponents will insist on continuing to try to prevent its development,” Hernandez said.
(By Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood; Editing by David Evans)