Chile’s top court puts Dominga mining project decision on Boric admin

Dominga is located about 65 km (40 miles) north of the central city of La Serena. (Digital rendition of project, courtesy of Andes Iron)

Chile’s top court on Wednesday turned down appeals filed by communities and environmentalists against the controversial Dominga mining project, saying a final decision needs input from President Gabriel Boric’s administration.

Last year, environmentalists and surrounding communities appealed a ruling from a lower court that tossed out a decision by a regulator that denied the company permits.

In its ruling, the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court said that it was turning down the appeals because it “determined that there is no final judgment that can be reviewed by this court,” adding that the final decision on the environmental evaluation is “pending a resolution from the administrative authority.”

That authority is the committee of ministers, made up of the mining, agriculture, energy, economy, health ministers and is chaired environment minister.

In his first speech as president-elect in December, Boric voiced opposition to projects that “destroy” the country, such as Dominga, which seeks to annually produce 12 million tonnes of iron concentrate and 150,000 tonnes of copper concentrate.

An environmental evaluation commission endorsed the $2.5 billion project last year, but it has been delayed for years amid strong opposition from environmental and social groups that say it would cause serious environmental damage to the region.

OceanaChile, an environmental group dedicated to protecting the ocean, has said the project could hurt the Humboldt archipelago off Chile’s coast, endangering its species and biodiversity.

“Our trust is in that the Committee of Ministers will consider all the scientific information that backs why Dominga is unviable and the Humboldt archipelago must be protected permanently,” it said in a tweet responding to the decision.

Andes Iron, the company in charge of the Dominga project, issued a statement saying it welcomed the court’s decision and added that “every time the Dominga project has undergone technical evaluations we have received favorable pronouncements.”

The project has spanned multiple administrations and sparked controversies for former presidents Michelle Bachelet and Sebastian Pinera. Pinera faced and survived an impeachment vote after details of possible irregularities linked to the Dominga project were revealed in the Pandora Papers leak.

(By Natalia Ramos, Fabian Cambero and Alexander Villegas; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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