On Monday 9 March 2015, the Tribunal in the town of Vilos ordered the demolition of the Mauro tailings (toxic waste) dam at the Minera Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile. Minera Los Pelambres is owned by London-listed mining company Antofagasta plc, controlled by Chile’s Luksic family. The dam and the lake of toxic waste behind it are upstream from the small town of Caimanes.
This sentence followed the verdict of the Chilean Supreme Court on the 21 October 2014 ordering the mine to restore the natural course of the Pupio River. The Supreme Court gave the Los Pelambres mine one month to prepare and present a plan to fulfil the order. The plan proposed by Minera Los Pelambres was rejected on 9 March as inadequate, principally because it does not take into consideration the water from springs which are the main provider of water of the valley but are now buried under the dam. This was the main reason that the Tribunal ordered the demolition of the Mauro dam last October.
In Caimanes, the verdict was celebrated with happiness and euphoria, but in the Chilean media and in political circles the news of the demolition order fell like a bomb. Immediately, Minera Los Pelambres stated that “to demolish the tailings dam’s walls would pose a grave danger for the community and the environment”. Diego Hernandez, Chief Executive Officer of Antofagasta Minerals, said that “without Mauro it is not possible to maintain the production of Pelambres.” He argued that the judicial decision would damage the future of mining in Chile. Minera Los Pelambres appealed for its plan to be approved.
Read more on the website of the London Mining Network