How the battle against mining is progressing in Aysén

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By Evelyn Pfeiffer
Translation by Graci Gherardini
 
Australian mining company Laguna Gold announced in June that it was closing its Terraces project in the Aysen region. The mining project had received approval for 101 mining prospections just 3,5 km (2 miles) from the town of Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, on the shores of Lake General Carrera, the largest lake in Patagonia and Chile.
 
It was somewhat of a suprise: the company’s environmental impact statement had been approved by Aysén environmental authorities in late October. But in late May, Chile's Supreme Court reversed that approval, agreeing with a lawsuit filed by local residents that the government must first convoke a public consultation process on the project before making any decision. 
 
This fight has been won (and celebrated) by several environmental and citizen groups who want to put a halt to mining on lands where activities like agriculture, livestock farming, tourism, and conservation are the priorities. Nevertheless, the Laguna Gold project is but one of many conflicts with mining companies currently underway in Aysen, a region dubbed by many a “Reserve of Life" and which includes 6 of the 17 protected areas in the newly created Route of Parks of Patagonia.
 
An estimated 635,802 hectares in Aysen — 8 times the size of the metropolitan area of Santiago — have been given away to mining companies as of now, according to the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin, for its acronym in Spanish). Moreover, thousands of mining concessions have been granted to a small group of people who, instead of trying to exploit those rights, trade them to other parties.
 
The mining history in Aysén can be traced back many decades. In the 1930s, several mineral deposits were found in the basin of Lake General Carrera; in Puerto Sánchez, Puerto Guadal, and Puerto Cristal. In the 1950s, the Aysén Mining Company produced 50% of Chile’s lead, as well as 40% of the country’s zinc. The boom was short-lived, though. In the 1980s and 1990s, mining became unprofitable and operations ceased.
 
In the past few years, mining has not just made a come back though, its reached a new peak, and several multinational corporations are in the process of conducting mining prospections. And Aysen residents are more alert than ever in their fight to protect their home and livelihoods. Here is a summary of the main mining projects threatening the Aysen region: 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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