In the municipality of Alhué, located in Melipilla province, of the Metropolitan Region, a gold and silver mining project called Minera Florida, currently owned by Yamana Gold corporation, is currently under development.
Among the many negative impacts generated by the extraction of minerals in the environment, there is one particularly concerning one: emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, especially particulate material.
The community of El Asiento has shown their concern by pointing out that their houses are filled with dust (tailings dust) and that the diseases in the area have increased. In addition, they point out that fruit trees (mainly walnuts and avocados) have reduced their production and even died.
Geute Conservación Sur, together with Juan Pastene – representative of the locality – filed a complaint with the Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) for repeated breaches by the project owner of its own operating resolutions.
As a result of the complaint, the SMA initiated a sanctioning process that led to the formulation of charges against Minera Florida, for non-compliance, actions that were denounced and verified by the authority.
However, the Superintendency, after the owner of Minera Florida presented its compliance plan, decided to suspend the procedure, arguing that the owner took responsibility for the impacts.
In view of the above, a complaint was filed in Environmental Courts. On February 24, 2017, the Environmental Court accepted the claim filed against the SMA, ruling causes Rol R-104-2016, since it considered that the compliance program submitted by Minera La Florida does not meet the minimum requirements of content, nor the criteria of integrity and effectiveness that justify its approval; declaring it accordingly null.
This ruling is of utmost importance for the correct use of our environmental institutional framework, since to date, the SMA has approved multiple compliance plans submitted by infringing owners of their RCA, where they do not describe the effects that said breaches have generated; and therefore, they do not have measures or actions tending to reduce or eliminate the negative effects generated by the breaches. This interpretation has not in any way incentivized compliance with environmental regulations since the Project Owners have taken the presentation of such Programs as a new deadline to comply with their RCA without receiving any sanction, or take charge of the adverse effects that have produced their breaches on communities and the environment.
Minera La Florida, presented a new compliance program, which was approved by the SMA on December 29, 2017. This new compliance program also does not meet the legal criteria, so a claim was submitted to the Second Environmental Court of Santiago (Case R-170-2018), with the object of invalidating the SMA resolution through which the new compliance program was approved.