Chile fishers brace for fallout after massive mining port is approved

The iron ore export terminal was approved for an area rich in marine resources that artisanal fishing communities rely on, and is just 29 kilometers from the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and the Choros and Damas Islands Marine Reserve. The project’s approval went practically unnoticed at a time when attention was focused on a debate over the planned construction of another mining port, Dominga, just 5 kilometers to the south. Once completed, the Cruz Grande port will serve 75 ships a year carrying away 13.5 million tons of iron ore — less than 300 meters from fishing sites that hundreds of families rely on for their incomes.

LA HIGUERA, Chile — On Jan. 30, 2015, the Chilean environmental agency granted permission for the construction and operation of the Cruz Grande port in La Higuera, a community in northern Chile’s Coquimbo region. The port, built to handle 13.5 million tons of iron per year in 75 shipments, lies just 29 kilometers (18 miles) from the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and the Choros and Damas Islands Marine Reserve.

The Cruz Grande project is owned by an affiliate of the Compañía de Acero del Pacífico (CAP), the main iron mining and steel production group in Chile and the biggest on the western coast of the Americas. The project’s approval went practically unnoticed at a time when attention was focused on the construction of the nearby Dominga mining project and port, owned by the Chilean company Andes Iron SpA and with ties to President Sebastián Piñera’s private businesses.

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