A Chilean high-level government commission has given final approval to the first of five mines, Mina Invierno, at Isla Riesco in the extreme south of Chile.
The $530 million Isla Riesco Island project is underwritten by the Copec and Ultramar companies, which intend eventually to construct five mines and a port.
When Isla Riesco comes fully online, it is expected that the complex will supply 30 percent of Chile’s demand for coal, El Mercurio newspaper reported.
Environmentalists are aghast, as they are concerned that the massive mining project will negatively affect the local environment, while burning the relatively low-quality coal from the Isla Riesco Island complex will tie Chile to 25 years of “dirty energy” production at a time of growing concern about global warming.
According to commission chair, Minister of the Environment María Ignacia Benítez, the Superintendent of the Environment will be monitoring Isla Riesco’s development to ensure that the company complies with the country’s environmental regulations.
Not everyone is convinced. Opposition politician Deputy Carolina Goic told the local media “What the government has done is green-light the destruction of a natural habitat, unique in the world, where vulnerable species like the huemul, the puma and the condor live.”
The huemul, a species of deer, is one of Chile’s two national animals and is featured on the state coat of arms.
By. Charles Kennedy, Deputy Editor OilPrice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com