Manager of Andes Iron: “The most visible opposition to Dominga does not come from the community, but from international NGOs”

17 January 2022 | News

Francisco Villalón, manager of Corporate Affairs of the company, explained that the additional commitments assumed in compensation measures, totaling US$400 million, are inspired by the mining development model in developed countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.

The manager of Corporate Affairs of Andes Iron, Francisco Villalón, explained the steps that come in the conciliation process opened by the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court for the case of the Dominga port mining project.

The executive explained that the additional commitments assumed in compensation measures, totaling US$400 million, are inspired by the mining development model in developed countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.

However, beyond the economic benefits that the project could generate, which considers an investment of US$2.5 billion, for Andes Iron “the most visible opposition against Dominga does not come from the community, but from international NGOs, which are actually more that we perceive Dominga as having a case against mining,” Villalón says in writing.

Why is there still opposition from some actors in the area to Dominga’s proposals?

We have worked for more than a decade in the territory, with the communities, and we know that the vast majority of the residents of La Higuera yearn for this project. There are some opponents in coastal sectors that are not in the area where the project will be located, who have spoken out against it, whose position we respect and we are always looking for ways of dialogue to address their concerns. The most visible opposition against Dominga does not come from the community, but from international NGOs, which in reality, more than Dominga, we perceive as having a cause against mining.

Why will there be another conciliation hearing?

As resolved by the court, because Andes Iron presented a conciliation proposal that the rest of the parties must analyze, and because one of the appellants’ lawyers did not appear with the corresponding power of attorney.

The plan of proposals would cost some US$400 million. How will it be financed? What is the most expensive measure?

They are proposals that take care of all the concerns raised throughout the process, which we are offering to be mandatory and binding. Adding the measures that are already assured, there is no other socio-environmental proposal of this depth and scope in mining in Chile. The US$ 400 million imply a significant increase in the costs of the project and an impact on its profitability, but imply a positive gain for the scientific, technological and social development of the territory. 50% of the resources are destined to improve human and productive development conditions, such as the provision of desalinated water, domestic lighting projects using renewable energies, the opening of a device to compare power for small-scale mining, and the sharing of benefits in productive and social development projects. The other 50% is cutting-edge technological development and scientific research to care for the environment, with initiatives such as a Scientific Research Center, a Rescue and Protection Center for Protected Species (such as the Humboldt penguin), electrical conversion to 100% renewable, among many others.

Is this the final proposal from the company or could you add more measures?

The efforts we are making to address the concerns surrounding the project involve resources that put us in a very tight position from a financial point of view.  However, we have room to seek more solutions that involve joint and collaborative efforts between communities, social movements and the authorities.  We will always be available for dialogue and the search for agreements.

Which of the proposals will benefit the families of La Higuera economically?

All the proposals we have made point to projects for the common good that have a positive impact on the entire community from a perspective of human, productive and environmental development.

In addition to the proposals for the provision of water for human consumption, we will contribute to the development of an electricity supply model, through photovoltaic renewable energy, that will alleviate the pockets of the monthly payment for this service.

Likewise, the residents will have the first priority to work on the project, they will have training programs to improve their employability, scholarships and other aid in educational matters.

Let’s not forget that the main agreement we have with the community is the Framework Agreement, which contemplates sharing the benefits generated by Dominga, with annual contributions that can vary between two and four million dollars (depending on the price of iron) to finance productive and social projects.   This measure only, implies doubling the fiscal budget of the commune.

In your proposal you offer to “provide 100% of the commune of La Higuera with the infrastructure to produce desalinated water for human consumption.” How do you intend to carry out this action? How long does it take to get it up and running?

We already started working. The first step was to listen to local leaders and the rural water committees.  We know their problems, and they have proposed solutions that we have incorporated into our proposal.  The beginning of the construction of the project is also the beginning of this initiative.  From the first year of construction, we will have significant progress in water coverage for citizen,s and total supply within a maximum period of three years.

Do you believe that there has been a double standard in the evaluation of this project versus Cruz Grande of CAP, because in the processing of the latter there was no such cost in the compensation proposal?

A fact that was sentenced by environmental justice is that there was discriminatory treatment in the environmental evaluation of both projects by the authorities of the time. Let us remember that all this resulted in the resignation of the economic team of the time that observed the irregularities of Dominga’s rejection.

There has also been a kind of discrimination on the part of opposition groups, especially NGOs, for which the Cruz Grande project did not present any kind of threat. This leads us to think that the real cause of these groups is against mining.

In what model of mining company or project were you inspired to present your proposals?

We have traveled the world and have applied the same measures or superior to those contemplated in countries such as the US, Canada and Australia.  In developed countries we have seen experiences in which this controversy does not exist, and it is perfectly possible to adequately reconcile shipping traffic and productive development.

The NGOs that in Chile have intransigent positions, in Europe and North America they seek collaborative solutions. We look in great detail at the case of the San Francisco Bay, in California, USA.  An interesting measure that we replicate, and have forced ourselves to, is the restriction of vessel speeds to 10 knots and even less in sensitive areas, the reduction of shipping routes to only 15% of what was originally contemplated and a frequency of one ship per week.

What do you think of the opinion of Greenpeace that maintains that the conciliation instance cited by the Supreme Court is a “legitimation of illicit”?

Unfortunately, it does not deserve any opinion. A pity that our institutions are disrespected, and that we celebrate their actions only when it suits us or we like their decisions. This NGO recently became interested in Dominga and has invested a lot of resources, all based on slogans, without much content.


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