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Greenpeace launches campaign against Los Bronces Integrado

With a 25 meter long sign, hanging over the Mapocho River, Greenpeace activists hanged themselves on the Nueva Tobalaba bridge and they displayed the message: “More mining in glaciers, less water for Santiago,” in rejection of the expansion of the Los Bronces mine, operated by the British company Anglo American in the commune of Lo Barnechea.

Under the slogan “Let’s raise our voices, let’s lower Los Bronces”, the NGO opposes this project being carried out. “Political and economic interests weighed more than technical aspects in its approval. And the environmental impacts that a project of this magnitude could have on our water reserves, the health of people and the preservation of our ecosystems were overlooked,” said Silvana Espinosa, spokesperson for the organization, about the project that has Environmental Qualification Resolution (RCA) approved, with modifications, after the unanimous vote of the Committee of Ministers on April 17, 2023.

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Along these lines, Espinosa retorted that said instance “Just a year ago he gave the green light to the project in a political decision, ignoring all the warnings carried out by the scientific and local communities, and the Environmental Assessment Service itself, in the first instance.”

Given this, environmental organizations such as Modatima and social movements such as No Más Anglo, and regional councilors and local communities of Lo Barnechea and Colina, have presented different judicial and administrative resources seeking to reverse this permit. Greenpeace, meanwhile, set up the website bajemoslosbronces.cl where they invite opponents of the project to sign, to show their rejection.

According to them, the initiative represents a threat to the mountain glaciers. To detect potential damage to these, the organization used different scientific studies, the results of which were published in the report “Glaciers of the Andes Mountains, Impacts of the mining industry.”

“Let’s raise the voice, let’s lower Los Bronces”: Greenpeace launches campaign against expansion of Anglo American mining project.

One of the impacts highlighted by the study is related to the emissions of dust and black carbon that are released, above all, in open pit mines, and that cover the surface of the glaciers with a dark mantle. “Ice and snow have a great ability to reflect sunlight. This allows them to keep the temperature low and keep the water frozen inside,” explains the Greenpeace spokesperson. However, when they darken, they generate the opposite effect, “they absorb heat and therefore accelerate their thaw,” she adds.

An example of this is evidenced by the Olivares Alpha glacier, located near Los Bronces. “The deposition of particulate matter generated by the mining industry, within a period of 10 years, explains 82% of the melting of its ice,” says engineer and glacier expert, Raúl Cisternas, author of the Greenpeace report.

“This chain of impacts, finally, has an impact on the water reserves of all the capital’s residents, whose protection is very valuable. Especially in the current context of water crisis,” reflects Espinosa.

Anglo American issued a statement in response to the NGO’s campaign, highlighting that “Los Bronces Integrado is a project that has environmental approval, which was obtained after an extensive and rigorous evaluation by the authorities, based on aspects technicians.”

The company highlighted the “sustainability criteria” incorporated into the project “so as not to affect the environment and which are the result of more than ten years of active dialogue with the communities and scientific studies.”

“We are convinced that mining activities and the preservation of the environment, including glaciers, can coexist. The company is committed to continuing to contribute with scientific research of the highest level on how glaciers behave, the ecosystem services they provide, and how these services are affected by different activities,” they emphasized.

In their statement, they maintain that “from its conception, Los Bronces Integrado contemplates avoiding any type of impact on glaciers, not affecting biodiversity in protected areas and not incorporating more fresh water in mining processes,” they noted.

Along these lines, they explained that for the underground phase, “an exploitation method was defined that protects the stability of the terrain and avoids impacts on the surface and on nearby glaciers; and an agreement was established with a third party to supply desalinated water to Los Bronces that allows us to stop using fresh water in the mining process by 2030.”

They added that the work with the communities began three years before the presentation of the Environmental Impact Study, which “allowed us to incorporate improvements to the project, among them, measures to ensure the non-affectation of glaciers, such as a Voluntary Glacier Monitoring Plan Targets, monitoring of geometric variations and possible interannual variations of albedo or reflectance, plus monitoring of the evolution of vibration values; in addition, an Early Warning Plan”, among others.

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