Committed to the Environment
The Group aims for responsible and balanced management of its operating areas, and is constantly aware that its activities can affect the environment. At all stages of the development of a mine, from exploration to closure, we try and prevent any potential environmental impact and, when this is not possible, we seek to mitigate the impact or provide compensation.
Performance & Reports
The Group’s environmental management is regulated by the Chilean environmental law and specific mining regulations. In addition, it complies with ICMM principles, international best practice and the guidelines set out in ISO 14001.
The Group’s environmental management priorities are:
- Compliance with all commitments contained in its Environmental Approval Resolution (RCA)1.
- Ensuring that critical controls for key environmental risks are in place.
- Early identification of the main environmental issues affecting development projects and ensuring the quality of their environmental impact assessments.
- Defining appropriate strategies to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity and ensure the correct closure of mines.
The Group has specific standards for managing environmental factors, including climate change, biodiversity and the closure of mining operations.
1 The Environmental Approval Resolution (RCA) contains specific, legally-enforceable commitments, whose compliance is a condition of the environmental approval of a project granted by the Chilean Environmental Assessment Service.
The Group’s operations are located in two areas with very different geographical characteristics. Los Pelambres is located at the head of the Choapa Valley in the Coquimbo region, traditionally an area of agriculture and raising livestock. Its climate is Mediterranean in the valley and high-altitude climate at the mine site. The main environmental challenges are water scarcity, particulate matter in the air and potential impacts on biodiversity and archaeology. Centinela, Antucoya and Zaldívar are located in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions on earth, and face the particular challenges of an extreme and arid climate.
The Environmental Framework Law is the key instrument for environmental regulation in Chile. The main institutions involved are the Ministry of the Environment, which defines public policy on environmental issues, the Environmental Assessment Service, which assesses and rates project impact, the Environmental Superintendence, which conducts audits and imposes sanctions, and the Environmental Courts.
The law stipulates that mining projects must be assessed by the Environmental Assessment Service, which can authorise or reject their construction and operation. As part of this process, they canvass opinions from the relevant government agencies and, where appropriate, from neighbouring communities. Any approved project must comply with a set of commitments aimed at preventing, mitigating or compensating for any environmental impact it may have. Compliance with these commitments, contained in the Environmental Assessment Resolution (RCA) of each approved project, is monitored by the Environmental Superintendence and is legally binding.
In 2016, new legislations were enacted that directly affect the mining industry, including Law No. 20,920 regarding waste management, extended producer responsibility and recycling. Furthermore, new regulatory standards relate to the storage of hazardous substances and reporting of environmental incidents. Parliamentary debate is under way regarding water ownership, glacier protection and the transport and storage of concentrates.
Antofagasta Minerals aims for full implementation of the required critical controls for key environmental risks and for full compliance of its commitments in its RCAs. Regarding the latter, during 2016 the Group developed a new system for monitoring environmental commitments, which includes an early warning system for the detection of potential non-compliance.
INCIDENTS AND FINES
There were no spills or any other operational incidents with significant environmental impact in 2016.
In 2016, the Group’s operations were reviewed by the Environmental Superintendence, the Geology and Mining Agency (Sernageomin1), the Water Agency (DGA) and the Health Service, among others, for compliance with environmental regulations. Of the 53 audits, none led to fines or penalties in environmental matters. In October 2016, the Superintendence filed charges against Los Pelambres for matters detected in audits carried out in 2014 and 2015. The company presented a compliance programme to correct these findings, which is currently awaiting approval by the authority before it can be implemented.
During 2016, progress was made on two important projects at Centinela, which will begin operating in 2017: the Molybdenum Plant and the Encuentro Oxides project. Both projects must comply with commitments in their respective RCAs during the construction phase, as well as meet the Group’s own environmental standards, to align them with the new environmental management programme that is being implemented in 2017.
PROJECTS UNDER ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
The Los Pelambres Incremental Expansion Project will maintain copper production capacity by increasing milling capacity and ensuring the water supply during drought with the construction of a desalination plant.
The most relevant issues for environmental review are related to water, biodiversity and archaeology. The company has developed a process of engagement with nearby communities through which the main aspects of the project have been presented and the opinions of all stakeholders obtained.
PROJECTS WITH ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITS
The Centinela Mining District project obtained environmental approval in 2016 (RCA N°436/2016). The main environmental issues on this project are related to particulate matter and its impact on the community of Sierra Gorda, and with potential archaeological and paleontological findings.