Preserving Our Natural Wealth

Chilean law and international good practice embrace the growing importance of protecting ecosystems, biodiversity and archaeological heritage. Antofagasta Minerals works to prevent, mitigate and compensate its impact and actively seeks to preserve and promote natural and cultural heritage in its operating areas. 

OUR APPROACH

The Group’s efforts to protect biodiversity and heritage are focused on Los Pelambres’ area of operation, which contains endemic species and ecosystems requiring special protection.

The 2016 Biodiversity Standard was developed in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)1 and took into account the ICMM’s position statement on Protected Areas. It has three goals:

  • To avoid and minimise impact on biodiversity.
  • To appropriately restore or compensate for any impact on biodiversity.
  • To generate additional benefits for the environment.

1 The Wildlife Conservation Society is a worldwide foundation which has been promoting the protection of biodiversity since 1948.

The definition of biodiversity, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity1, is the variability of living organisms from all sources, including land, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes to which they belong. This includes diversity within species (genetic diversity), diversity among species, and diversity of different ecosystems. Key values for the management of biodiversity are divided into three categories:

  • Ecological value is indicated by two factors: threat level (vulnerability and/ or irreplaceability) and the importance of a particular component for its habitat.
  • Usage value is related to biodiversity components used by human beings (for subsistence or commercial purposes, including tourism).
  • Cultural value: the valuation given by a human group with regard to their personal values, traditions and identity, among other things.

OPERATING CONTEXT

The Coquimbo Region, where Los Pelambres is located, is within the top 25 areas in the world with the greatest plant biodiversity and the Choapa Valley is renowned not only for its flora and fauna but for its blocks of stone with petroglyphs cave paintings described by anthropologists and archaeologists as “an extensive outdoor art gallery”.

The operations located in the desert (Centinela, Antucoya and Zaldívar) face biodiversity challenges related the protection of local fauna, birdlife and vegetation.

The new standard requires all of the Group’s operations to review the existence of biodiversity components (species and ecosystems) in order to avoid significant impact, and, where this is impossible, to minimise or compensate for it.

Progress has been made in collating information in order to set guidelines for implementing the standard at the operations from 2016. At Los Pelambres, work was undertaken to identify biodiversity areas potentially affected by the current operations within the Biodiversity Standard framework. Meanwhile the key values at each operation will be reviewed in 2017.

1 You can find more information about the organisation at www.cbd.int/

High-value protected ecosystems include world heritage sites, threatened or degraded ecosystems, legally-protected areas, biosphere reserves and Ramsar wetlands. Antofagasta Minerals has no operations in areas with ecosystems of high ecological value. However, in the area around Los Pelambres there are a number of sites particularly rich in biodiversity, and which the company has sought to protect:

  • Conchalí Laguna wetland: this coastal site was restored by Los Pelambres and became a nature sanctuary in 2000, and is now included on the world list of Ramsar sites.3
  • Sclerophyll forests: these contain rare Chilean palm trees and a hydrophilic forest located in Monte Aranda, sclerophyll forests (canelo, chequén) in Llau-Llau ravine and sclerophyll forests in Talca ravine.
  • High Andean wetlands: in the Manque Valley, in Los Piuquenes and El Pelado lagoon.

Antofagasta Minerals is also focused on protecting marine biodiversity around the port facilities at Punta Chungo and Los Vilos and by the quay at Caleta Michilla.

3 The Ramsar Convention protects wetlands around the world. More information can be found at www.ramsar.org

In some areas, archaeological evidence of the area’s first inhabitants and historical mining works have been found, in addition to the cultural heritage and traditions of local people. The Group respects and helps to preserve this heritage.

In 2014, Los Pelambres opened the Rural Culture Exhibition Hall in Monte Aranda, seeking to preserve the customs and stories of traditional rural cultures and share them with the community. In 2015, it opened the Archeological Rock Park, 25 hectares of land criss-crossed by 3,700 metres of trails, where you can see an exhibition on stones with petroglyphs produced by the ancient Diaguita people who once lived in the Mauro Valley.

In the Antofagasta Region, the operations participate in initiatives to conserve and reclaim cultural heritage by supporting organisations such as Gaviotin Chico Foundation, PROA, PROLOA and Chacabuco Saltpetre Office Foundation. They also support initiatives and publications dedicated to preserving regional memories.