Monday, October 15, 2007

Legislators outraged with Chile’s main copper company pollution

Legislators from Chile's environmental caucus reacted angrily last week to reports that state-owned mining company CODELCO is violating legal pollution limits for their waste water – in some cases by more than 700%. Senator Guido Girardo (PPD) and Deputy Alejandro Garcia-Huidobro (UDI) demanded that company executives be personally held responsible for their company's excesses, and denounced current sanctions as insufficient.

Reports Girardo and Garcia-Huidobro received from government oversight group the Superintendency for Sanitary Services (SISS) indicate waste runoff ducts from four CODELCO mining operations are contaminating rivers at levels far beyond those legally allowed. Copper and aluminum levels in Region V's White River – where seven of CODELCO's fourteen ducts were found to be in violation – with copper levels 700 time above the legal limit and aluminum levels and 52 times above legal limits. Levels of seven other contaminates were also found to be at dangerously high – and illegal – levels.

“These pollutants in the water will be absorbed by vegetables, agriculture, seafood, and fish,” said Girardo. “This will have a serious impact on human health.”

CODELCO has been fined between US$10,000 and US$30,000 by the SISS for its illegal activities. Still, Garcia-Huidobro and Girardo both denounced these sanctions as meaningless to the mining giant which earned 2007 first-quarter profits in excess of US$1.7 billion – money that is used to supplement the government's operating budget.

“CODELCO, of course, chooses to pay these fines, which are so insignificant that they are a joke,” said Dep. Garcia-Huidobro. “And, eventually, all Chileans will end up paying the fines.”

Here is the full article.