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28 Jan 2021

War on Want

Chile: Communities affected by Anglo American operations question mine expansion over its impact on water sources

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"Green technologies for people and planet", January 28 2021

One of the epicentres of the rapidly expanding green frontier is Chile. Home to the world’s largest copper reserves and 50% of the world’s lithium reserves – the country houses 80% of South America’s glaciers, which supply some 70% of the population with water for consumption farming, and sanitation...

One mining company has been under heavy scrutiny for the audacity of its claims about its role in tackling the climate crisis: Anglo American. The London-based multinational is one of the largest extractive corporations in the world, with a 2019 revenue of US$29.9 billion. In Chile, it has mining operations in three regions: Los Bronces in the Metropolitan region, El Melón in the Valparaíso region, and Collahuasi in the Tarapacá region, though its operations span across the globe.

Anglo American is not only known for the large amounts of minerals it extracts from the earth – which, incidentally, increased during the pandemic – but also for the socio-environmental conflicts that it has historically been involved in due to the direct harm it has done to communities and ecosystems at the El Soldado and Los Bronces operations.

Los Bronces, a giant mine at one of the world’s largest copper reserves, is already responsible for the ‘disappearance of two rocky glaciers’ and sucking up the water supply in the region, contributing to the ongoing historic drought. And yet, Anglo American is pursuing a $3.4 billion expansion project, tunneling underneath a glacier. It could spell disaster.

The communities affected by Los Bronces in the municipality of Lo Barnechea, together with the Corporation in Defense of the Mapocho Basin and Movimiento NO+Anglo have questioned the company about the expansion, claiming that it is dangerously close to the Olivares glaciers that source water to two rivers, the Maipo and the Mapocho, both of which are significant supplies of water to Chile’s capital, Santiago. At its last annual general meeting, the company announced that they did not consider glaciers as part of an ecosystem or as an essential part in water cycles...