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Environmental disaster warned by possible tailings overflow

Environmental disaster warned by possible tailings overflow

By By Andrés Ojeda

The Latin American Observatory on Environmental Conflicts (OLCA) and the Infrastructure Policy Council are concerned about the possible overflow of mining tailings in areas affected by rains and floods in the north of the country. This is due to the amount of heavy metals they contain and also due to the high number of these that are abandoned.

Those affected by the rains and floods in the north of the country denounced the possibility of overflowing mining tailings in the north.

This situation could be verified by the excessive amount of sediment that is sliding down the hills and that has produced avalanches during the present day.

For this reason, the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA) is receiving these complaints and communicated the possibility that a tailings in the Coquimbo Region may be affecting the area, according to Lucio Cuenca, director of the institution.

We have registered, according to complaints that people have made, a discharge of a tailings in a stream in the Elqui valley that is one of the affected areas of a mine that is in the La Marquesa stream, where there are videos that show how directly the tailings are flowing through the surface water courses and that reaches the Elqui River, which then forms in the river from where drinking water is drawn for La Serena ”.

Lucio Cuenca explained what type of threat an overflowing tailings become.

"Today they are transformed into a very important danger due to the pollution they generate, due to the local impact they generate from the dust, the
contamination of water, but also because of the risk they represent when
down and by providing solid material in these avalanches, in these descents, in this mass removal that occurs from these climatic events ”.

For his part, Luis Eduardo Escobar, economic advisor to the Infrastructure Policy Council, said that the lack of investment in people causes these situations.

"In general, underdeveloped countries are where natural disasters have the greatest impact, precisely because of the lack of foresight and the lack of building infrastructure that is appropriate for the natural conditions they face," Escobar said.

In this sense, the representative of the Council exemplified his explanation with the case of Japan: “One of the best prepared countries in the world, for example, is Japan, they invest billions of dollars in building infrastructure to protect the population. We are not in the habit of building infrastructure that protects the population.

We have infrastructure to mobilize goods and people but not to protect the population, in fact that was clearly demonstrated in the case of the tsunami ”.

Luis Escobar, representative of the Infrastructure Policy Council, analyzed the consequences that such a disaster would produce.

“Chile is a country that has been mining for much more than a hundred years, and it is full of tailings in Chile.

Some tailings are very old, they are not properly waterproofed, others are in risk areas.

I hope it is not true that the water from the tailings is running through the streets of the cities and towns of the north, it would be horrible because that is highly polluting, it is pure poison and that is an environmental liability with which we will live by the hundreds of years". However, the information provided this Thursday by the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) shows that in the Coquimbo Region "there are no deposits in critical condition that constitute an imminent threat to the population", the same for the region from Atacama.

Despite this, Sernageomin recognizes that it is necessary to survey the information in the field, which has not been done due to inclement weather.

In addition, the agency reported in its latest balance sheet that there are 91 abandoned tailings in the Atacama region and 28 in the Coquimbo region. Situation that OLCA also reported.

NewspaperRed Digital


Video: Mine Tailings Safety (June 2021).