Dominga mine, Coquimbo, Chile

This large project threatens biodiversity at Punta de Choros and Humboldt Penguin Reserve. It is made up by open pit mines for iron ore and copper, a harbor to load the mineral, desalinization and processing plants. There are allegations of corruption.

The Dominga project is made up by 2 open pit mines for iron ore and copper extraction, a harbor to load the mineral, a desalinization plant and a processing plant. The project does not consider the important marine diversity of the Marine Reserve off the coast and relies on corrupted authorities to approve industrial projects. The Andes Iron company´s main shareholder has been jailed for corruption practices by bribing high rank government officials related to national mining policies. The possible environmental impacts on the Marine Reserve are not being compensated or mitigated as required by the law. The project is currently being evaluated by the government. The communities in Punta de Choros expressed opposition against the open cast iron ore mine, which would obtain copper as by product. Investment would be 2.5 billion USD, for the mine and for a harbour in Totoralillo. The firm Andes Iron said that this project would promote development in La Higuera. Since 2014 it has been seeking approval from the SEIA (environmental evaluation system). The project would not be far (only 13 km) from the foreseen coal power station Barracones, which was stopped, in a zone of great marine diversity, Isla Damas and Punta de Choros.  The Movimiento de Defensa de Medioambiente de La Higuera (Modema)  has led the opposition. 
Basic Data
NameDominga mine, Coquimbo, Chile
ProvinceRegión de Coquimbo
SiteLa Higuera
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Water access rights and entitlements
Ports and airport projects
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific CommoditiesCopper
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
12 million tons per year of iron ore. Principal resource is iron ore and copper as a by product. The project will have 2 open pits and one of the pits intervenes an aquifer with vital water for drinking and watering olive orchards. The company promises not to use the water form the aquifer, but they must drain the main pit and reinject the water downstream. This drain and reinject proces is highly experimental and manipulates the natural course of the aquifer.
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Project Area (in hectares)2,000
Level of Investment (in USD)US$2,500,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3,500 persons
Start Date2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesAndes Iron Ltd. from Chile
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Mining

Service of evaluation of environmental impacts SEIA
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersModema

Chao Pescao


The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills, Other Environmental impacts
Otherimpact on the penguin reserve where 80% of the world´s popuation has its habitat

impact on sensible marine ecosystems
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
OtherPossible health problems because of air pollution, mental problems because of loss of quality of life, increase of living costs, loss of serenity, loss of community sense and traditions.
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherSerious impacts on marine life because of the elevated marine traffic, danger of oil spills, danger of introduction by exotic species, reduction in agricutural activities, fishing and diving, terrifying impact on tourism and tourist attractions like dolfins, whales, sea otters, penguins and the serene seascape of desert islands.
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (undecided)
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesModema supports the alternative project proposed by OCEANA Chile for a Marine Reserve that protects the existing islands off the coast and its biodiversity and the sustainable activities like fishing, agriculture and eco turism.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The community waits for the official government decision to approve or reject the project. If it is approved the community will ask and look for environmental justice.
Sources and Materials

Piden acelerar investigación judicial del proyecto minero Dominga,
Tania González |1 de marzo 2016
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Gerente general de Andes Iron, Iván Garrido: “Dominga requerirá del orden de los 10 mil puestos de trabajo sólo para la construcción”, 4 julio 2016
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14 Febr. 2014, El proyecto minero que enciende las alarmas en Punta de Choros. El punto de preocupación esta vez no es el carbón. Son los relaves.
[click to view]

Media Links

Proyecto minero Dominga en tela de juicio por vinculación con caso Penta, Andrés Ojeda |13 de enero 2015
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Other Documents

Viral No a Dominga cortometraje en oposición al proyecto minero-portuario Dominga
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Meta Information
ContributorAndrés Álvarez president of Modema, the Movement in Defense of the Environment e-mail: [email protected]
Last update06/10/2016