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Proyecto Minera Dominga, Coquimbo, Chile

This large project threatens biodiversity at Punta de Choros and Humboldt Penguin Reserve. It includes 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.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Proyecto Minera Dominga, Coquimbo, Chile
State or province:Provincia del Elqui, Región de Coquimbo
Location of conflict:La 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:Water access rights and entitlements
Ports and airport projects
Mineral ore exploration
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Copper
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:2,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUS$2,500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:3,500 persons
Start of the conflict:2011
Company names or state enterprises:Andes Iron Ltd. from Chile
Relevant government actors:Ministerio de Minería
Ministerio de Medioambiente
Ministerio de Economía
Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental
Gobierno Regional de Coquimbo
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Modema
Chao Pescao
Geute Conservación Sur
Alianza de Humboldt
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic 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
Other Environmental impactsimpact 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, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsPossible 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-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: 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
Other socio-economic impactsSerious 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)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:Modema 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Ficha proyecto Dominga. Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental.
[click to view]

Dominga, el polémico proyecto minero que el gobierno de Chile rechazó por motivos ecológicos y que ya provocó la renuncia de dos ministros. BBC Mundo (2017)
[click to view]

Minera Dominga se compromete a instalar un solo puerto en La Higuera
[click to view]

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]

Piden acelerar investigación judicial del proyecto minero Dominga,

Tania González |1 de marzo 2016
[click to view]

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
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

El fallo que podría reactivar el proyecto de Minera Dominga. Youtube (2018)
[click to view]

Director de Greenpeace detalló la "historia oculta" del proyecto Dominga. Youtube (2018).
[click to view]

Proyecto minero Dominga en tela de juicio por vinculación con caso Penta, Andrés Ojeda |13 de enero 2015
[click to view]

Other documents

Viral No a Dominga cortometraje en oposición al proyecto minero-portuario Dominga
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Andrés Álvarez president of Modema, the Movement in Defense of the Environment e-mail: [email protected] Actualizado en 2020 por María Romero Olivares
Last update31/08/2020
Conflict ID:1949
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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