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Minera Manganese Atacama, Chile

The Manganese Fixing Plant is located in the city of Coquimbo and has produced harmful effects on health. After complaints, the company is drastically removed without a decontamination plan, or waste and leaves 200 workers cessing.

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Manganese Atacama S.A. It is a Chilean company (owned by Holding Pacific Steel Company), dedicated to the exploration, development and exploitation of manganese manganese and production of manganese ferroalloys, its founding plant is located in the city of Coquimbo in the region of the same name , and operates since 1945. By 1998-99, the harmful effects on health was denounced. The manganese is a heavy metal (similar to lead) that causes irreversible damage (manganism) since it affects the central nervous system producing neurological, functional and structural damage [1].

The allegations of the community had been permanent, however, they were not heard by the regional authorities. After new complaints, they managed to the health service - Coquimbo to carry out health examinations and with it the certification of high levels of manganese contamination. The studies (carried out between 1998-99) applied to 183 inhabitants of the place indicate that about 17% have high manganese rates in the body, which could lead to health problems such as respiratory frames and manganism disease that affects the system nervous, causing neurological damage and headaches [2].

The recognition of contamination by the Regional Health Authority (04/23/01) Derivated in the Athorsement of a period of 90 days for the company to transfer or restructure the tasks that develops in the population and represent a direct danger for about 2,000 people. OLCA reports that after granted this period, the company's reaction and its workers was immediate, and filed an appeal for protection that was accepted by the Court of Appeals of La Serena (06/16/01) with what the order emanated of the health service remained without effect. Parallel, they began a strong lobby defending the industry as an important labor source for the local population [2].

The conflict regarding this company has to see not only with The pollution and the affectation of the health of the population, but with the measures taken by the industry to respond to pressures by the Government and environmental agencies. First of all, the subsidiary is required to develop a system to isolate the air environment all the contaminating productive process, otherwise, had to leave the dependencies and settle in another area outside the urban radius, through a closing plan that contemplates mitigation measures, a gradual production decrease in production and measures to eliminate waste generated during all years of operation. In 2001, the Supreme Court rejects the resource of protection and revokes the failure of the Court of Appeals of La Serena, which derives in that manganese Atacama paralyzes its work drastically and leaves more than 200 workers cessing [2].

The opinions about this measure are discussed since the company instead of developing the mitigation system that was being required, decides to withdraw without taking over waste and contaminants, as well nor, of the entire affected population. The Environmental Coordinator of the Region, which agreed to 12 environmental and social entities of Coquimbo, accuses the economic group to make use of the conflict to restructure its companies and reduce costs, within the framework of a reduction in holding costs [3].

Keywords: Manganese, Air Pollution, Health

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Minera Manganese Atacama, Chile
State or province:Coquimbo
Location of conflict:Coquimbo
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Metal refineries
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Manganese
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Production of manganese ferroallos.

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project-
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:2,000 people AROX.
Start of the conflict:1998
End of the conflict:2001
Company names or state enterprises:Compañía de Aceros del Pacífico (CAP) from Chile
Manganesos Atacama S.A. (MASA) from Chile
Relevant government actors:National Environment Commission, Coquimbo Health Service
Supreme Court
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Environmental Coordinator of the IV Region,
Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsIntense pollution by manganese and neurological, respiratory and headache problems.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Proposal and development of alternatives:On manganese closure Atacama S.A. and the dismissal of the workers of the questioned manganese company Atacama S.A, the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA) in its capacity as a community adviser affected by the pollution by manganese resulting from the productive processes that for more than 20 years has developed The aforementioned casting, declares:
1. We consider that the massive dismissal of workers is a measure of blackmail to the authorities that are using manganese Atacama S.a. (...) has the economic capacity to be reinstated with all necessary safety measures and without damaging work sources drastically.
2. It should be remembered that manganese atacama s.a. has had enough time (2 decades) to regularize their situation questioned on more than one opportunity by the regional health authorities, with this it has not only violated the right to the health of neighbors, but also that of its Own workers. (...)
4. We also call for labor authorities, within the framework of the extreme and communicational action that has taken manganese Atacama S.A, protect all workers' labor rights
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:After Nearly 20 Years of Community Complaints, The Coquimbo Health Service Certified The Manganese Pollutions.
The Supreme Court Ordered The Closure Of The Company (07/28/2001)
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Muriel Ramirez Santana, Alejandro Ríos Córdova, Carlos soto Vidal, Patricia González Morambio, Estudio poblacional de contaminación por manganeso en la comunidad de Coquimbo, Cuad. Med. Soc. XL, 3-4, 1999, 16-19.
[click to view]

[1] Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales OLCA, 2011, Sobre cierre de Manganesos Atacama S.A.
[click to view]

[2] Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales OLCA, Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina OCMAL, Contaminación de poblaciones vecinas a Fundición Manganesos Atacama
[click to view]

[3] Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales OLCA, 2001, Corte Suprema rechazó Recurso de Protección interpuesto por Manganesos Atacama S.A.
[click to view]

Cooperativa, 2001, Cierre de fundición de manganeso aumenta la cesantía en la Cuarta Región
[click to view]

BOLETIN MINERO, Red Nacional de Minería y Medio, N° 5, Julio-Agosto de 2001, Manganesos Atacama
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update29/04/2020
Conflict ID:767
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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