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Lithium mining and potassium Salar Maricunga, Copiapó, Chile

Simco spa presented in 2018 the environmental impact study for "Maricunga sal production" proyect . This report has been widely questioned by different social sectors of Copiapó, including indigenous communities. The project is postponed pending EIA.

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The project "Production of Sales de Maricunga" consists of the extraction of lithium and potassium at 172 km northwest of the city of Copiapó, in the northern sector of the Salar de Maricunga. The company in charge is Simco Spa, belonging to the Errázuriz group of Chile [1].

In June 2018, the Environmental Impact Report (EIA) was presented to be Evaluated by the authorities and launching a citizen consultation. At the end of August, the public hearing was held, where different arguments were expressed that questioned the project and raised the environmental, social and cultural problems associated with it [1].

Between these, it appeals to the Salar Maricunga is a protected territory that is within the limits of the Tres Cruces National Park. The extractive entrepreneurship of lithium and potassium is located within these limits and its operations would be carried out near the Santa Rosa Laguna. This lagoon has floristic wealth (11 native species) and diversity in avifauna, as well as being a nesting site of high birds (flamingos and taguas, Andean seagull), presence of vicuñas (protected) and vegetation (Andean wetlands by outcrop of Water). This gives global importance to the ecosystem services that lend the Salar and La Laguna, so it is one of the 13 Ramsar sites declared in Chile [1]. Thus, in the area there are 17 species of fauna with conservation problems and considered as a priority site 1 in the "Red Book" of priority sites for the conservation of biological diversity in Chile [2]

In addition, in the citizen consultation, the lack of technical quality of the environmental impact study was noticed. On the one hand, it was argued on the problems of representativeness of the samples to analyze the behavior of the fauna close to the mining tasks, particularly reptiles. On the other hand, the statistical information used was questioned to analyze the impact of activity in the basin and the water system of the area. The lack of studies on superficial runoff, water sources and their amount for construction was highlighted; and the problems of spatial representation of baselines at the basin level. Information on water quality was also requested from transportation to and from the project area [3].

The sectors linked to tourism expressed concern about involvement Landscape, as well as the negative impact of the entrepreneurship on patrimonial routes and hotel enterprise that receives high-power tourists purchasing [1].

The Indigenous community Colla Paiote claimed the Invailable of your community as users and ancestral inhabitants of this Salar, both in the consultation process (as established in Article 86 of the Regulation of the Environmental Impact Studies System) and in the Environmental Impact Report itself. In the public declaration aimed at the Environmental Assessment Service, the communities claim not to have previously informed of the existence of an environmental impact assessment and emphasize that it does not know the spiritual, cultural, economic and environmental value of the territory since the report does not Includes georeferenced information on the cultural and economic practices of these indigenous peoples, violating Article 5 of Convention 169, not respecting the integrity of the practices and values ​​of these peoples [4].

The memories of environmental damage produced by mining projects that operated in the same area, are present in the concerns of those who oppose this project. In 2016, the Maricunga Auriferous Entrepreneurship, operated by the Kinross company and located in the Tres Cruces National Park, was sanctioned by drying 70 hectares of the Width Valley Wetland. Also the State Minera Codelco was denounced by the indigenous community of the sector by extracting water from a wetland located in the Atacama Cordillerana area [1].

For your part , different government entities have expressed concerns about the environmental assessment process. The management of the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), the Renewable Natural Resources Protection Division of the Agricultural Service and Livestock (SAG) and the Department of Water Resources Conservation and Protection (DGA) have highlighted that decontamination measures are not proposed In the area possibly affected by the spill of substance, nor are the hydraulic parameters of the aquifer that is planned to explode [3].

The tourism sector is also added to The detractors of the project who see with concern the landscape affectation in one of the main tourist attractions of Atacama [1].

Since the Division of Healthy Public Policies and Promotion of the Ministry of Health, they questioned the lack of mitigation procedures and measures, repair and compensation of the harmful effects associated with the transport, discharge and storage of ore and other hazardous substances involved in the execution of the project .

For its part, the Undersecretariat of the Environment presented observations, rectifications and extensions to the environmental impact study presented by the Company. In particular, the Undersecretaria found inconsistencies in the Plan of Mitigation, Repair and Compensation Measures requested to verify in the field the applicability of the proposed measures, and technically justify the parameters of the numerical model used. The company requested the extension of deadline for the delivery of observations and rectifications that would allow the completion of the environmental assessment procedure. In this request, SIMCO SPA argued that "we have welcomed this request, for which we are hiring the probe, which will be completed in January 2019, the month in which the pumping and reinjection tests will be carried out.C on which only During February 2019, the parameters will be counted to be admitted to the conceptual and numerical model. In our experience, 2 months are required to have a good calibration of the numerical model, c on which we stand at the end of March 2019 "[5].

While the project is paused, in February 2020 another lithium project in Maricunga by Minera Salar Blanco, obtained environmental approval through Seia. A year earlier, the National Minera Codelco and Salar Blanco had announced a non-binding agreement to explore a mixed company in Salar Maricunga, agreement that could be carried out in relation to this project [6].

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lithium mining and potassium Salar Maricunga, Copiapó, Chile
State or province:Atacama Region
Location of conflict:Copypo.
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Lithium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The project proposes the exploitation of fresh pickles at an extraction rate of 275 L / S; Summugs being processed through the solar evaporation method and subsequent precipitation in a lithium carbonate plant for the production of 5,700 t / year, and, by solvent extraction, 9,100 t / year of lithium hydroxide will be obtained (equivalent to 14,300 T / Year lithium carbonate). Additionally, 38,900 t / year of potassium chloride will be generated as a byproduct [7].

See more
Project area:17.
Level of Investment for the conflictive project350,000,000.
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:153,900.
Start of the conflict:01/06/2018
Company names or state enterprises:SIMCO SPA (SIMCO)
Minera Salar Blanco S.A. (MSB) from Chile
Relevant government actors:Conaf Atacama Region
Superintendency of the environment
Undersecretary of the Environment
Ministry of Health, Department of Environmental Health
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Colla Paiote community
Association of Regional Tourism of Atacama (Astura)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Indigenous community Colla.
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The process at this time is waiting for the rectification and modification of the EIA by the company. Some means of communication warn about the possible rejection of the project or the suspension of the environmental impact assessment process. It is important to emphasize that the negative impacts of this type of mining recall the negative impact of other mining projects that worked in the area. However, although this project is still waiting, in February 2020 the EIA is approved for the exploitation of lithium in the same area but by another mining company (Salar Blanco SA).
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[4] Carta dirigida al Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental Chileno por parte de la Comunidad Indígena Colla Paipote, Junio 2018.
[click to view]

[7] Extracto de Estudio de Impacto Ambiental: "Producción de Sales Maricunga"- SIMPCA-SpA
[click to view]

Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental, resolución exenta 1350, 20 de noviembre, 2018.

Extensión de plazo
[click to view]

Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental, resolución exenta 1350, 20 de noviembre, 2018. Extensión de plazo
[click to view]

Carta dirigida al Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental Chileno por parte de la Comunidad Indigena Colla Pai Ote, Junio 2018.
[click to view]

Extracto de Estudio de Impacto Ambiental: "Producción de Sales Maricunga"- SIMPCA-SpA
[click to view]

[1] Sitio web OCMAL, 27 de agosto 2018. Ficha conflicto minero.
[click to view]

[2] Le Monde Diplomatique, 2019. Ingrid Garcés Millas: “El salar de Maricunga al banquillo de los acusados!"
[click to view]

[3] Le Monde Diplomatique, 2018. Cristhián Gonzálo Palma: "Maricunga en el negocio del litio"
[click to view]

[5] Fundación Terram, 2018. Suspenden Evaluación Ambiental de proyecto el Salar Maricunga.
[click to view]

[6] Reporte Minero 2020. Proyecto Maricunga de Minera Salar Blanco logró su aprobación ambiental.
[click to view]

[7] Diario Letra Brava Chile, 2018. Vidal Naveas Droguett. EL QUE TODO LO VE: Sobre el proyecto que pretende explotar litio en el Salar y Laguna Santa Rosa.

[8] Diario Letra Brava Chile, 2018. Vidal Naveas Droguett. EL QUE TODO LO VE: Sobre el proyecto que pretende explotar litio en el Salar y Laguna Santa Rosa.
[click to view]

Sitio web OCMAL, 27 de agosto 2018
[click to view]

Revista tierra cultah, Declaración pública de la Comunidad PaiOte ante el proyecto “Sales de Maricunga”, 21 de Agosto 2018.
[click to view]

Letra brava chile 30 de Agosto, 2018, Por Vidal Naveas Droguett
[click to view]

Lemonde diplomatique

28 de septiembre, 2018. Cristian Gonzalo Palma “Maricunga en el negocio del litio”
[click to view]

Lemonde diplomatique, Febrero 2019, Ingrid Garcés Millas, “El salar de Maricunga al banquillo de los acusados!
[click to view]

ENFOQUE-Maricunga: el próximo round de la lucha por el litio en Chile. Por Fabián Andrés Cambero. 9 de mayo de 2018, Reuters
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update12/05/2020
Conflict ID:4775
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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