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Las Vizcachitas Mining Project, Chile


Since 2007, Los Andes Copper, a Canadian company based in Vancouver, has operated the Vizcachitas mining project through its Chilean subsidiary "Vizcachitas Holding.” Since 2010, it has owned 100% of the project. 

Located 120 kilometres north of Santiago, Chile in the Putaendo Valley mountain range, the project plans to extract copper, molybdenum, and silver through an open-pit mine for 45 years. The proposed project is along the Rocín River, the main tributary of the Putaendo River, which feeds into the Aconcagua River. Putaendo is the last transversal valley in Chile free from large-scale mining. According to the company, the project is currently in the Prefeasibility Study and Environmental Impact Study stage [1]. However, as Violeta Rabi of the Putaendo Resiste group told us, "In practice this is not true. They are now in the mineral exploration stage, which will continue for four years with the drilling of 350 holes.” 

Company and project details 

The company has been officially fined in recent years for failing to conduct a proper environmental impact assessment, failing to comply with municipal permits to operate, and for causing environmental harm — mostly related to its activities diverting rivers and using water without the appropriate rights.  

In 2008, the Environmental Assessment Review board denied Los Andes Copper’s Environmental Impact Assessment for this project[2]. Nevertheless, the company continued to drill illegally, gathering more than 86 samples over the span of almost 10 years. Community members and those who live in Putaendo state, “there was never any communication with the community that the company was carrying out exploration work" [3]. 

Responding to the need to resist “the unbridled resource extraction of their communal lands” by the Canadian company, the community of Putaendo organized in 2015 “an unprecedentedly-large mobilization to prevent Andes Coppers and anyone else taking over their lands[4]. 

Between 2015 and 2016, the community of Putaendo, Putaendo Resiste and the Junta de Vigilancia del Río filed five complaints against the company for causing environmental damage to the high mountain range and for not having an Environmental Qualification Resolution [5]. In 2016, the Bureau of Water Management (Dirección General de Aguas in Spanish -- DGA) issued sanctions against the company for operating in the Rocín riverbed [6]. In 2017, the Superintendency of the Environment again sanctioned the Canadian company for operating without the proper environmental authorization, for having affected native flora and fauna, and for having diverted water sources [7]. As a result, the company was forced to file an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In 2019, the DGA fined the company $59 million Chilean pesos for once again, having diverted the Rocín River, and for unauthorized consumption of its waters [8]. In spite of this appalling and systematic record of environmental infractions, the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was approved in April 2019 [9], thereby negating the formally-requested opportunity for citizen participation.

Drilling project unanimously approved. Reduced spaces for civic participation. Massive mobilization. 

In May 2019, Vizcachitas Holding submitted a new project to the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) to drill 350 holes in 124 platforms in the region of Las Tejas over the course of four years. In April 2020, the Environmental Evaluation Commission of the Valparaíso Region approved the project in the first round without any citizen participation [10]. Anticipating the social and environmental impacts of drilling, the community of Putaendo took to the streets despite COVID-19 restrictions to demonstrate their opposition to the project.  A large contingent of military and special forces were present, causing great concern among the demonstrators and revealing the power behind Canadian interests in extractive development in Chile.  

Thanks to massive mobilizations and legal strategies, the Supreme Court ordered the project to be stopped in September of that same year [11]. The court ordered the government to uphold the right to civic participation for the 2000-plus people who had their rights so far denied. Nevertheless, in April 2021, the Environmental Evaluation Service unanimously approved the project [12]. Rabi of Putaendo Resiste points out that the project was approved “within the context of a pandemic and [in spite of the] complaints registered by several public institutions against the environmental impact assessment.” In light of these irregularities, the community has filed several appeals. One of them is an appeal to the executive director of the SEA, denouncing the stamp of approval given to the project by the Valparaíso Environmental Evaluation Commission. In the complaints in this appeal, thirty community members and the Agrupación Putaendo Resiste say: “the process for civic participation was not held to a high standard, and did not ensure meaningful participation, it excluded key actors in the area, and was carried out in the middle of a pandemic....The project’s approval, presented as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), is arbitrary and presents several deficiencies regarding... the water source for its operation; the EIS omits from its baseline study a large number of plant and animal species, which were recognized in the report commissioned by the Municipality from Simbiosis Consulting. The company arbitrarily minimizes the Area of Influence of the project..."[13]. 

“Sustainable” and "green" copper for the energy transition?

The World Bank estimates that over the next 30 years, it will be necessary to extract 3 billion tons of minerals and metals to drive the global energy transition process (a transition from fossil to renewable energies). This would be "necessary" to avoid a temperature increase above 2°C [14]. This energy transition is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and, as a result, in the fight against climate change. However, an energy transition that does not fundamentally shift the lifestyles of the Global North would require an expansion of resource extraction and an intensification of mining metals such as copper (essential for the decarbonization process). These metals are needed in high quantities for the production of solar panels, wind turbines and, especially, electric cars [15]. 

In this sense, Los Andes Copper sees the energy transition not as an opportunity to actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions but as a financial opportunity. In fact, Vizcachitas is touted as "Chile's next major copper mine" [16]. The main message is that "copper is a critical element to sustain the global shift to electric vehicles and the new green economy".  Los Andes Copper goes further and claims that Vizcachitas will produce "sustainable copper ... for the green transition" [17]. However, the "sustainable copper" promoted by Los Andes Copper would be mined, as Alejando Valdés of Putaendo Resiste states, "at the cost of turning a valley, its community and its ecosystem into a sacrifice zone." 

In its eagerness to promote itself as a green company, Los Andes Copper announced in May 2021 its creation of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Committee and an appointment of a non-executive director with "extensive ESG experience" to chair the ESG Board Committee. The Covid-19 pandemic has led many investors to seek investments in “sustainable” projects aligned with ESG principles. Like other mining companies around the world, Los Andes Copper has realized the opportunity for financial gain this represents and has started incorporating these mechanisms into its operations to present an environmentally- and governance-friendly face to attract greater investment in its activities [18]. 

While some see ESG factors as potentially useful tools for social justice and combating climate change [19], others, such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (the regulator of Wall Street) is concerned that ESG factors are misleading investors: "In many cases they cynically call themselves 'green', without presenting perceptible changes within their operations or in their strategies. Their purpose is simply marketing" [20]. This seems to be the case with Los Andes Copper and Vizcachitas. 

Chile's copper and lithium can "help solve global warming" [20].

Using similar language to the company, the Chilean government also frames copper as a necessary metal for the energy transition — particularly as it relates to electromobility — and as a financial opportunity. During the world's largest mining convention held by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) every year in Toronto, Canada, Chile's Minister of Mines and Mining presented Chile with the following messages: "we are and will be a mining country,” “we are the world's leading copper producer,” “electromobility in Chile is our culture,” and “in Chile, we work for sustainable mining.” The PDAC convention "is a place where mining companies from around the world converge to make deals and ensure they can continue operating in ways that prioritize profit no matter the other costs" their operations generate for communities, such as environmental, social, and/or human rights costs [34]. 

Likewise, the Chilean Senate has been holding a series of webinars on "green mining" in Chile where the president of the senate committee on “Challenges of the Future” has stated that Chilean copper can help humanity and solve the climate crisis: "Chile, by having copper and lithium, can help solve one of the most dramatic problems that humanity has, which is global warming.” He also added: "I would transform copper or the meaning of copper, from not only a good business opportunity for Chile or for some in Chile, I would transform it into a gigantic opportunity to help the planet’s transition to renewable energy, because millions of devices will need copper. Chile could provide energy for all mankind" [21]. 

What threatens the project? 

Los Andes Copper and the government of Chile promote copper and Vizcachitas as a project that will contribute to the manufacturing of electric cars and allow for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, while providing future economic gains for its investors. Yet this project threatens everything it claims to protect such as the rivers and the ecosystems that depend on them. And, paradoxically, instead of fighting climate change, it will worsen it by putting at risk the glaciers near the project. As stated by the Chilean Glaciers Foundation, "Putaendo does not have white glaciers, but it does have more than 120 rock glaciers that feed the Rocín River” [22]. 

As captured by the local communities in a video produced by them "Did you know that Putaendo is under threat?", the project threatens glaciers, high Andean wetlands and endemic flora and fauna: "pumas, condors, Andean cats and guanacos least 21 species of plants" [23] and around 100 rock glaciers, which are at risk of being impacted.

The rock glaciers in Chile play an important role in containing the spread of the desert. These reserves are even more strategic considering climate change projections for the area and the fact that this territory has been in a period of historic drought for over 60 years. The communities directly affected —the commune of Putaendo and the city of San Felipe — are concerned given the limited average rainfall per year. Any disturbance in the area negatively affects their access to water, "having devastating consequences for local agriculture, livestock, and the rich natural and human heritage" [24].

Putaendo is a community of farmers and ranchers. Mandarins, grapes, walnuts, and avocados are grown there. Thanks to its extensive natural, cultural, and historical heritage, Putaendo is an ecotourism destination [25] with more than 1,300 petroglyphs, Inca trails and pucarás, as well as the longest-running carnival in Chile [26]. 

 "Putaendo Sin Mineras" (Putaendo says no to Mining). 

Due to its human, natural and agricultural wealth, the community of Putaendo and the group Putaendo Resiste have been fighting for a decade now to remain the only valley in the Central Zone without the presence of large mining companies [27]. As an alternative to the extractivism proposed by the mining company, the communities propose an Andean park in the mountain range. 

The organization has achieved important successes and they note the need to celebrate what has been won against the mining company since 2015. Some of the successes [29] they highlight are:   

- "Complaints filed in 2016 have prevented Andes Copper from continuing to operate and drill from 2017 to the present. We forced them to spend millions of pesos in legal and consulting fees.” 

- "The knowledge and environmental awareness of our people has grown, so too has the love for our land and heritage.” 

- "There are many young people, adults, workers, professionals, women and artists who are part of this resistance and they bring with them their love for life.” 

The communities have also mobilized through letters: in 2019, Putaendo Resiste sent an open letter addressed to all Canadians denouncing Los Andes Copper and asking them to help Putaendo Resiste in its efforts to get the Canadian mining company out of its territory. "Open Letter to the Canadian public: the Canadian company ‘Los Andes Copper ltda.’ destroys, kills, exterminates, lies and bribes in Putaendo, Chile" [30]. 

In 2021, they launched a video "Artistas de Chile por un #PutaendoSinMineras" in which renowned artists from Chile stood in solidarity with Putaendo and its resistance. The video shared information with the rest of Chile and the entire continent about the project's potential devastating impacts on ecosystems and populations [31]. 

As Putaendo Resiste states in a petition on that to date, has collected over 40,000 signatures in support of their cause: "Without water everything else loses its value. We do not want to be the next sacrifice zone, we want a Putaendo without mining companies" [32]. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Las Vizcachitas Mining Project, Chile
State or province:Aconcagua Province (120 km north of Santiago)
Location of conflict:Las Tejas Sector, Putaendo
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
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Mining exploration and/or ore extraction
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Silver

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The open pit mine will be located at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level, and 65 km from the railway in San Felipe, with connections to the Port of Ventanas and the smelter plant in Ventanas, 140 km away, and from Chagres , 90 km from the deposit. [32]

11.2 billion pounds of copper

400 million pounds of molybdenum

43.3 million ounces of silver

Project area:30,800
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,800,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:102,000 (Putaendo, San Felipe and Catemu)
Start of the conflict:2015
Company names or state enterprises:Andes Copper Ltd. from Canada - Empresa matriz del proyecto
Compañía Minera Vizcachitas Holding from Chile - Empresa filial
Relevant government actors:Environmental Impact Assessment Service
Environment Superintendency
Courts of Justice
General Directorate of Waters
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Putaendo Resists:
Coordinator We are all Putaendo:

Neighbors on the Move for Putaendo:

Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA):

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Sportive and cultural groups
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of alternative proposals
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Refusal of compensation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, 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, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Project temporarily suspended
Generation of technical studies to contrast what the company is declaring
Proposal and development of alternatives:The massive organization has achieved important successes and they note the need to celebrate what has been won against the mining company since 2015. Some of the successes they highlight are:

- "The complaints we made in 2016 have prevented the Andes Copper mining company from continuing to operate and drilling from 2017 to date and we forced them to spend millions of pesos on lawyers and consultancies"

- "The knowledge and environmental awareness of our people has grown, as well as the affection for our land and heritage."

- "There are many young people, adults, workers, professionals, women and artists who join this resistance and who contribute their love for Life."

The communities have also mobilized through letters: In 2019, Putaendo Resiste sent a letter to Canadian society denouncing Los Andes Copper and asking that it help Putaendo Resiste in its efforts to get the Canadian mining company out of its territory. . “Open Letter to the Canadian public: the Canadian company “los Andes Copper ltda.” Destroy, kill, exterminate, lie and bribe in Putaendo, Chile.”

In 2021, they released a video “Artists from Chile for a #PutaendoSinMineras” in which well-known artists from Chile stand in solidarity with Putaendo and its resistance and inform the country and the entire continent about the potentially devastating impacts of the project on ecosystems and communities. populations.

Likewise, to date they have collected more than 40,000 signatures in support of “Putaendo sin Mineras”: environment-superintendence-of-the-environment-environmental-assessment-service-intendenciav-jmartinezvalpo-vizcachitas
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is still an open conflict and the mine is still under construction.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Ley sobre bases generales del medio ambiente:

Superintendencia de Medio Ambiente:

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Mapeo colectivo en Putaendo, 2020. Memorias Reflexiones y utopias de la lucha socio-ambiental. Universidad de Playa Ancha.


de TSX-V: Los Andes Copper.

Presentación corporativa el 10/05/2021

[2] Documento de Calificación Ambiental del proyecto "Prospección Minera Vizcachitas " por la Comisión Regional del Medio Ambiente de la V Región de Valparaíso. Resolución exenta nº 1343.

Publicada el 21/10/2008

[3] Articulo titulado “ Comunidad chilena presenta carta abierta al público canadiense en la oficinas de MiningWatch Canada, denuncia a empresa minera canadiense” publicado en el blog MiningWatch Canada.

Publicado el 18 de julio de 2019.

[4] Prensa digital de Putaendo Libre.

[5] Informe por parte del Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA). “El Agresivo Lobby de Minera Andes Copper por proyecto Vizcachitas

en Putaendo, Región de Valparaíso.”

Publicado en julio de 2020.

[6] Articulo titulado “Vizcachitas: el megaproyecto minero que movilizó a 2 mil putaendinos en el periodo más seco de la década” escrito por Constanza Gallardo M. y Valentina Mora J. Publicado en la revista Vergara 240.

Publicado el 21 de diciembre de 2020.

[7] Catastro de unidades fiscalizables. Minera Vizcachitas. Sistema Nacional de Fiscalización Ambiental (SNIFA).

[8] Artículo titulado “Vizcachitas: el megaproyecto minero que movilizó a 2 mil putaendinos en el periodo más seco de la década” escrito por Constanza Gallardo M. y Valentina Mora J. Publicado en la revista Vergara 240.

Publicado el 21 de diciembre de 2020.

[9] Artículo titulado“Putaendo Primer Pueblo Libre de Chile, Putaendo no se rinde”. OLCA.

Publicado el 5 de abril de 2019.

[10] Documento “Voces desde el territorio. Cómo la industria minera mundial se está beneficiando con la pandemia de COVID-19”

Publicado en julio 2020.

[11] Artículo titulado “Ratifican fallo que anula aprobación de 350 sondajes en Putaendo para buscar yacimientos de cobre” publicado en bbcl. Escrito por Yessenia Márquez, información proveniente de Igor Ibarra Bonomelli.

Publicado el 21 de septiembre de 2021.

[12] Artículo titulado “Comunidad de Putaendo rechaza proyecto extractivista de minera canadiense” publicado en El Ciudadano, escrito por Mauricio.

Publicado en julio de 2021.

[13] Artículo titulado “Putaendo No Se Rinde” publicado en el blog de MiningWatch Canada.

Pulicado el 15 de julio de 2021.

[15] Articulo titulado “Mining holds the key to a green future – no wonder human rights activists are worried” escrito por Kevin Watkins publicado en The Guardian.

Publicado el 27 de junio de 2021.


de TSX-V: Los Andes Copper.

Presentación corporativa el 10/05/2021

[17] Apartado titulado “Los Andes Copper Ltd. receives final molybdenum assessment results and concentrate specifications for the Vizcachitas Project” de la página web de Los Andes Copper Ltd.

Publicado el 23 de junio de 2021.

[18] Artículo titulado “Financial centre forecast: It’s all about green and digital” escrito por Olivier Goemans publicado en Delano.

Publicado el 22 de julio de 2020.

[19] Corporate Knights.

[20] Artículo titulado “Sustainable finance is rife with greenwash. Time for more disclosure” publicado en Economist.

Editado el 22 de mayo de 2021.

[21] Programa de televisión "Especiales TVS - Minería verde para el Siglo XXI" en televisión del Senado (TVS)

Publicado el 30 de Julio 2021

[22] Artículo titulado “Salvemos Putaendo: La última cordillera sin intervención minera”

escrito y publicado por Equipo Glaciar.

Editado el 15 de junio de 2021.

[23] Vídeo explicativo titulado “¿Sabias que Putaendo está bajo amenaza? Conoce las razones por las cuales no podemos permitir su destrucción. #putaendosinmineras”. Facebook.

[24] Petición “Exigimos un Putaendo Sin Mineras” dirigida por Agrupación Ambiental Social y Cultural Putaendo Resiste, mediante la plataforma de

[24] Petición “Exigimos un Putaendo Sin Mineras” dirigida por Agrupación Ambiental Social y Cultural Putaendo Resiste. Mediante la plataforma Change.Org

[25] Información turística de Putaendo. Turismo en Chile.

[27] Concejo Municipal de Putaendo rechaza tajantemente recomendación del SEA que llama a aprobar proyecto de sondajes de Minera Vizcachitas. Municipalidad de Putaendo.

Publicado el 27 de abril de 2021.

[29] Artículo titulado“Putaendo Primer Pueblo Libre de Chile, Putaendo no se rinde”. OLCA.

Publicado el 5 de abril de 2019.

[30] Carta abierta al pueblo de Canadá. "LA EMPRESA CANADIENSE “LOS ANDES COPPER LTDA.” DESTRUYE, MATA,


[31] Vídeo de Artistas de Chile por un #PutaendoSinMineras. Facebook.


TSX-V: LA. Corporate Presentation – December 2020

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[9] Nota de prensa

Putaendo Libre:

Artículo sobre alternativas

Noticia en El Ciudadano:

Artículo especializado: Conflictos socioambientales y territoriales en espacios rurales de la comuna de Putaendo (Chile)

Noticia en El Ciudadano:


Nota Radio U. Chile:

Video sobre la crisis del agua en el Valle

Marc Turrel

Apoyo transversal de parlamentarios:

Video sobre la crisis del agua en el Valle

Other comments:website:

Meta information

Contributor: Alejandro Valdes ([email protected]) y Violeta Rabi de la Agrupación Putaendo Resiste / MiningWatch Canadá
Last update27/09/2021
Conflict ID:5641



crédito: Putaendo resiste


crédito: Putaendo resiste


crédito: Putaendo resiste


crédito: Putaendo resiste


Crédito: Putaendo resiste


Crédito: Putaendo resiste