Quebrada Blanca Mine in Chile in Trouble, Faces Environmental Charges

Published on: 04 April 2022
by KnowESG
industry-2023592 1920

Canada's largest diversified miner, Teck Resources, is facing charges filed by Chile's environmental regulator, SMA, for failing to comply with measures to avoid impacts on vegetation and animals at its Quebrada Blanca copper mine in Chile.

The regulator found that in audits conducted in 2019, 2020 and 2021 at the operation, located in Chile's northern Tarapaca region, the miner did not comply with the measures outlined in its environmental permit to protect local species and control emissions.

Four out of the eight charges levelled against it are "serious", including alleged substandard rescue and relocation of vizcachas, rodents native to Latin America, which led to the headache of South African bullion producer Gold Fields.

The regulator said in a statement that there are 13 resolutions in the permit given to the Quebrada Blanca mine to control several areas of open-pit copper extraction and truck hauling to the port of Iquique.

The directives will also apply to Teck's ongoing growth project, Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 or QB2.

The new mine section, which will begin operations in the second half of the year, expects to double its copper production by 2023.

QB2 will extend the ageing deposit's life by 28 years and increase copper production from 23,400 tonnes in 2017 to 3,00,000 tonnes a year.

A similar incident happened in 2019 when the SMA imposed a $1.2 million fine on Teck for violating handling measures related to mining waste and internal environmental controls at the mine. The regulator said Teck now has ten business days to draft a compliance program, or a maximum of 15 to challenge the case.

Tech transferred mining and water rights to an area 30km east of the mine as part of the initiative.

The allegations came just weeks after the Vancouver-based miner announced a collaboration with the Ollagüe Quechua community to create a biodiversity conservation area for the Alconcha Salt Flat, a high-value wetland habitat near its Quebrada Blanca operations.