RESPECT FOR BIODIVERSITY AND HERITAGE
It is essential that we show respect for the regions in which our mines are located. We are committed to complying with our obligations to the environment, and to protecting and preserving it for future generations.
WHY ARE LAND, BIODIVERSITY, AND HERITAGE IMPORTANT?
The mining industry’s extraction, production and waste disposal processes have the potential to create a significant environmental impact, and to affect the region's biodiversity and its historical and cultural heritage. Los Pelambres is located in Coquimbo, one of the world’s 25 most biodiverse regions. The Choapa valley has a rich variety of flora and fauna, and some renowned cave markings. The Group’s operations in the Atacama desert, where Centinela, Antucoya and Zaldívar are located, is much less biodiverse. Antofagasta Minerals does not have any operations in high-value ecosystems, however, the Zaldívar mine extracts water from the Tilopozo aquifer, which was given protected status under the Water Code in 2006.
The Company also protects the marine biodiversity of the areas around its ports Punta Chungo and Los Vilos, and the dock at Caleta Michilla.
A Government Bill creating a biodiversity regulatory body, the Sistema de Servicio de Biodiversidad, was passed in 2017. The task of biodiversity management will be the responsibility of this government body.
HOW DO WE MANAGE LAND, BIODIVERSITY, AND HERITAGE?
The Biodiversity Standard, drawn up in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society, was approved in 2016. This is based on the ICMM’s position statement on protected areas, and aims to prevent and minimise the impact on biodiversity, carry out remediation, provide appropriate compensation where necessary and generate additional benefits for the region.
All Group sites are required to carry out a review of species and ecosystems, as specified in the new standard, in order to avoid significant impact and, if this is not possible, to minimise or compensate for the impact. In 2017, we began including the principles of the standard in baseline studies for projects to be submitted for environmental evaluation. We will continue assessing the environmental risks associated with biodiversity during 2018.
Organisation and reporting
Responsibility for the environment, biodiversity, and natural and cultural heritage lies with the General Managers of each operation who report this to the Board. Monitoring and disclosure are the responsibility of the Corporate Environment department.
The high-value ecosystems that we protect include world heritage sites, threatened or degraded ecosystems, legally protected areas, biosphere reserves and wetlands, among others. The 25,000 hectare Los Pelambres includes the Conchalí lagoon, sclerophyllous forests and high Andean wetlands.
Water extraction from protected aquifers
Since the Zaldívar mine's aquifer was given protected status, the company has implemented an early warning system to prevent adverse effects on the natural environment as a result of its water extraction rights. Because this is a sensitive issue, we are carrying out research into the biological condition of aquatic environments in high Andean regions, evaluating water stress in ecosystems where wells are located, carrying out in-vitro propagation of plants from the Tilopozo wetlands with a view to possible reforestation and operating a seed collection programme for native plant species with high biodiversity value.
Archaeological and cultural heritage
Archaeological, palaeontological and cultural remains have been found in the areas in which the mines operate and are being conserved by the mines. We manage a rural culture exhibition centre in Monte Aranda, and a prehistory park, both of which are in the valley where the Mauro dam is located. We are also planning a new conservation and research centre in La Serena, the capital of the Coquimbo region, which will house archaeological finds from projects at Los Pelambres. These are currently in temporary storage at the Museo Aqueológico de La Serena pending the construction of the centre, which the company is donating to the museum.