At Antofagasta Minerals we believe it is possible to mine in a sustainable way through effective environmental management that prioritises environmental protection and the efficient use of natural resources.

CONTEXT

Antofagasta Minerals believes effective environmental management contributes to the efficient use of natural resources, biodiversity protection, mitigation of negative environmental impacts, firstrate operational performance, development of regions where we operate and protection of the ways of life and livelihoods of our host communities.

This is no easy task due to the different factors we must handle. These include the development of our business activities, our activities’ potential environmental impacts from exploration until mine closure, and the new climate change scenario to which we must adapt. These challenges motivate us to continue improving the effectiveness of our management and thus contribute to the sustainable development of our operations’ area of influence.

MANAGEMENT

ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

At Antofagasta Minerals, we have a Sustainability Policy and an Environmental Management Model that seek to ensure our operations, environmental activities and projects strictly comply with environmental requirements1 and have no incidents with an impact on the environment. The Environmental Management Model focuses on four areas: leadership, incident reporting, operating risk management and regulatory risk management.

We have specific standards on significant environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity, mine closure and water management.

The general manager of each mining operation is responsible for environmental issues and reports to the Board. The corporate environmental department is responsible for controls, monitoring and incident reporting. Environmental performance is reported monthly to the Executive Committee and every six months to the Board’s Sustainability and Stakeholder Management Committee. Environmental performance is included in performance agreements and represents 5% of annual targets.

In 2018 significant progress was made in implementing visible leadership, with on-site visits by the Executive Committee and each operation’s senior leadership teams, as well as in the reporting of environmental incidents. The latter seeks to create a preventive and learning culture. In 2018 the number of low-potential environmental incident reports increased by 91% compared to 2017 as a result of training, communication and the standardisation of criteria for issuing reports.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE AND INCIDENTS

In Chile, mining projects are evaluated by the environmental evaluation service SEA and must comply with a set of specific commitments to prevent, mitigate or compensate for their potential impacts, including on water, air, soil, biodiversity as well as use of energy and water. These commitments are set out in legally binding contracts known as RCAs2 and are audited by the Environmental Superintendency (SMA) on a regular basis. Non-compliance can result in fines or even revocation of operating permits.

Environmental commitments are managed in an environmental requirements management system on a platform for the whole mining division. Antofagasta Minerals has a total of 61 RCAs listing 7,145 environmental commitments. We received no environmental fines in 2017.

The Los Pelambres Expansion Project was approved in 2018, generating a new RCA and environmental commitments. It is currently under construction. 

RESPONSIBLE MINE CLOSURE

We have a Corporate Integrated Closure of Mining Operations Standard in place since 2016 that considers the physical and chemical stability of the facilities as well as environmental and social issues. It also provides tools for timely and effective closure planning, approval by the authority and communication with the community. There are also guidelines on risk evaluation, social and environmental impacts, economic matters and post-closure guarantees, among other issues. All of our operations have closure plans approved by SERNAGEOMIN, the Chilean government agency responsible for this matter.

EMERGENCY PLANNING

Our mining operations have emergency response and action plans coordinated with public service and local authorities. Tailings deposits and other facilities are designed to resist earthquakes and extreme climate events. AIR Mining activity generates particulate matter emissions. In Chile there are regulations that establish legal parameters for air quality which differ for urban and rural areas. Antofagasta Minerals’ operations proactively manage air quality through continuous operational measures to suppress dust and particulate matter emissions (eg dampening roads and ore stockpiles), and also have early warning and air-quality monitoring points defined with the authority. However, despite these measures, our controls are not always able to prevent particulate matter emissions from affecting neighbours.

AIR

Mining activity generates particulate matter emissions. In Chile there are regulations that establish legal parameters for air quality which differ for urban and rural areas. Antofagasta Minerals’ operations proactively manage air quality through continuous operational measures to suppress dust and particulate matter emissions (eg dampening roads and ore stockpiles), and also have early warning and air-quality monitoring points defined with the authority. However, despite these measures, our controls are not always able to prevent particulate matter emissions from affecting neighbours.

In July 2018, the communities of Valle Alto in Salamanca municipal district expressed their concern about an increase in dust from the sector between Los Quillayes tailings dam and Los Pelambres. Although we have worked collaboratively since 2008 to control and minimise the generation of particulate matter, as defined in the Framework Agreement (2008) and Cuncumén 2030 commitment plan (2015), the communities believed it necessary to agree additional activities or modifications.

In this context, the communities, local authorities and Los Pelambres signed a document enabling agreement in principle to be reached on a petition of 11 points relating to particulate matter control measures presented by the communities and to generate the basis on which to begin a dialogue process centred on transparency and good faith.

Through dialogue with the community, a series of technically feasible measures were jointly developed to mitigate and improve controls of particulate matter. These measures were embodied in an agreement signed in October 2018 between Cuncumén and Batuco communities and Los Pelambres. To date, implementation of the agreed measures is in line with the work plan agreed with the community. These include the construction of a dome to cover ore stockpiles which has been completed and was visited by community representatives and authorities when finalising this report in May 2019.

1 The most important environmental institutions in Chile are the Ministry of Environment which sets out public policy; the Environmental Evaluation Service SEA (Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental) which assesses and qualifies project impacts; the Environmental Superintendency SMA (Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente) which inspects and controls; and the environmental courts which, through the judiciary, apply the General Environment Law and its associated regulations.
2 Resolución de Calificación Ambiental (Environmental Qualification Resolutions).