Antofagasta: The chilean mining giant rushing to ruin the Boundary Waters

Dec 20, 2018
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Who is Antofagasta?

Twin Metals Minnesota, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Antofagasta PLC of Chile, is demanding renewal of sulfide-ore copper mining leases covering 5,000 acres of National Forest lands on the edge of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Antofagasta is the ninth-largest copper mining company in the world and is based in Chile, where it owns several copper mines.  That it has an atrocious environmental and social track record there should concern anyone who cares about the Boundary Waters and the communities around it.

Antofagasta should never be entrusted with the health and safety of the Boundary Waters and its watershed. In Chile, Antofagasta PLC:

  • caused the biggest loss of cultural heritage in Chile’s recent history, according to the Chilean Archaeological Society, when it excavated more than 500 boulders bearing 2,000 petroglyphs and buried a pre-Columbian cemetery and archeological sites from two vanished cultures, to make way for the El Mauro tailings dam. (London Mining Network, 6/14/13);

  • was found guilty by the Chilean Supreme Court of harming residents of a community when Antofagasta located its tailings dam upstream, polluting the groundwater and blocking a critical source of water on which the community depended (BNamericas, 10/24/14);

  • faces a potential fine of $23.8 million and closure of its biggest copper mine in Chile over violations of its environmental permit, including water pollution (Reuters, 10/13/16; 10/14/16); and

  • was responsible for the highest number of toxic spills in the region of Coquimbo; one spill dumped 13,000 liters of copper concentrate directly into a river (Conflicts Over Water in Chile: Between Human Rights and Market Rules, Sept. 2010).

In addition:

  • A Chilean senator brought charges against Antofagasta for tax fraud (United Press International 5/23/03).

  • Antofagasta is heavily involved in extreme water privatization occurring in desert areas of Chile, depriving many poor and indigenous families of their historic water sources.  (Conflicts Over Water in Chile: Between Human Rights and Market Rules, September 2010) (The Guardian, 3/21/2014).

  • Antofagasta’s corporate structure is dangerously consolidated within the Luksic family – one of Chile's wealthiest families (The Telegraph, 11/06/04).

  • The Luksics have a history of involvement in political-financial scandals. The Bank of Chile, which is controlled by the Luksic family, gave the Chilean president’s daughter-in-law a special $10 million loan after she met with bank vice-president Andrónico Luksic (Reuters, 2/10/15), the chairman of the Luksic Group, the family's business holding company.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are renting a Washington, D.C., home from Chilean billionaire Andrónico Luksic.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Chilean billionaire bought a Washington, D.C., mansion for $5.5 million, just after the November election on December 22, 2016, and that twelve days after the purchase, Luksic’s company rented the mansion to Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner. Ivanka and Kushner are paying $15,000 a month to rent their home.

While Andrónico Luksic has tweeted that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner are paying market rate rent - the real cause for concern is that Luksic of Antofagasta reportedly spent $5.5 million to make a mansion available to members of the First Family and top advisors to President Donald Trump at a time when Antofagasta is suing the United States to try to force renewal of mineral leases near the Boundary Waters.

The copper mining industry has a long history of acid mine drainage and heavy metals leaching with catastrophic environmental impacts, especially to water. And even state-of-the-art mines are at risk for major infrastructure disaster. For example, in August 2014, a tailings dam breach at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in British Columbia released 4.5 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into a lake and river system that was a priceless salmon spawning area. Two days later, a mine in Mexico spilled 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid into two rivers, wiping out the water supply for a vast rural area that depended on the river water for domestic use and agriculture. Fish and wildlife were devastated.

With their destructive environmental track record, Antofagasta cannot be entrusted with the health and safety of the Boundary Waters and its watershed.

Prcoessing facility of Chilean mine.