Campaign against the power plants

Civil Society Organizations Disgusted by Land Use Plan

La Serena, Landau 30. December 2018.
ZivilShame to the person who thinks badly of this. On 27. December – between Christmas and New Year’s, at the beginning of the summer vacation period – the Consejo Regional (advisory body of the Coquimbo Region) approved an intercommunity land use plan with thirteen votes to three. With this plan, it will be possible to industrialize areas that actually must be prioritized as protected areas. This plan would therefore allow port infrastructure to be built on the coast of La Higuera; the environmental importance of the region would thus be relegated to the background.
Numerous civil society organizations have already protested against this decision (1) before and inside of the Intendencia (the official seat of the Regional President) in La Serena. Nancy Duman was able to make a short statement to the Consejeros (regional council members) about the current plan’s one-sidedness and deficiencies:

1.  an already-existing plan, as well as the collective, scientific literature regarding the coast and the ocean area of “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”, were not taken into account at all.

2.  the residents of the affected area were not involved in the decision, and their interests and needs were not respected.

3.  the plan opens the way for a contaminating industry (see Cruz Grande and “Dominga”), at the expense of an ecosystem of global importance.


“Reform” of the Environmental Review in Chile Planned

-Sphenisco Organizes a Seminar on the Ramifications-

La Serena, Landau 22. December 2018.
ReformFor over 20 years in the La Higuera Region (northern Chile), industrial projects have been planned that again and again threaten the “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”ecosystem, and with it, the natural habitat of the Humboldt Penguin. It is SEIA’s task (the agency responsible for conducting the environmental compatibility assessment) to properly and in conjunction with subject-matter experts’ assessments, review and appraise the planned projects. In this process however, through intensive lobbying and maneuvering, corporations have continued to attempt to minimize imposed environmental conditions and to push through concessions from the government. The review processes usually take many years to complete, and are often finally decided in court.
In July, the Piñera government drafted a bill to “reform” the environmental review process. The review should become more modern and optimized, the influence of politics reduced, the participation of citizens expanded and the access to justice eased. That all sounds good. However, the actual suggested changes speak a very different language, as shown in the following examples:  thus, should the time of citizen participation be reduced from 60 to 30 days, the regional review committee should be dissolved and replaced by three nationwide commissions. The chronologically-shortened civic participation should be documented and its results submitted to the environmental court. Complaints are thus to be directed to the judiciary. With this, the court would simultaneously be the reviewer and the judge, and the separation between public authorities and justice would be removed. Overall, the possibilities for citizens to sue against a project would be drastically limited. According to the critical opinion of attorneys and experts, this “reform” would weaken the review of the environmental compatibility and open the floodgates for even stronger Manipulation.


No Sacrificial Zones!

Pursuit of Profit is Against Nature – and Against Environmental Protection 

Landau 2. November 2018.
Keine OpferzoneFor over 20 years, conservationists and environmentalists have been defending the habitat of the Humboldt Penguin and have demanded that the “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral“ ecosystem (northern Chile) be preserved through the creation of a marine protection area. Last year, it appeared that all the efforts at protection were finally paying off. The Coquimbo Regional Government and the cabinet of then-President Bachelet rejected the corporation Andes Iron’s proposed“Dominga” port and mining project. Shortly before the new administration took over in March, the Chilean Committee of Ministers unanimously voted in favor of the “Pinguino de Humboldt” Marine Protection Area. Bitter setbacks followed these advances. In May, the Chilean Supreme Court rejected the legal action against the Cruz Grande port project from Compania Minera del Pacífico S.A.-CMP, and the Chilean Environmental Court in Antofagasta granted Andes Iron’s appeal against the rejection of the “Dominga” project (see previous reports on this website). Environmentalists have since initiated legal action against these court decisions, before an international court against the approval of the Cruz Grande project, and at the Chilean Supreme Court against the “corrected” rejection of the “Dominga” project. Most recently, fishery unions have initiated legal action at the Chilean Constitutional Court. Many people view the verdict for “Dominga”as an expression of state despotism and a danger to the rule of law. This action by the Chilean court has disgusted and strengthened the citizens’and environmental movements.


Consejo Consultivo

Landau 5. February 2018.

Consejo Consultivo Conjunto de Reserva Nacional Pingûino de Humboldt y Reserva Marina Choros-Damas is the advisory body of the Humboldt Penguin National Protection Area and the small protection zone of the Humboldt Penguin in the „La Higuera-Chañaral Island” region. Government institutions such as CONAF and Sernapesca, scientists from the universities of La Serena and Coquimbo, small fishing, farming, and tourist associations, as well as NGOs are all members. This advisory body is led by Rosa Rojas.

Consejo Consultivo’s Mission
Consejo Consultivo‘s mission is to have citizens – also in the form of its organizations – as well as scientists, participate in activities that contribute toward the preservation of protected species and their living conditions. Through civic activism, problems in the protection area and protection zone are to be solved. Information is regularly disseminated about the importance of the marine region La Higuera/Isla Chañaral.

Through participation of citizens in the past years, it has been possible for Consejo Consultivo to reduce tourist activities in the National Protection Area, and have measures instituted that enabled the tourism to be organized in a more sustainable fashion. The advisory body also supported measures for the protection of Choros Island; these measures resulted in the previously-introduced invasive species of European rabbit being purged from the island. As a result, the vegetation on the island was able to recover such that the breeding situation for the Humboldt Penguins and the Peruvian Diving Petrel improved (s.a. Breeding Situation on the Island of Choros Improved, La Serena, 1. February 2014).

In 2009, Consejo Consultivo had already taken the initiative for the creation of a marine area with limited use (Área Marina y Costera Protegida de Múltiples Usos- MACP-MU), and worked with the NGO Oceana, to submit an application with the regional environmental ministry for the approval of a marine protection area. Progress moves like a snail, such that the Coquimbo Regional Government first applied with the Chilean Federal Government this January for the creation of this marine protection area. It is possible that the Rosa Rojas parting government of President Bachelet will pass a law creating this area of protection.

Rosa Rojas (long-standing President of Movimiento en Defensa del Medio Ambiente-MODEMA)


  • regional governmental institutions:
    CONAF (Environmental Protection Agency), Sernapesca (Fischery Agency), Gobernación Maritima (Naval Agency), Secretaria Regional Ministerio de Medio Ambiente (Regional Environmental Ministry), Bienes Nacionales (Ministry of Governmental Property), Municipalidad (The Community of La Higuera), Sernatur- Secretaria Regional de Turismo (Regional Tourism Agency), Dirección de Obras Portuarias (Port Building Authority)      
  • scientists from the University of La Serena and the Catholic University of Northern Coquimbo as well as Ceaza (Center for Scientific Pioneering Studies in Desert Regions), also in Coquimbo
  • organizations from civil society,
    - small fishing councils from Los Choros and Punta de Choros,
    - small fishing cooperatives,
    - Federación de Pescadores de La Higuera (Federation of Fishers from La Higuera),
    - Organisación de desarrollo y fomento del turismo-ODEFOT (Organization for Development and Promotion of Tourism),
    - Committee for Drinking Water in Los Choros and Punta de Choros,
    - Social and Environmental Protection Organizations,
    - Olive Farmers of Los Choros,                                                                                         
    - Bomberos de Punta de Choros (Fire Department from Punta de Choros),
  • NGOs

translated by Erich Greiner

Gobierno de ChileFishers Open Letter to President Piñera

La Serena, May 2, 2018
Sebastián Piñera Echeñique
President of the Republic
Sebastián Piñera EcheñiqueDear Mr. President,
As the Fishers and Citzens Collective of the Community Association of La Higuera and the Coquimbo Region, we are turning to you with an open letter, in order to voice our profound indignation that the government had decided not to lodge an appeal to the High Court against the April 27th verdict of the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta. With that verdict, the corporation Andes Iron's objection against the decisions of the governmental agency responsible for the environmental compatibility review and the Committee of Ministers was accepted, with the putative argument that “this time the procedure will follow valid law.”
How can the government and the environmental court guarantee and assure us that the environmental compatibility review will “this time” proceed according to valid law, when the environmental court  accepts a manipulated assessment as correct and does so without further review, and requires a new vote on the matter, without the company having first addressed and eliminated the faults of the intended Project?


Two Steps Forward, Four Steps Back

Landau 8.May 2018.

For over 20 years, natural and environmental preservationists have been defending the habitat of the Humboldt Penguin, the ecosystem “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”, and have demanded the creation of a marine protection area. Last year, the Coquimbo Regional Government and later the Chilean Federal Government rejected Andes Iron Corporation’s mining and port project, thus setting an example for sustainable development in the La Higuera Region. On March 5th-6 days before the change of government the committee of ministers unanimously voted for the marine protection area “Pinguino de Humboldt. As a consequence, President Bachelet enacted the required decree. The Bachelet government however, left the size and demarcation of the protection area open. This was certainly not a breakthrough, but definitely a step in the right direction.

The Chilean Supreme Court has now rejected the case against the Cruz Grande port project intended by Corporation Compania Minera del Pacifico S.A. (CMP). Shortly thereafter, the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta sustained Andes Iron Corporation’s suit against the rejection of its Dominga mining and port projects (see open letter from 28. April). These verdicts endanger the existence of many people in the La Higuera Region and an ecosystem of global status.

How will this proceed? The environmental protectionists have filed suit in an international court against the approval of the Cruz Grande project, as well as in the Chilean Supreme Court against the verdict from the court in Antofagasta. The indignation in Chile is so intense, especially with respect to the verdict in Antofagasta (governmental capriciousness endangers the principles of a nation of law), that the environmental protectionists are receiving much support, and more and more people are backing the protests.



Open Letter from Nancy Duman, Sphenisco

28. April 2018

Yesterday on April 27, 2018 the First Environmental Court in Antofagasta announced its verdict with respect to the suit brought by the Andes Iron Corporation. Andes Iron had sued against SEA’s (the agency responsible for reviewing an intended project’s environmental compatibility) and the Committee of Ministers’ rejection of its Dominga mining and port projects. In detail, the judges stated:

1.  the claim brought by Andes Iron against SEA and the Committee of Ministers is sustained.

2.  the assessment 1.146 on 13. October 2017 of the Acting Director of SEA in his function as Acting Secretary of the Committee of Ministers is annulled.

3.  the decision Nr. 08/2018 of the Committee of Ministers is also annulled.

4.  further, Resolution Nr. 0025 from 14. March 2017 (Final Decision on the Environmental Compatibility – RCA) of the Environmental Compatibility Commission (COEVA) is annulled.

5.  it is to be mandated, that the Process of the Environmental Compatibility Review be remanded back to the Phase after the ICE (Final Report of the Environmental Compatibility Review), so that a new vote - now a legitimate one – can take place at the Environmental Compatibility Commission of the Coquimbo Region (COEVA).

The (new) Environmental Minister commented on the verdict as follows: “As the government, we want to ensure that the procedure will now conform to the law. Paying deference to the law, the constitutionality, is guaranteed for all citizens. Therefore the verdict is very clear when it states that the process must be remanded back to where a new vote from the Environmental Compatibility Commission of the Coquimbo Region (COEVA) can take place. And that so – literally translated – this vote can be a legitimate one.”

We see this entirely differently. If one takes the entire evaluation procedure into consideration, it becomes clear that – quite to the contrary – this verdict is irresponsible, not in accordance with the law and a shame for the entire country of Chile.

If in fact the intent of the verdict was to establish legal conformity and constitutionality, then the Process of the Environmental Review would not have been remanded to the Phase after the ICE (Final Report) and a new vote allowed, without the entire environmental review process in and of itself first having been reexamined. With the current decision, the environmental court opens the way for the very governmental despotism that it claims to fight against. The same applies to the new Environmental Ministry which, as a party to the case, did not lodge an appeal to the highest court’s verdict.

This becomes obvious through the letter that the employees of SEA (Coquimbo Region) wrote last year to their director, and also from the document regarding the concluded disciplinary process in which 12 civil servants witnessed to the fact that the ICE (Final Report) was elaborated in Santiago and did not take the regional assessment into account, and that the Surrogate Director of the Regional Environmental Agency was sent to sign the report, so that the insufficient “Final Report” could be incorporated into the environmental compatibility review.

As a reminder: prior to this report, the SEA had accepted the observations of CONAF (The Chilean Environmental Protection Agency), as indicated in Adenda 3, and demanded that the responsible governmental agencies state their opinions. When the ICE was due however, for then-unexplainable reasons (we now know why) a fourth Adenda was requested and prefaced by a report which completely differed from the previous one, and in which CONAF’s position was explicitly not acknowledged and its claims completely removed from the evaluation.

Since then, there is evidence that during the time that Pablo Badenier was  Environmental Minister, someone from the federal level intervened. In the document regarding the entire evaluation, this fact was witnessed in writing by 12 different officials. We hope that this document still exists and has not since been destroyed.

We recall: just a few days after the decision in the region by which the project was remanded, Badenier resigned, allegedly to support the presidential campaign of Carolina Goic. Shortly thereafter, the Federal Director of SEA, Jorge Troncoso and his entire team resigned, the very people that had prepared the report for the Committee of Ministers.

This alone attests to the fact that a grave mistake was made and a breach of governmental regulations committed, a breach sufficient to damage the governmental institutions of Chile and the country’s reputation throughout the world. We do not believe that a lack of information existed. 

One makes a serious error when one imposes a new regional vote (remanded to a specific phase in the court’s decision-making process). In this way, a project can be approved without having to provide the necessary information to substantiate it, because the government either cannot do so or does not want to attempt it, and instead wants to remove harmful proof to the contrary; thus, the government does not want to adhere to its own legal requirements, the necessary basis of an approval process, i.e., orderly evaluation of the ramifications of such a project. In other words, quite to the contrary: it is to be assumed that this environmental monument of global importance will be destroyed, and the future of the Humboldt Penguin species with it.

Translated by Erich Greiner


Can Justice See in the Dark and Does She Even Want to?

La Serena, Landau 21. March 2018.

JustitiaWe remember. Sphenisco and Chilean environmentalists continually pointed out the irregularities in the environmental review of the Dominga project (Andes Iron Corporation), and even demanded an investigative committee be formed because of it. The Parliament met this demand and investigated the irregularities, mistakes, and deficiencies in the review of the Dominga project. Our employee Nancy Duman testified at the investigative committee and summarized her comments as follows:

  1. The applicant has presented a project that does not meet the minimum requirements in order to be assessed.
  2. During the review process, observations of governmental organizations with environmental competence were ignored.
  3. The document provided, and its enhancements or addenda do not contain sufficient information in order to allow for a correct environmental sustainability review.
  4. SEA should therefore have suggested a rejection and not a consent.
  5. The vote of the Commission took place with all of these aspects having being presented.
  6. Academics and research about the meaning of the archipelago and the coastal area of La Higuera was not taken into consideration, the opinion of scientific experts was not called upon (see also report from 15. May 2017).

The following question is therefore legitimate:  what influence is responsible for these failures? Who exerted influence, so that the SEA (the agency responsible for reviewing environmental compatibility) recommended approval of the project, despite insufficient factual justification?