Today the Environmental Court would communicate whether it maintains a decision to suspend the extraction of water, as requested by the plaintiff.
In a hearing that lasted more than two hours, the mining company Cerro Colorado – a firm owned by BHP, in the Tarapacá region – yesterday played its last cards for the First Environmental Court to reverse the precautionary measure decreed on August 19, where It is prohibited from extracting water from the Lagunillas aquifer since October 1 and for 90 days, which in practice could lead to paralyzing its operation. This, within the framework of a lawsuit filed by Luis Jara Alarcón, owner of the Estancia de Cancosa, which points to the environmental damage that the company would have caused.
In the allegations there was a strong crossover of positions, even addressing the proposal presented (in an Addendum) on Friday by the company in the framework of the environmental process to achieve an extension in its permits, until 2023.
For the plaintiff, the lawyer Ladislao Álex Quevedo, asked to maintain the decreed measure, assuring that there is “serious and serious antecedents” of the almost total destruction of the Lagunillas aquifer. As he argued, since April 2018 there is no control of what the aquifer levels are in the wetland and the monitoring required by the authority has been omitted.
He also accused that the mining company defends itself by saying that it has not drawn as much water since last year, when it is extracting it from another place: “The company has not stopped consuming the water it used. The water is now being drawn from the mine pit, but the firm has not stopped consuming the water ”.
José Luis Fuenzalida, a lawyer for the mining company, stressed that the essential and inherent elements of any precautionary measure are not present. Supported by some plates that he exhibited before the Court, he maintained that there is no irrecoverability as his counterpart pointed out: “The recovery time is being analyzed, returning to the base condition, but at no time your honor from these images can verify irrecoverability “.
Along these lines, the lawyer directly questioned the plaintiff’s active legitimacy, since the action to repair environmental damage involves suffering a loss. Fuenzalida pointed out -for example- that the actor does not have material possession in the environment. “In recent years, it has deducted more than 20 actions, between judicial and administrative, with the sole purpose that the Cerro Colorado operation becomes directly impossible, excessively burdensome with a view to improving its negotiating position with compensation claims of the order of up to US $ 32 million ”, he indicated.
The doubts of the ministers
The questions by the court ministers were diverse for the parties involved and mainly pointed to the measures contemplated in the processing of environmental permits that run in parallel.
Minister Juan Opazo took, for example, the questioning of the mining company about the active legitimacy of the plaintiff, where Quevedo said that Jara is a registered co-owner and that he defends his property.
It was also consulted about the eight-month delay on the part of the mining company to return to the processing of the environmental authorization. Fuenzalida aimed to put the elements in context. “This is the first case in Chile where climate change is evaluated in an organic and systematic way,” he said, adding that, to realize that they are not evasive, “all efforts were made and the Addendum was presented on Friday”.
The president of the Court, Mauricio Oviedo, also pointed to the interpretation of the plaintiff that there would be a project execution without an environmental permit (RCA) and asked if there were any complaints. In this regard, Quevedo found that there was contact with the Superintendency of the Environment.
At the end of this edition, the ministers were expected to make a decision regarding the precautionary measure, which would be known this Wednesday morning.