Teck Chile is staring down an $8 million fine for two series permit breach charges from The Superintendence of the Environment (SMA) in Chile, the agency confirmed last week.
SMA in the Coquimbo region said the producer, specifically Teck Carmen de Andacollo, which is owner of the Andacollo Cobre project, has not complied with the commitments established in its Environmental Qualification Resolution (RCA).
“It should be noted that the project consists of the open-pit exploitation of copper ore, through heap leaching, solvent extraction and electrowinning. It is also important to add that since 2007 the owner has had a favorable RCA for the Hypogeno project, which consists of the replacement of the mineral processing method and the operation of a tailings deposit,” the SMA said.
“In inspection activities carried out by the SMA, together with the SAG, Sernageomin and the General Directorate of Water (DGA), various findings related to the non-compliance with the environmental permit (RCA) of the Hipogeno project were verified.”
Specifically, the regulator said the first charge was related to the incomplete construction of the infiltration collection system of the tailings deposit, which had to consider a drainage system for the capture of seepage and that these were discharged in approved areas and thus avoid affecting groundwater.
During the inspections, it was confirmed that, after water emerged in one of the walls of the tailings deposit, these were transferred to the leaching area.
The second accusation, it added, is for not having taken measures or activated the contingency plan for the exceedance of physical-chemical values of one of the five groundwater monitoring wells that, according to measurements and sampling in the field, was acidifying between 2009 and 2022.
“Compliance with the requirements related to the tailings deposit and the measures for possible upwellings – which were detected in the on-site inspections – are crucial since they have a significant impact in relation to the quantity and quality of natural resources and in particular with respect to groundwater,” said SMA regional head in Coquimbo Gonzalo Parot.
Superintendent Marie Claude Plumer added: “It is important to remind project owners that it is not enough to have an environmental permit. Compliance with these is an imperative, that is, companies must comply with the commitments they establish in order to operate. It’s part of the rules of the game.”
Both infractions were charged as serious, so the owner risks the revocation of its RCA, closure or a fine of up to 10 thousand UTA in total, equivalent to more than $7.6 million.
The project is located in the commune of Andacollo, 60 kilometers from the city of La Serena, in the Coquimbo Region.