Business Maverick


Chile rejects Anglo’s $3.3bn copper mine expansion plan on environmental grounds

Chile rejects Anglo’s $3.3bn copper mine expansion plan on environmental grounds
Anglo American's Los Bronces copper mine in central Chile on 10 October 2006. (Photo: Alejandra Parra / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Anglo American said on Tuesday that Chile’s Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental had officially rejected the environmental permit application for the company’s planned $3.3-billion Los Bronces copper expansion project. The environmental assessment service recommended the project be scuppered last month, but Anglo said it still had ‘the potential to request a review’ of the decision.

Anglo had said in late April that Chile’s Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental (SEA) had recommended that the environmental permitting for the project not be granted, so the final decision was hardly unexpected. Still, it is a big regulatory setback for Anglo, which has been at pains to burnish its green credentials, and a “welcome-to-the-job” headache for its new CEO, Duncan Wanblad. 

“Anglo American is examining the details of the [decision] … and expects to continue following the regulated permitting process in Chile, which includes the potential to request a review by a Minister’s Committee to evaluate the full breadth of merits of the project,” Anglo said. 

A “potential” review, it must be said, is hardly set in stone. The project, representing a significant investment of $3.3-billion, is now “potentially” dead in the water. 

Los Bronces is a key asset in Anglo’s portfolio, which is both leaner and far more profitable than it was a decade ago when Mark Cutifani, who retired last month, took over. 

Copper is regarded as a “green metal” with robust future demand expected from its importance to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources – solar panels don’t grow on trees – as well as electric vehicles. And Anglo has gone to great lengths to brush up its environmental, social and governance (ESG) profile, including spinning off its thermal coal assets in South Africa. 

The people and businesses the State Capture commission recommends for prosecution

The aim of the expansion project was to extend the mine’s life to 2036. 

But environmentalists have raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on a glacier and water supplies in the region, about 65km from the capital Santiago.  

“The review of the SEA regarding Los Bronces was very critical. Among others, the report mentions that Los Bronces used an outdated system to evaluate the dangers that small particle pollutants would have over the glaciers, contributing to glacier melting and endangering the drinking water supply to Santiago in the near future,” Gabriel Leon, a Chilean environmentalist and science communicator, told Business Maverick

He noted NGO activism – and also the new left-wing administration of youthful president Gabriel Boric – as key nails in the project’s coffin. 

“Many projects like Los Bronces will have a hard time trying to get the green light, taking into account the more progressive stand of Boric’s government in these matters,” he said. 

And when it comes to copper, Chile – as the world’s top producer of the red metal – clearly matters. DM/BM  


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options