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UPDATE: Vancouver-based Teck mining company in Chile

The Elqui River in Chile. Photo by Noortje Brantegem.

The Elqui River in Chile. Photo by Noortje Brantegem.

Joan Martinez Alier writes (in Spanish) in La Jornada that the HidroAysen and Castilla major power projects in Chile have faced delays. “Why is so much power needed? Chile already has an installed capacity of 16,000 MW for 16 million people. …The answer is obvious: to provide electricity to export mining. …In Chile there are huge battles over water between farmers and mining companies, and between commercial agriculture and the peasant, and in the region of Valparaiso, where avocado production companies hoard water rights, prompting the emergence of the Movement for the Defense of Water, Land and Environment (Modatima).” The op-ed also notes that Chile’s environment minister is Maria Ignacia Benitez, a former consultant to GAC, a company that advises mining companies.

She notes that Vancouver-based Teck is very present in Chile, including with the Carmen de Andacollo copper and gold mine, which is located 350 kilometres north of Santiago. It highlights that Andacollo is “terribly polluting” and refers to its threat to the Elqui Valley, presumably meaning the mine’s $40 million Elqui River water supply project which was built to provide a long term supply of water for the mine. Teck also operates the Quebrada Blanca is located in northern Chile (as well as Antamina in Peru, Highland Valley Copper in BC and Duck Pond in Newfoundland).

This past Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Labrador to announce a loan guarantee for the controversial Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project. In early-October, CTV reported, “Providing cut-rate power to mining companies in Labrador should not be a prime reason for developing the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject, says a growing cast of critics. …Government rhetoric in support of Muskrat Falls has in recent months highlighted potential mining projects in Labrador West. …Teck Resources owns a copper and zinc mine in central Newfoundland (Duck Pond) and Vale operates the Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in northern Labrador.”

An expanded Canada-Chile free trade agreement was expected to pass the House of Commons in Canada in late-November. Canada and Chile are also participating in the eleven-member Trans Pacific Partnership free trade talks in New Zealand this week.

On March 8 of this year, the Council of Canadians released a report entitled ‘Chilean Patagonia in the Balance: Dams, Mines and the Canadian Connection‘ by Alex Latta and Kari Williams. The report highlights that the rising demand for more energy in Chile is driven by that country’s rapidly expanding mining industry, in which Canadian companies are the single largest source of foreign investment. It also notes that major investments in the Chilean mining industry are supported by loans and loan guarantees from Export Development Canada, Canada’s export credit agency. The report can be found at http://canadians.org/water/publications/index.html.

The La Jornada opinion piece is at http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/11/27/opinion/019a2pol.