SANTIAGO, Nov 4 (Reuters) - An indigenous community opposed to Goldcorp’s copper and gold El Morro mine in northern Chile is poised to present at least one new legal action against the project this month, the group’s lawyer told Reuters on Monday.
The $3.9 billion mine was given the green light again last month, after Chile’s Supreme Court froze its environmental permit last year until the company fully consulted the local Diaguita community.
The Diaguita say the consultation, based on an International Labor Organization convention, wasn’t properly conducted. The roughly 260 families involved in the case are also upset the mine is planned on what they deem their sacred ancestral land and fear the mine could pollute a local river.
“We could end up focused on one, or two or three (legal actions),” said Nancy Yanez, a lawyer with human rights NGO Observatorio Ciudadano. “In any case... it will be within the next few weeks,” she added. She declined to give further details on what legal actions the group is mulling.
Goldcorp did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The company has said it continues “community engagement” and is committed to partnership with indigenous groups.
El Morro, 70 percent owned by Goldcorp and 30 percent by New Gold, had been due to begin operations in 2017.
It is one of several mining and power projects that have suffered setbacks in world No.1 copper producer Chile, where environmental and indigenous groups are increasingly taking their complaints to court.
Chile is heavily dependent on mining, with copper accounting for roughly 60 percent of export revenue. Many in the Andean country say they haven’t benefited from the spoils of the copper boom and feel mining has harmed the environment.
One of the most emblematic cases is fellow Canadian miner Barrick Gold Corp’s Pascua-Lama mine, which straddles the border with Argentina and is close to where El Morro is planned. Barrick said last week it was shelving the controversial gold project indefinitely.
Both Chile’s supreme court and the new environmental regulator suspended the project earlier this year on environmental grounds.
An indigenous community had also led the opposition to Pascua-Lama, and Barrick’s decision may galvanize environmental opposition to such projects.
“El Morro is the same as Pascua-Lama. What you have is a decision by authorities to go against fundamental indigenous rights... and give the green light to a project without having the environmental and social safeguards necessary to having good mining practices in Chile,” Yanez said.