Anglo American has mine extension project rejected by Chilean environmental commission

Anglo American has had its proposal to continue operating the El Soldado copper mine in Chile rejected by a local environmental commission, in another setback for the global miner in the South American country.

Despite the El Soldado Phase V project receiving recommendation for approval by Chile’s environmental evaluation authority, the local regulator of Valparaiso, Coeva, motioned against the US$40 million project, with 10 votes against and only two in favour.

The news comes after Chile’s Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) rejected Anglo’s application for a $3.3 billion expansion of its flagship Los Bronces copper mine in May. The regulator’s main concerns centred on the use of vital water resources at the mine, as well as Los Bronces’ potential impact on a nearby glacier.

When coming to power earlier this year, Chile’s President Gabriel Boric pledged to tighten environmental regulations in the mining sector and increase tax and royalties on mining companies to fund social programmes. The El Soldado extension is the sixth mining project vetoed by the government since Boric’s ascension.

Anglo has been the majority owner of El Soldado since 2002. The mine started operations in 1980 and produced 42,300 tonnes of copper last year, making it relatively small by Chilean standards.

Nonetheless, the decision serves a blow to Anglo’s future pipeline in Chile. Last week, fellow global mining firm BHP said it would likely reconsider its investment plans in the country, if proposed tax hikes were to come into effect. BHP operates the world’s largest copper mine in Northern Chile – Escondida.