On April 20, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis and a terrible drought, the Environmental Evaluation Commission of Valparaíso, Chile, approved Vizcachitas Holding's new drill program in the regional municipality of Putaendo, without citizen participation. Since 2007, Vizcachitas has been owned by a Canadian mining company, Los Andes Copper. The approval of the program will enable the company to continue an exploration project that the company has had underway for more than 10 years. The drill program will enable 350 new holes to be drilled over the next four years, as a foundation for the study and possible construction of an open-pit copper/molybdenum/silver mine and concentration plant.
The Vizcachitas project is widely rejected by communities who are confronting the worst ecological and hydrological crisis in 60 years. Over the past years the company has been accused of usurping water rights, altering water courses, and contaminating the Rocín River with heavy metals. The company has been condemned and fined for a series of irregularities and for illegal operations, thanks to the judicial actions taken by the communities in Putaendo and allied organizations.
On April 26, the communities of Putaendo, concerned about the social and environmental impacts this project will cause, decided to take to the streets to express their rejection of the project, as they have been doing for many years. A large contingent of military and special forces were sent to the town, causing great concern. Their presence as interveners in the conflict between the community and the mining company reveals the power of Canadian mining interests in promoting mining extraction in Chile.
The communities of Putaendo are aware of the Canadian government’s public commitments to protecting human rights and land defenders, and they have requested that we take action as Canadians to hold our companies and our government to account. The Canadian government offers diplomatic support to foreign companies operating abroad, a service which we believe should be revoked from Los Andes Copper, as outlined in the “Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders”, wherein the Canadian embassy has the ability to “deny trade advocacy support” in the event that abuses to human rights have occurred.
Tell Canada’s ambassador to Chile and Global Affairs Canada that Los Andes Copper should not get Canadian diplomatic support for its ongoing human and environmental abuses.