June 25, 2020 / 8:37 PM / 11 days ago

Chile`s environmental watchdog hits Codelco with mining waste pollution claims

SANTIAGO, June 25 (Reuters) - Chile’s environmental regulator on Thursday said it had filed charges against state mining company Codelco over a 2016 tailings spill and river and estuary contamination at its Andina mine in a mountainous region near the capital Santiago.

The Environmental Superintendent (SMA) said it had received various public complaints over a tailings or mining waste spill caused by a storm in April 2016, and the alleged contamination of estuary and river water by waste discharged by the company. It said the events indicated breaches of its waste management plan.

Tailings spills can sometimes be disastrous. Last year, the collapse of a mining waste dam operated by Brazilian mining firm Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore producer, released a torrent of sludge that killed about 270 people.

Four of the 11 charges brought by the regulator against Codelco are serious, potentially leading to fines of up to $15 million. The others are considered minor infractions and carry lesser penalties or written warnings. Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, has 10 days to submit a compliance plan to the regulator or 15 days to make further representations, according to the regulator’s statement.

The company told Reuters it would not comment on the matter as the process is ongoing. (Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Tom Brown)

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