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BHP responds to allegations of abandoned mine reclamation plan in Chile

Following accusations of failing to properly carry out its mine closure plan for Cerro Jarón in northern Chile, BHP (ASX: BHP) issued a communiqué stating that it is waiting for a sanitary permit to be able to start environmental reclamation work at the site.

BHP said that operations at Cerro Jarón ceased in 2014 and that the mine closure plan was immediately submitted to the authorities and has been approved in accordance with the Law on Closure of Mining Works and Facilities.   

The statement notes that in November 2021, the company submitted to the National Geology and Mining Service, Sernageomin, a request for the necessary permits to move forward with the definitive closure of the mine. These permits have also been granted and, therefore, it is just a matter of getting the missing sanitary permit to go ahead with the reclamation plans.

The global miner also mentioned that besides keeping numerous informative signs and a surveillance service at the site, its Chilean team conducts monthly inspections, which are properly reported to the authorities. According to the company, such inspections have not shown evidence of any leakages of copper sulphate into the soil’s subterranean layers.

The complaint

BHP’s reaction was in response to a video made public over social media by Chilean MP Sebastián Videla, who ventured into Cerro Jarón and denounced the lack of work to recover the natural environment after the mine’s closure.

Videla’s visit was the result of complaints by residents of nearby towns such as Caleta Coloso, which is just 10 kilometres south of the site, and Plata Escondida, which is a 10-minute drive away. 

While touring the site, the MP said that even though he is not opposed to mining in the region, it has to be done in an environmentally responsible manner. Therefore, he said he is going to prepare a bill that includes stringent sanctions for the companies that do not fulfill their mine closure and site reclamation plans in a timely and effective way.