Published: Friday 15 December 2006

Tailings dam controversy: Chile's General Directorate of Waters has decided to challenge a recent ruling of Santiago Appeals Court related to tailings mine. The court had revoked authorisation of the Los Pelambres mine to build a US $530 million tailings dam--the largest of its kind in South America. In its ruling in the first week of November, the court had backed residents and farmers who have been protesting the project since 1997. The residents claim the tailings dam, which would hold 1,700 million tonnes of tailings (slurry laden with wastes from the mineral extraction process), threatens local waterbodies and will turn the river basin of Pupo into a garbage dump. 58 per cent of the dam construction has been completed and the company officials say they will not halt construction until a "formal ruling" is issued. The directorate had authorised the project in November 2005. Operated by Antofagasta Minerals, Los Pelambres is the fifth largest copper mine in the world.

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