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Chile's environmental regulator files charges against Antofagasta Minerals

Kitco News

SANTIAGO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Chile's SMA environmental regulator on Wednesday said it had filed two charges against Antofagasta Minerals' Centinela copper deposit due to its impact on a water source and local wildlife.

One charge, described as "very serious," was for not reporting or taking necessary actions to control and mitigate impacts on Loa frogs. In a statement, the SMA said there has been "damage to the species."

The other charge, considered minor, is linked to non-compliance with a water source including the lack of monitoring reports and flow measurement.

The SMA said this prevented the agency from having flow records to "analyze the behavior of this body of water over different years" to determine what "negative impacts the operation could have."

The company said that it is analyzing the SMA's report and is open to providing all the information to clarify and clear up the situation.

"The company declares its surprise at the charges made, since more than 92% of the water it uses to operate is seawater without desalination," Antofagasta Minerals said in a statement.

The company said the remaining percentage corresponds to groundwater for the Calama aquifer, for which the company has "corresponding environmental rights and permits."

Antofagasta argued that the frog's habitat is more than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away and has no hydrogeological connection to the sector from which the company extracts water.

The company risks getting its environmental permit revoked, closure and a fine of up to the equivalent of $8.5 million.

After being notified of the charges, the company has 10 business days to present a compliance program.

(Reporting by Fabian Andrés Cambero; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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