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Chile mining industry regrets govt veto of Dominga project permit

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SANTIAGO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Chile's mining industry said Wednesday it regretted the government's decision to reject an environmental permit for the Dominga iron-copper project, saying political considerations had overshadowed technical aspects of the proposal.

The rejection came from the Committee of Ministers, a government panel that reviews disputes over investment projects, earlier on Wednesday.

The president of the National Mining Society (Sonami), Jorge Riesco, said in a statement the project was technically sound, and its delay was due to political considerations that had influenced the veto decision.

"More than a technical decision, the determination seems to be the fulfillment of a commitment assumed during the presidential campaign," Riesco said. "Therefore, it was very difficult for his ministers to contradict the president and approve the investment."

In his first speech after winning the presidency, President Gabriel Boric voiced his opposition to the project, located near protected maritime zones in the north of the country.

Environment Minister Maisa Rojas earlier on Wednesday said the committee voted unanimously to reject the project after considering its potential impact on wildlife, water sources, air quality and marine-protected areas.

Riesco stressed the need for legal certainty and the need to send clear signals to investors, considering that the mining sector has a portfolio of more than $70 billion in Chile, the world's largest copper producer.

During a press conference explaining the decision, the Minister of Economy, Nicolas Grau, dismissed the idea that the decision on Dominga could impact broader investment in Chile.

"When you see the wide range of investment projects that are being developed in the country, you see that this protection of the environment, and more specifically our contribution to the fight against the climate crisis, outside of being an obstacle,
will be an opportunity and a catalyst for both national and foreign investment," Grau told reporters.

(Reporting by Fabián Andrés Cambero, editing by Natalia Ramos and Bernadette Baum)

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