Chile: Social Media Reactions Against Coal Mining Project

Another environmental conflict is reflected on Chilean social networks [es]. This time, Riesco Island Mining [es] aims to develop a million dollar coal mining project that threatens protected species on Riesco Island, one of the largest islands of Chile.

The lands of Riesco Island are part of the Alacalufe National Reserve, home of protected species of flora and fauna [es], like lenga, ñirre, coihue, huemules and woodpeckers, dolphins, sea lions and penguins. Humpback whales live at the nearby Marino Franciso Coloane Park.

“Once again Chile is on environmental alert, we will save Riesco Island from destruction” was a strong campaign on social networks and YouTube, with its own web page [es] and more than 100,000 views of these videos:

The videos mix the faces of environmental activists, experts and chilean actors and actresses [es] which created this video to be used on social networks: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, web pages, opinion columns, “everything goes, everything goes!!!!” says the campaign.

“Save the penguins and the passage of the humpback whale (Riesco Island)” is on The Petition Site with 1,562 virtual signatures to date.

El Proyecto Mina Isla Riesco es una amenaza real para la anidación de pingüinos en el sector del seno Otway, conocida como “las pingüineras”, además intervendrá en el paso de ballenas jorobadas del Parque Francisco Coloane.

The Riesco Island Mine Project is a real threat to penguins nesting in the area of Otway, known as “the penguins”, also it will intervene in the path of humpback whales residing at Francisco Coloane Park.

René Bustamante (@Rene_Bustamante) on Twitter indicates [es]:

Las mineras de isla riesco, abarcaran 1500 hectareas y el “hoyo“ sera de unas 500 hectareas con mas de 180 metros de profundidad. #espanto

The mines of Riesco Island cover 1500 hectares and the “hole” will be 500 hectares with a depth of more than 180 meters. #scary [es]

The project “Mina Invierno” [es] (Winter Mine), the first of five open mines, was approved [es] by the Environmental Evaluation Commission in the Magellan Islands [es] on February 16 [es], despite a number of inconsistencies and 1,700 citizen and expert observations [es] that show its environmental impacts.

Anibal Valenzuela on Veoverde [es] reflects on the surprise of the decision:

La verdad es que la primera vez que leí sobre el proyecto que se estaba llevando a cabo en Isla Riesco pensé que era imposible que se aprobara. Algunos podrán pensar que soy ingenuo o algo parecido, pero cuando investigué sobre Isla Riesco y vi lo virgen que era y lo austral que quedaba, me dije “no, nadie puede ser tan inconsciente para aprobar algo tan contaminante en un lugar tan hermoso como éste”. Y de verdad lo creí.

The truth is that the first time that I read about the project that was being carried out on Riesco Island I though that it was impossible that it would be approved. Some could think that I am naive or something similar, but when I investigated Riesco Island and I saw the virgin, southern land that it is, I said to myself “no, no one can be so unconscious as to approve something so contaminating in a place as beautiful as this.” And the truth is I believed it.

Protest on February 16 2011 in front of the La Moneda after the government approved a coal mining project on Riesco Island. Image under copyright taken by "profetaparanoia" for Demotix.

In El Martutino [es] Claudia Rodríguez explains the new institutional structure that approves mega projects in Chile leaving out the sole representatives of the citizenry and the regional advisers. The decision is taken by representatives of the central government in the regions, in other words, the mayor (direct representative of the President in the region) and the SEREMIs (Ministerial Regional Secretaries [es], regional representatives of the federal ministers). She also explains the economic structure behind the decision:

¿Dónde están las consideraciones ambientales y la voz de las comunidades cuando el gobierno central –unilateralmente y en complicidad con los grandes empresarios- decide tener una matriz energética cada vez más “carbonizada”?

Where are the environmental considerations and the voice of the communities when the central government – unilaterally and complicit with the big business owners – decides to have an energy matrix that is more and more reliant on coal?

Daniel Romero (@pavalenz) mentions the strongest suspicion [es] which locates President Sebastián Piñera, as well as other people connected to the government [es], in the middle of the conflict and on social networks with the popularity of the hashtag #conflictodeinteres (conflict of interest).

Piñera aún mantiene sus acciones en COPEC ($6.300 millones)?? [Enlace a declaración de patrimonio de Sebastián Piñera] Porque COPEC es la dueña de minera Isla Riesco #conflictodeinteres

Piñera still maintains his shares in COPEC ($6.300 million)?? [Link to Sebastián Piñera's declaration of assets (es)] Because COPEC is the owner of Riesco Island Mining #conflictofinterest.

“No to the mine on Riesco Island,” a site on Facebook [es], contrasts with Foro [es] where one sees opinions about the theme of energy and the environmental impact of the project like this one:

no podemos permitirnos tampoco que sean grupos de alto impacto social y con bajo (por no decir nulo) conocimiento técnico quienes lleven adelante nuestras políticas energeticas, y me refiero en particular en este punto a los múltiples videos que aparecen actores (sí! actores, no ingenierios o preparados en la materia, actores!!) diciendonos cuáles son los proyectos que debemos rechazar y cuáles (de manera tácita) aprobar. Ellos, no tienen ninguna y absolutamente ninguna responsabilidad por los actos que cometen, a menos me parece preocupante que la sociedad se haga eco de ellos.

We can not allow that groups of high social impact and with low (to avoid saying null) technical knowledge carry forward our energy policies, and I am referring in particular on this point to the multiple videos where actors (yes! actors, not engineers or those prepared on the subject, actors!!) are telling us which are the projects that we should reject and which (tacitly) we should approve. They don't have any and absolutely no responsibility for the acts that they commit, at least it seems worrying to me that society echoes them.

Beyond the position, the debate on social networks in Chile has become increasingly intense and robust, with a greater capacity to mobilize people and ideas in the middle of the dispute between development versus nature, something that has become commonplace in the country.

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