The Chilean Ministry of Health decided to close a school on March 23, 2011, after confirming 40 cases [es] of citizens and students intoxicated by sulfur, copper and other sulfur-containing materials in La Greda, in the Valparaiso region. Those affected experienced headaches and vomits after inhaling “a blue cloud” coming from the refinery of the state mining company Codelco (National Copper Corporation of Chile). Besides La Greda, some other nearby populations, such as Horcón [es] y La Chocota [es], were hit by this emergency that, according to Codelco, was caused by a failure during metal processing.
Besides the temporary closure of the school, on March 30, a Court from Valparaiso sentenced Codelco to halt smelting [es] in its “Ventanas” refinery while the lawsuit of the Ecologic Council of Quintero and former workers of Enami [es]- current Codelco- that brought about the company shut down is under investigation.
On March 30, blogger @CEFIRAX informed about these news on Twitter:
Paola Arévalo (@Lolitalolein) gave her opinion on the same day:
While the “Ecologist Party” (@ecologistachile) informed:
Researcher Marta Barba (@martukabarba) also wrote:
Por suerte decidieron x la escuela y no x la fundicion #ventanas … Momentaneamente. A ver q pasa.
Ricardo Díaz (@Aaeero) said enthusiastically:
Excelenteee pararon #Ventanas ojalá la cierren pobre gente de Puchuncaví hay que puro catetear para que la cierren es el colmo !!
Journalist María Paz llanes (@MPazIS) also celebrated the news:
Que bueno q cierren #ventanas. Tenerlo abierto es como meter presa a la víctima y dejar libre al ladrón
Nonetheless, the same court that sentenced the shutdown of this plant, allowed its reopening in less than 24 hours after Codelco lodged an appeal. In order to win this appeal, the company presented a report of the head of the Legal Department of the Regional secretary of the Ministry of Health, Juan Luis Solari, who asserted that smelting does not endanger people’s health.
In addition to this, next Monday, April 4th, children were allowed to go back to school [es] in La Greda after the Minister of Health asserted that Codelco had presented a written commitment promising that there will not be a similar case in the next three months while the school is opened, before it is relocated in a place that does not endanger children’s health.
The Puchuncavi town council, the former workers of Enami and environmental groups intend to overturn the Valparaiso Appeal Court's decision that allowed reopening the station.
Since March 31, reactions on Twitter appeared quickly. Journalist Angélica Salcedo (@angelicasalcedo) argued that:
El desarrollo económico NO puede fundarse en destrucción del medio ambiente #Ventanas
Willy Flores (@willyflores) asked:
@cubicado commented that,
Blogger Daniel Fuentealba (@dfuentealba) said:
Codelco se ríe de la corte suprema… #ventanas sigue funcionando. Con estas acciones los estudios de impacto ambiental no tienen sentido.
Melanie Weissohn (@meluweissohn) asked for,
The controversy is far from over. An article [es] that confirms that pollution is not a new issue in La Greda was published in the online newspaper El Mostrador on April 1. In addition to this, there are accusations of neighbors being intimidated as informed by Radio Cooperativa and mentioned on Twitter by news curator @Canal_Chile:
The case is still open.