Good news for environmentalists and the animals they seek to protect – the Chilean government recently halted a $2.5 billion mining project which would have destroyed the habitat of the very rare Humboldt penguins. The Dominga Project was set to begin mining copper and iron in the Coquimbo region of central Chile, and it would have produced 12 million tons of iron ore and 150,000 tons of copper each year. However the project was effectively shut down because the environmental risk was too great.

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IFLScience reports that high-ranking officials from Chile’s Committee of Ministers rejected plans for the Dominga Project after a prolonged evaluation period. The committee decided that there was insufficient evidence of environmental guarantees. Though the project was rejected, the Chilean mining company Andes Iron is able to appeal the decision.

Environmentalists are celebrating the news, as the project would require a new sea port along with other large infrastructure changes to the area. Had it been approved, the Humboldt Penguin Reserve, located just a short distance from mainland Coquimbo, would have suffered.

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The nature reserve is an important breeding site for the Humboldt penguin, a species that is vulnerable to extinction and is only found in Chile and Peru. Additionally, the reserve is home to bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, sperm whales, humpback whales, sea lions, albatross and many varieties of fish.

Said Oceana Chile, a marine conservation NGO who campaigned against the project, “Today we have lived a historic day! The Committee of Ministers decided to reject the mining-Port project Dominga due to a lack of information and shortcomings in mitigating and repairing damage to the environment.” They added, “Let us continue to alert and support the communities in the area. This is a victory for all people!”

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Because Chile is the “the world’s leading producer of copper, accounting for 31.8 percent of world mine production; iodine, 63.2 percent; rhenium, 50.9 percent; and lithium, about 38.6 percent,” (according to a 2013 United States Geological Survey), mining companies will undoubtedly persist to tear into the Earth. For now, activists can celebrate this victory, as the Humboldt penguins are better off as a result of the Chilean government’s decision.

Via IFLScience, BBC, Reuters

Images via Pixabay