SANTIAGO – A community in north-central Chile has reached a water-use agreement with the Los Pelambres mining company, which as part of the deal has pledged to draw up plans for a desalination plant.
Patricio Trigo, the governor of Choapa province, where the community of Salamanca is located; lawmakers; and Salamanca Mayor Gerardo Rojas intervened in the dispute over use of water from a local river and helped bring an end to 15 days of road-blocking protests, according to an official statement.
Community leader Ismael Maldonado said he is satisfied with Wednesday’s agreement and urged protesters to clear the roads and return to their homes.
Among other points, the agreement calls for a partnership with Los Pelambres to build a desalination plant, the use of which will be determined by a committee made up of representatives of the region’s social and productive sectors.
The accord was reached 48 hours after a Chilean court ordered the company – a unit of Antofagasta Minerals, which is controlled by Chile’s Luksic family – to demolish the Los Pelambres copper mine’s waste dump, located in the nearby Caimanes community.
Those two communities – located in the Coquimbo region, 350 kilometers (217 miles) from Santiago – have waged a years-long legal battle against Los Pelambres, accusing the company of depriving it of the water they have always used for personal use, their animals and their crops.
The dispute has unfolded amid an eight-year drought in that north-central region.