Land of the Dammed

For decades, residents of the rural Chilean village of Caimanes fought against the construction of El Mauro, one of the world’s largest toxic waste tailings dams. While Chile’s Supreme Court ordered the demolition of El Mauro in 2014, residents of Caimanes ultimately dropped their lawsuits after a majority came to a contentious agreement with Minera Los Pelambres, a subsidiary of Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta PLC. There remain ongoing concerns about the structural integrity and safety of El Mauro and whether it has contaminated the water of Caimanes; some residents, who refused to sign the agreement, continue to seek justice from Antofagasta.

Ultimately, Caimanes lost much of its water supply, its unity and, depending on who you ask, its future. Now, Antofagasta is advancing plans to establish the controversial Twin Metals copper mine in Minnesota. Twin Metals has faced major opposition because of fear it will harm the million-acre Boundary Waters Wilderness, though supporters of the project argue it will rejuvenate a lagging rural economy. Understanding the nature of Antofagasta’s business practices in relation to Caimanes will help enhance awareness of the possibilities and ramifications of the Twin Metals mine.