Codelco shuts Ventanas smelter in move towards sustainable mining

1st June 2023

By: Reuters


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QUINTERO - Chile's State-owned Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, on Wednesday closed its Ventanas metal smelter in the country's central coast, following environmental incidents in the region that tainted its operations.

The mining company decided last year to shut down the facility in the town of Quintero, located some 108 km northwest of the capital, after authorities declared an environmental emergency due to pollution that left dozens suffering from symptoms of sulfur dioxide emission poisoning.

"The transformation of the Ventanas division is clear evidence that this corporation is moving decisively towards more sustainable mining," said Maximo Pacheco, chairman of the board, during the event for the unit's closing.

Codelco has stated that its shifting to produce more sustainable copper to meet growing environmental demands from both buyers and the Chilean government.

Authorities did not directly attribute the incident to Codelco's smelter. More than a dozen large businesses, including fossil fuel, cement and electricity companies, operate in the area.

Environmentalists have called Quintero and its surroundings a "sacrifice zone" for repeated pollution incidents that have caused public health emergencies.

Codelco halted work in the smelter last year while it completed the legal process to close it, which required applying some operational adjustments indicated by the environmental regulator.

Union workers initially opposed the closure but later reached an agreement with the firm. More than half of the workforce accepted a voluntary retirement plan.

Edited by Reuters


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