For every ton of minerals extracted, 30 tonnes of mining waste are generated.
With 1.5 million tons of residue created per day, Chile is the world leader in
REQUINOA, Chile: From the sky, the glistening emerald ponds of northern Chile are almost beautiful, but closer to the ground they harbour an ugly and dangerous secret: the reservoirs, filled with toxic waste from the country’s mining industry, are ticking time bombs.
Mines are the pillar of Chile’s economy, but their byproducts – which accumulate in ravines, mountain areas, river beds and reservoirs, and which are often used to create tailings dams, pose a handful of problems for surrounding inhabitants.
Apart from the environmental threat, the recent collapse of two Brazilian dams that killed hundreds of people has triggered alarm in Chile, which produces approximately a third of the world’s copper.
“It’s not that it couldn’t happen here but it would be very difficult,” Chilean Mines Minister Baldo Prokurica told AFP. In 1965, an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter Scale collapsed a Chilean tailings dam leaving more than 300 people dead.
Prokurica said that since then, and precisely because of the country’s seismic activity, measures have been taken to prevent another such accident.
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