Isla Riesco's Mina Invierno coal project nears environmental approval

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chilean company Minera Isla Riesco's US$180mn Mina Invierno coal project in southern region XII is getting closer to receiving approval from the environment ministry (MMA), a source from the ministry told BNamericas.

Based on the current schedule, the MMA's region XII office head Karina Bastidas has until January 18 to submit a report on the evaluation of the company's most recent addendum to the original EIS, responding to questions made by the ministry on some environmental issues related to the project.

If the addendum is positively evaluated by the MMA, final environmental approval for the project would be granted within the following 30-45 days, the source said.

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The project's EIS was submitted around the middle of January last year. Since then, the ministry has asked the company to submit three addendums on the project.

The project involves an open pit operation to produce 6Mt/y of sub-bituminous coal over a 12-year mine life, based on current reserves of 73Mt. Construction is expected to start immediately after getting environmental approval, the company's general manager Jorge Pedrals told BNamericas previously.

Mina Invierno is expected to substantially reduce the country's dependence on international markets by replacing close to 30% of current coal imports with local production. Chile currently imports 94% of coal used in power generation. Mina Invierno will replace imports from countries such as Colombia, Indonesia, Australia and the US.

The Invierno deposit is one of three coal concessions in the zone that were privatized in 2008. Together with Rio Eduardo and Elena, the three deposits contain more than 1.0Bt of reserves.

Minera Isla Riesco is a JV between fuel distributor Copec and shipping company Ultramar.