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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Latin America Green News: Glaciers v. mining in Chile, port expansion in Costa Rica, renewables in Mexico and oil drilling in Ecuador's Yasuní National Park.

Denée Reaves

Posted October 11, 2013

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Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

October 7 – October 11 2013

Chile

A renewed Chilean initiative to put the country’s glaciers under legal protection will be reviewed not only by an environmental delegation, but also by a commission on mining and energy. The law under consideration would help protect important sources of freshwater, but would also prohibit certain activities related to mining in areas near glaciers. Some experts believe that, if the law is applied retroactively to mines already in operation, the mining industry could lose billions of dollars. Whether or not periglacial areas, or the areas immediately surrounding glaciers, are subject to the law will be key in assessing the extent to which the mining industry stands to suffer. (Diario Financiero, 10/9/2013; Huffington Post, 10/9/2013)

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced new grants totaling $2.4 million for two marine energy pilot projects in Chile, one exploring tidal energy and the other using wave energy. The initiative aims  to explore the untapped energy potential of Chile’s long coastline, and will count on an additional $550,000 in technical assistance. (America Economía 10/1/2013)

Costa Rica

The Canadian mining firm Infinito has initiated a USD 1 billion lawsuit against Costa Rica for putting a moratorium on open-pit mining. Infinito has already invested USD 92 million in an open-pit mining project, having being “invited” to operate mining projects in Costa Rica, an Infinito spokesperson said. The project was to extract 800,000 ounces of gold from an open-pit mine in San Carlos and, as environmentalists point out, would also destroy 190 hectares of forest. (Inside Costa Rica , 10/7/2013)

Costa Rica’s Environmental Agency will decide whether a USD 992 million port expansion in Moín would damage sensitive ecosystems on the Caribbean coast. The project would enable Moín Port in the state of Limón to receive giant container ships, which, according to the managing director of Moín Port’s builder and management company, would actually improve the environment by making port traffic more efficient. Though numerous environmental groups have warned against the negative impacts the port expansion would have on a nearby aqueduct and the surrounding wetlands, the project has gained widespread political support owing to its projected economic benefits for Limón, Chile’s poorest province . The decision to proceed with the project is pending on the Environmental Agency’s approval of a 3,000-page environmental impact assessment submitted by port authorities. (Tico Times, 10/8/2013)

Mexico

The director of Isolux Corsán’s Mexico branch announced during Mexico’s 2013 Green Business Summit that to support Mexico’s renewable energy initiative, the government should establish a legal environment to better enable private and public investment in renewables. Mexico’s significant renewable energy potential, particularly for solar in the North and wind in the South, was further emphasized by the Director of Arizona’s Global Institute for Sustainability. Ex-presidential candidate and green energy consultant Gabriel Quadri remarked, however, that Mexico’s current fiscal reform could be a significant barrier to renewable energy development. (Once Noticias, 10/8/2013)

The coastal municipality of Pinotepa Nacional in Oaxaca is under consideration for the placement of one of Mexico’s six planned solar energy plants. Mexico is among those countries with the greatest potential for solar energy, leading its government to incorporate a clean technology target into its National Energy Strategy for the period 2009-2024.   (Noticiasnet.mx, 10-11-2013)

The proposed energy reform in Mexico fails to incorporate renewable energy sources according to representatives of the Climate Change Finance Group.  The coalition of civil society groups affirms that the reform was put together according to a vision of energy use based entirely on petroleum, without regard for long-term sustainability concerns. The group urged the Mexican administration to consider fiscal, economic and environmental policies that, in contrast, will reduce demand for fossil fuels in Mexico. (Diario Rotativo, 10/9/2013)

Regional

The legislative assembly of Ecuador has approved oil drilling in the Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini (ITT) zones of the Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve located in the country’s eastern Amazon. The approval marks the premature end of a government initiative started in 2006 to protect the Park. The initiative aimed to raise international contributions totaling USD 3.6 billion over twelve years, an amount equal to half of the estimated profits from drilling in these zones, to compensate Ecuador for leaving the oil unexploited. Owing to the apathy of the international community regarding the initiative, as President Correa stated, the country will proceed with oil drilling in order to finance the country’s development and reduce poverty. (ElPaís.cr 10-4-2013)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America News archive or read our other International blogs.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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