LatAm water scarcity, pollution to drive more stringent enviro rules

VANCOUVER ( – New analysis by the research arm of the Fitch Group, BMI, forecasts water scarcity and contamination in Latin America will drive increasingly stringent environmental regulations in the region over the coming years.
In Chile, the environmental regulatory body has been more aggressively pursuing and fining water mismanagement in the mining sector, levelling charges against Antofagasta Minerals’ Los Pelambres copper mine and effectively suspending Kinross Gold’s Maricunga gold mine, in 2016.
In Argentina, Barrick Gold paid a $9.8-million fine for a cyanide spill at the Veladero gold mine in 2016, agreeing to increase water monitoring at the operation in response.
In Brazil, following the 2015 tailings dam burst at the Samarco iron-ore mine, which killed nearly 20 people and polluted hundreds of kilometres of rivers, parent firms Vale and BHP Billiton face a $50-billion lawsuit for damages.
In March, a Brazilian judge suspended the lawsuit as the firms negotiate with prosecutors.
BMI highlighted Chile, Argentina and countries in Central America as particularly likely to enforce stricter water regulations on the back of scarcity, contamination or a combination of both issues.
While Chile boasts above-average water resources per capita, according to the latest UN water data from 2012, the country’s mining industry is concentrated in the Atacama desert, where freshwater scarcity is much more acute.
For instance, in Chile, desalination plants will be increasingly popular, if not mandated, as freshwater scarcity in the Atacama desert pushes miners to invest in alternative water sources.
In Peru, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s administration will take an inclusive approach to help small-scale gold miners comply with regulations through reducing red tape and offering incentives such as banking services.
In April, Argentina’s government announced plans to invest $44-billion in water infrastructure, including a sewage system and treatment plant.