Chile is rich in natural resources. Historically this translated into significant investment in mining activities, of which Chile is a global leader. The country boasts not only the world’s largest copper reserves but also large quantities of silver, gold, lead, zinc, moly, and aluminum. In Patagonia, significant untapped porphyry deposits stretch down along the Andes mountain range all the way to the Straits of Magellan.
So far, the only thing keeping the mining industry at bay is the region’s own natural defenses, which have slowed development. Rugged topography and heavy rains during the winter months have long served as natural barriers for mining operations. Mining operations also need access to megawatts of reliable electricity, year-round transportation access, and proximity to processing and refining facilities, which have long been delayed due to challenges with the region’s climate and geography.
As the region develops, the risk that sensitive areas of the Futaleufú watershed will be opened up to destructive mining activities is high. Mining exploration companies have already uncovered numerous mineral deposits, including a 6-km (3.5 mile) vein of silver, lead and zinc running underneath the Espolón River, the main tributary to the Futaleufú. Much of the subterranean property in the watershed has already been claimed using Chile’s mining concessions program. Not only will mining operations affect human health and the environment, they will also negatively impact the Futaleufú region’s own development plans based around sustainable tourism.
We are navigating Chile’s complex legal framework to develop novel solutions for protecting the watershed. Funds will be used to pursue legal strategies that halt largescale mining plans before they can get off the ground. We will be aggressive in rallying opposition to mining in the region and joining forces with other groups throughout Chile and South America. By giving a voice to local opposition, the Futaleufú Riverkeeper can help preserve sustainable use of the watershed for generations to come.