McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

El Morro, Chile

Key Data

Company:70% GoldCorp 30% New Gold Operational status:Exploration Materials extracted:copper, gold Type of mine:Open pit, Potential for sub-ground mine Main issues:Water rights, Community relations


El Morro is a large scale exploration project that is located in province of Huasco, in Chile’s Atacama region. The project has raised several socio-environmental conflicts with indigenous communities that live in Huasco and the surrounding provinces. The Diaguita and Huascoaltino communities play dominant roles in continuous legal processes and confrontations with Goldcorp.

The project consists of three main zones of exploration for gold and copper exploitation: El Morro, La Fortuna, and El Negro. La Fortuna is the most significant zone and is where open pit development is projected to occur. Goldcorp and New Gold intend to conduct exploration under the La Fortuna pit to determine the value of potential underground deposits. In situ reserves are estimated at 6.7 million ounces of gold and 4.9 billion pounds of copper.

Development has been suspended on three separate occasions over the past three years due to environmental and indigenous community concerns. In April 2012 the environmental permit was withdrawn by Chile’s environmental permitting authority (SEA) after deficiencies in the consultation process and environmental mitigation efforts were pointed out.

In November 2013, site construction and development was once again suspended, this time by the Copiapo Court of Appeals. The Diaguita and Huascoaltino groups proclaimed that SEA’s consultations lacked indigenous contribution, and hence violated the International Labour Organization’s convention 169 . This convention mandates that indigenous consultation occur if project development directly affects them.
In October 2014, the Chilean Supreme Court settled its position with respect to this conflict. They sided with the Diaguita and other indigenous groups of the Huasco Valley and suspended site development.

The Diaguita and other indigenous groups protest project development because of concern for the ecological integrity of the Huasco Valley. Their primary concern is water purity maintenance for the regional watersheds and glaciers, with specific reference to the Huasco River. The upwards of 70,000 Diaguita inhabitants living in the Huasco Valley depend on these water systems for their livelihood . The National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) supports their legal actions.

These communities have also participated in legal and social action against the development of Pascua-Lama, an open-pit mine owned and developed by the Canadian company, Barrick Gold. This mine’s operation is currently suspended, partially resulting from these indigenous groups’ efforts.


“Project Summary.” NewGold. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <http://www.newgold.com/properties/projects/el-morro/project-summary/default.aspx>.

“Investors Links.” Goldcorp Inc. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://www.goldcorp.com/English/Unrivalled-Assets/Mines-and-Projects/Central-and-South-America/Development-Projects/El-Morro/Overview-and-Development-Highlights/default.aspx>.

“Chile’s Top Court Halts Goldcorp’s El Morro Mine.” The Globe and Mail. 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/chiles-top-court-halts-goldcorps-el-morro-mine/article20965256/>.

“Noticias Sobre Conflictos Mineros.” Comunicado Publico Organizaciones Del Valle Del Huasco. Guasco Alto Comunicacione, 9 Oct. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://www.conflictosmineros.net/contenidos/9-chile/17077-comunicado-publico-organizaciones-del-valle-del-huasco>.

“Noticias Sobre Conflictos Mineros.” INDH Respaldó a Comunidades Diaguitas Que Se Oponen a Proyecto Minero El Morro. 10 June 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://www.conflictosmineros.net/contenidos/9-chile/16612-indh-respaldo-a-comunidades-diaguitas-que-se-oponen-a-proyecto-minero-el-morro>.