ADDRESSING WETLAND RECOVERY AT MARICUNGA
In the Atacama region, bofedals and vegas are isolated areas that occur wherever groundwater and surface water conditions combine to create conditions where wetland plants can survive. Within the context of the barren desert environment, these islands of rich vegetation have high ecological value. Our operations in Chile are generally designed to avoid, to the maximum extent possible, any disturbance of these areas.
Kinross has operated two pumping wells that supply Maricunga, in an area known as the Pantanillo located approximately 25 km from the mine site. The wells were first permitted in 1994. There is an isolated bofedal covering a 9.5 hectare (ha) area about 0.8 km from the closest well site, and permit conditions called for monitoring of the bofedal as part of the 1994 approval.
Over time, monitoring detected a decrease in surface and groundwater levels near the bofedal. Measures to restore water levels by surface irrigation, as called for by the original permit, were unsuccessful – and in 2012, Maricunga submitted a more robust Plan of Action to regulators. See Key Stakeholder Issues section of this report. The Plan would include installation of a new well, which would be located farther from the wetland, raising ground-water levels in the wetland using surface and infiltration trenching, reintroducing appropriate vegetation, and installing a snow harvesting system to feed additional water into the affected area. We are also seeking authorization from the authorities to carry out additional studies on hydrogeology, geophysics, stream flow analysis and the installation of additional monitoring wells to better understand the complex ecological system that supports the wetland. Kinross is awaiting regulator approval before implementing the Plan of Action.
In 2009, 15 years after these wells were in operation, the 62,460-ha corridor between two nearby national parks – Laguna del Negro Francisco and Nevada Tres Cruces – was designated as a Ramsar site. Most of this corridor consists of barren high-altitude desert; however, it does also include the pumping wells and the 9.5 ha Pantanillo wetland.