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They may be less than a meter tall but they have conquered a Goliath: Chile's vulnerable Humboldt penguins have thwarted—for now at least—a billion dollar mining project in one of the country's most depressed regions.
The rare species is only found on the coasts of Peru and Chile, which has created the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve—but it's also an area rich in natural resources which has put the animals on a collision course with mining giant Andes Iron and their $2.5 billion project.
Conservationists - Defense - Company - Plans - Open-cast
Conservationists jumped to their defense when the company unveiled plans to construct a huge open-cast mine and a port near the reserve, 600 kilometers (250 miles) north of Santiago.
The Dominga mine would have produced 12 million tonnes of iron ore a year, making it the biggest of its kind in the country, and 150,000 tonnes of copper.
Months - Headlines - Debate - Development - Conservation
For months it made headlines amid a bitter national debate over economic development and environmental conservation that was fought out on social media and split the socialist government of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
The project was rejected in March by an environmental commission but Andes Iron appealed the ruling.
August - Cabinet - Committee - Energy - Mines
In August, a special cabinet committee which included the energy and mines, health and environment ministers, finally vetoed the project citing of a lack of guarantees for the penguins.
Humboldts have been protected here since 1990, when the reserve was set up to encompass the islands of Dama, Choros and Gaviota, a stunning nature trail beloved of whale, sea-lion and penguin watchers.
Rodrigo - Flores - Vice-president - Fisherman - Union
Rodrigo Flores, vice-president of the fisherman's union in nearby Punta Choros, a jumping off point for tours of the islands, welcomed the move.
"Dominga is an invasive project, for nature and for society," he told AFP. "It is incompatible with a place considered a hotspot of biodiversity at the global level."
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