Process for Implementing Environmental Management Systems in Chile

The magnitude of change in environmental awareness in Chile from the 1990s through the 2000s has been extraordinary. Historically, Chile has grown from a mining country with little consideration for environmental concerns, to a nation where public participation in the environmental process of a mining project can make or break its approval.

SRK has long played a key role in many projects by serving as an environmental consultant in the environmental process, especially for foreign companies with projects in Chile. In addition, the company has enjoyed a long-term relationship with Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer and Chile’s largest state-owned mining company. SRK worked closely with two of Codelco’s divisions, Andina and El Salvador, over a number of years to assist in implementing their environmental management systems.

Between 1996 and 2005, SRK provided close support and assistance on site to Codelco Andina and its newly formed environmental task force.
Initially, SRK provided guidance to the client’s team in understanding environmental legislation and developing the company’s internal framework for compliance. Subsequently, SRK’s environmental staff were located on site at Andina, where their tasks included identifying the processes and regulatory framework that still needed to be implemented at the mine and in its support facilities. Working hand-in-hand with the environmental task leaders, the SRK team developed environmental manuals and procedures, both general and specific, and additional documents related to the environmental management systems.

Codelco Andina and its environmental group were responsible for implementing the new environmental management systems. SRK then returned for a second period at the mine, which consisted of an extensive compliance follow up. On this occasion, SRK’s role was specifically to review the systems that had been implemented and support an update of the systems to the standards required by the 2004 version of ISO 14.001 environmental certification.

In between the two periods at Andina, another SRK team moved on site at Codelco’s El Salvador Division to assist with the implementation and certification of El Salvador’s environmental management system. In this project, the SRK team worked closely with the client’s team to both develop the system’s documentation and retrain staff to comply with environmental procedures. The project culminated with the successful certification of the El Salvador Division as an ISO 14.001 certified company.

“The hardest part was to change the mentality of the workers,” says Marcela Curotto, Senior Chemical Engineer and a key member of SRK’s environmental team. Considerable effort was spent on training so that the staff could integrate the new concepts and embrace them as part of their own process.

Both Codelco divisions remain ISO 14.001 certified.

María Inés Vidal:
Marcela Curotto:

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