By Mac Molli
CAP, a Chilean holding company of mining and steel, alerted the Chilean navy on Saturday, June 27th around 1:00 pm local time to an oil spill in the Patagonia area off the southern coast of Chile. According to the Guardian, the Chilean Navy confirmed on Sunday that 40,000 liters (10,600 gallons) of oil was spilled into the sea. They deployed an anti-contamination team as well as an ocean patrol group and barge near the island of Guarello, to CAP’s onshore terminal where they mine limestone. Oceana Chile tweeted a picture of the affected area.
Ronald Baasch, the commander of the Third Naval Zone told local media, “The marine pollution control centre was activated.” CAP released a statement saying the incident had already been contained, adding that the spill affected a bay and they installed a container sleeve in the area on Saturday, starting to immediately remove oil from the environment. CAPsuspended all operations on the island as the clean up project takes place. Additionally, a process of permanent monitoring of the area has been coordinated through a special foundation.
The Patagonia is a remote area of Chile that spans over a million square miles with water that covers 1.8 million square miles, it is home to a large ecosystem to numerous species of wildlife. The oil spills threaten marine life, making a sheet of residue that covers the water prohibiting light from entering the ecosystem, damaging the wildlife’s ability to feed and reproduce in the affected area.
According to the Chile Navy, as of Sunday night, “15,000 liters of polluted sea water has managed to be contained on Guarello Island. Both the ‘Elicura’ barge and the ‘Marinero Fuentealba’ ocean patrol are already in the area supporting the emergency.” Additionally, the San Andrés barge and a specialist crew were hired by CAP to support clean up and monitor the company’s action plan as work takes place. The company has also requested the Scientific Observatory of the Patagonia Austral Channels and Andes to monitor the process. CAP will periodically report on the progress of the contamination until the situation is back to normal.
The sustainability manager of Compañía Siderúrgica Huachipato, Pablo Pacheco, explained that the spilled oil is diesel and not crude oil, and that once the event occurred in the Bay of the port of Guarello, all protocols were activated for this operational incident. He states, “As a company, we have made every effort to keep the situation under control and reduce the impacts, despite the complex climatic conditions that prevail in the area. After the incident, the hydrocarbon extraction of the marine environment began immediately, with the tireless and committed work of around 30 people, which included the installation of a 50 meter plastic container sleeve - which prevents the advance of diesel - and the use of suction motor pumps, among other actions."