Atacameña de Camar Indigenous Community inaugurated its first drinking water plant

The initiative that will benefit more than 100 families began to take shape in 2021 under the objectives of the development plan generated by the community through which they identified the most important needs for this town located in the Salar de Atacama.

With a traditional ceremony of the territory known as Convido, the inhabitants of the Camar community began the ceremony where they commemorated an important milestone: the inauguration of their first drinking water plant, whose initiative, which was supported by SQM, will benefit more of 100 families, and that contributes directly to the habitability and rooting of its people in the territory.

"It is a great achievement. Seeing all the effort made by us and our ancestors come true leaves me happy and excited, because wow! that it cost us, as an organization, to unite and think about the same objectives,” said Manuel Tejerina, a community member from Camar, who recalled the process of starting this project whose work began in 2021.

Having this vital element will allow families to actively participate in various development opportunities such as: entrepreneurship, tourism, agriculture, productive development, among others, generating sustainable growth over time, and being a model and benchmark for other communities in the Salar. from Atacama.

This project is part of the portfolio of initiatives considered in the Camar development plan; a participatory instance where they agreed on the most important needs for the locality. Regarding the materialization of the project, which represents a milestone of progress for everyone who lives in Camar, Héctor Cruz, president of the community, stressed that: "We must thank God, because a project that was within of our development plan, because although we had drinking water through cistern trucks, we longed to have a plant that could feed the entire community, and today it is already a reality”.  

A positive impact for this indigenous community that was recognized by the president of the Atacameño Peoples Council, Manuel Salvatierra, who explained that: “The Lickanantay people have lived in the territory for more than 11 years and that historical experience is also due to the resource of water that has been part of the territorial administration that indigenous communities have today. I want to value the people of Camar that aims at development, working in line with the dignity of the population. I believe that with their own efforts and with the support of the company, it is possible to have a water plant that will satisfy all their needs”.

This milestone materializes tAfter a joint effort of more than 5 years and which is reflected in a collaboration agreement between SQM and the community, generating a necessary link to contribute to the execution of the Camar development plan. Gonzalo Guerrero, Chairman of the SQM Board of Directors, stated: “Today we meet again in Camar after a year when we inaugurated, together with the community, the photovoltaic plant that provided energy continuity to the community, and now we are facing a new milestone that also points to the development of Camar”.

The SQM executive added that: “This initiative that fills us with pride is part of the company's Sustainability Plan, which is associated with various environmental goals and commitments, placing special emphasis on the creation of shared social value and sustainable development. of the surrounding communities with which we are linked”.

The inauguration of the plant is intended to abate arsenic and other minerals, to comply with the Chilean drinking water standard. The mayor of San Pedro de Atacama, Justo Zuleta, stressed that: “It is a tremendous project for Camar and the commune of San Pedro de Atacama. Our goal is to work towards the sanitary resolution in each of the localities and for this they must first have drinking water. This joint work with the community and SQM also allows efforts to be concentrated in other communities to achieve the same. The truth is that for us it is very significant and we congratulate you for this achievement of doing all this joint work and for the neighbors themselves”.


Characteristics of the drinking water treatment plant

The water treatment plant has a capacity of 108 m3/day (100 l/m). its main function is to reduce arsenic, from 0,5 PPM (raw water) reducing to <0,005 PPM (after treatment). The Chilean standard for drinking water indicates that the maximum arsenic must be less than 0,01 PPM.

The system used has two stages. The first is flocodecantation, responsible for reducing 98% of the arsenic and other minerals contained in water, through decantation with flocculants and coagulants. Its second stage is filter, adsorption and chlorination, a process responsible for removing flocculant particles and through adsorption process remove remaining arsenic to later add chlorine to the water.


Neighbors of San Pedro de Atacama created Solidarity Bakery to face the pandemic

The Alto Jama Neighborhood Council implemented the social initiative to support its members, who are not generating income due to the cancellation of tourism. His project was supported by a group of SQM workers, after applying to the Social Comedores Support Fund promoted by the mining company to strengthen the work that social organizations are doing in a pandemic. he Alto Jama Neighborhood Council implemented the social initiative to support its members, who are not generating income due to the cancellation of tourism. His project was supported by a group of SQM workers, after applying to the Social Comedores Support Fund promoted by the mining company to strengthen the work that social organizations are doing in a pandemic. In the commune of San Pedro de Atacama, about 80% of the population is dedicated to tourism or an activity related to this area, who as a result of the health crisis generated by Covid-19 have suffered a strong economic impact due to the cessation of tourist activity in the area. To face this new reality, the Alto Jama Neighborhood Council launched a Solidarity Bakery, whose board of directors built a clay oven for its members to bake bread for free, contributing to the family economy of residents who are not generating income. The initiative was supported by a group of workers from SQM, the Salar de Atacama division, who applied this initiative to the Social Comedores Support Fund promoted by the mining company so that all its workers deployed throughout Chile, through various projects, contribute to strengthen the work being done by social organizations in their areas, in times of pandemic. Thus, this group of volunteers managed to contribute a total of 750 kilos, including flour, salt and yeast. Luz Riquelme, president of the Alto Jama Neighborhood Council, highlighted that: “SQM's contribution, beyond generating economic support in these difficult times, has strengthened our neighborhood union. Here they cook and bake their own bread. There are 30 families who use our facilities, and we deliver supplies to other 10 family groups, since they have ovens in their homes ”. Families take turns and use the facilities on a schedule to maintain social distancing. The inputs they receive depend on the number of members of their family groups. Claudia Choque explains that: “The pandemic has affected us a lot because we don't have a job, for which we are grateful for the support. In my family there are 5 of us, and every day we are saving 2 pesos ”. Hugo Romero, a resident of Peine and a SQM Salar worker, was the one who presented the project along with 3 other workers from the company. "We are very happy to have been awarded the project because we are contributing a grain of sand to a neighborhood council of the territory made up of people of effort, and where children, women, and the elderly will benefit." Social Dining Support Funds Faced with the health crisis generated by Covid-19, SQM together with Fundación La Semilla launched a competitive fund to help various organizations that are implementing social kitchens throughout Chile. There were 56 projects accepted, which will directly benefit 13.468 people, through the delivery of food and kitchen utensils. "Within the framework of the corporate volunteering program Give a Hand to your Community, the workers made their connection with the territory in which they live visible, managing to occupy all the available places in this solidarity fund, "said Pablo Pisani, Communications, Sustainability and Public Affairs manager at SQM, and pointed out that" through these projects We will be able to help various social organizations whose members include unemployed people, over 70 years of age, in a situation of disability and vulnerability ”. The neighborhood associations, sports organizations, groups of the elderly, mothers' centers and groups of indigenous communities that will receive the support will carry out their social work in: San Pedro de Atacama, Arica, Iquique, Alto Hospicio, Pozo Almonte, María Elena, Tocopilla , Calama, Antofagasta, Taltal, La Serena, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Santiago, Colina, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, Pudahuel, Maipú, La Pintana, Conchalí, Lampa and Pichidehua. This social initiative is complementary to the community action plan that SQM promoted to face the health crisis caused by Covid-19 and which includes 4 axes: Health, social welfare, education and healthy life, and economic reactivation.

Talabre community has a medical team and a sanitary shelter

In order to reduce the rates of COVID-19 infections and protect local families, the residents join the strategy implemented by other communities of the Salar de Atacama with the support of SQM.

A medical team that attends the Talabre Rural Medical Station, home visits to positive COVID-19 patients, preventive quarantines, a sanitizing tunnel for public use and the fitting out of health shelters, are some of the initiatives with which the community fights on a daily basis the pandemic. “It is very important for the town of Talabre to have a medical team, since we are a community a bit hit in this regard. The virus has hit us hard, but we are getting ahead hand in hand with the organization that we have created as community members, ”explained Elisa Soza, president of the Atacameña Indigenous Community of Talabre. He added that "today we can say that we have not detected more infections in our community and that we are much more prepared to face this virus." With the support of SQM, a contribution is generated that aims to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the town with supplies. This, through preventive actions, sanitization, protection and provision of medical teams to combat the virus in a prompt and timely manner. Angela Valerio, a local general practitioner, stressed that “Talabre is a complicated community with respect to the health area due to its remoteness. People do not have greater options for medical care. For this reason, the help seems perfect to me and that these synergies are generated with private companies. So we can do and do our part to better cope with this pandemic situation ”. Regarding the above, Alejandro Bucher, Vice President of Environment and Community of SQM Salar, highlighted that “this is part of a collaborative agreement that was born from the community with the aim of supporting the different locations of the Salar during the pandemic. With this, we have the conviction to help with supplies, medical equipment and sanitation measures, both within our operations and outside of them, and thus contribute positively to our neighbors. Today we continue to strengthen our sanitary measures and, increasing the provision of medical teams available in the different locations of the Salar ”. SANITARY ACTIONS More than 30 people from Talabre have been treated by the medical team. Of these, some have been carried out through home visits and others are medical care for children, young people and the elderly in the rural post of the town. Added to this is the complete fitting out of a health shelter for positive COVID-19 patients in the community. “This residence was built in order to support community members who have tested positive for PCR and cannot quarantine in their homes. This is very important for the community, since here there are large families with children to protect. With this, we are going to avoid the increase in infections and we will assure the neighbors a place where they can safely quarantine ”, commented Abigail Lique, coordinator of the Talabre Atacameña Indigenous Community Tourism Team. For her part, the local general practitioner indicated that “we are currently working throughout the day and at night we take emergency shifts. We will do so until December. Last week we started with the home visits of COVID-19 positive patients and, this week, we have been attending all types of medical consultations. Today we continue to treat different pathologies and we will also have the visit of a medical round that comes from San Pedro de Atacama with more specialized professionals ”.
Viñateros del Salar de Atacama: More than 10 years producing wine in extreme conditions

With the aim of generating a unique wine industry, rescuing and impregnating the Atacameño identity in each bottle, 18 families from the town of Toconao are part of the Cooperativa de Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay and break every scheme by creating wines for more than 2 meters above sea level.  

The Cooperativa de Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay represents the union of farmers and winemakers from the town of Toconao who came together in 2009, with the aim of growing quality grapes in one of the driest deserts in the world. "We were officially formed in 2017, but this effort is a joint effort that we have been carrying out together with Atacama Tierra Fértil since 2009, when a call was made to all people who would like to know more about wine processes," explained Wilfredo Cruz, manager of the Cooperativa Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay. Atacama Tierra Fértil is a program that has been inserted in the territory of the Salar de Atacama for 10 years, promoting agro-productive activities in order to develop sustainable, innovative and profitable development plans. The initiative, promoted by SQM, works hand in hand with winemakers, providing technical support and supplies for production processes. “For the cooperators this has meant a benefit. An example of this is the productive growth of some users who in previous years produced around 80 kilos of grapes and currently reach 2.500 kilos. In addition, we have the support of materials and annual inputs such as agrochemicals, fertilizers, sulfur, replacement plant, maintenance of the vineyard and irrigation system ”, added Cruz. For his part, the Vice President of Environment and Community of SQM Salar, Alejandro Bucher, highlighted that “with Atacama Tierra Fértil we want to promote the development of sustainable and sustainable businesses within the Salar communities. The formation of this cooperative is a clear example of the work and associativity of those who have achieved exceptional growth in their products. We are very happy to be able to continue supporting this project, which results in unique wines with an identity stamp of the Salar de Atacama ”. Wines and pandemic In the town of Toconao, the vineyards of the different winemakers in the area cultivate and process various strains of grapes in unconventional climatic conditions and with extreme temperatures. Sergio Jara, enologist of the Ayllu project, indicated that “here we produce 11 different varieties of wines and we are trying to highlight particularities of the territory, experimenting with different local raw materials. For me, it has been very comforting to see that wine is being made like the old cooperatives in Chile did, that is, a series of local producers with their families and neighbors aligned to produce grapes of excellent quality ”. The main clients of the cooperators, until before the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, were tourists. With this, winemakers have had to reinvent themselves in order to increase their sales during this complex scenario. “With the pandemic, our potential market decreased a lot, so we began to promote local trade more, starting a work with the distributor El Bidón, which helps us with the sale to regions, since we, due to the remoteness that characterizes to the territory, it costs us more to arrive ”, indicated the winemaker. In this regard, Wilfredo Cruz, added that “we have been affected in recent times, since we depend on tourism. Today, with this distribution agreement, we allow small farmers to sell their products, since we not only make wines, but also trade with other stumps that sell local products ”. “Very good months await us. It has been a cold year, so we hope to have a good quantity and quality of fruit. We are going through a new stage in which new wines are coming, we have a lot to do between now and the end of the year ”, concluded the manager of the Cooperativa de Viñateros de Altura Lickanantay.
105 residents of the San Pedro de Atacama commune will complete their basic and secondary education

With 105 students enrolled, the Study Leveling Program began in the San Pedro de Atacama commune, which for the third consecutive year has the support of SQM. The initiative, managed with the Ministry of Education, is intended for all people in the Salar de Atacama towns who need to complete their basic or high school studies.

“This is wonderful and covers an important need that we have in the commune. I understand and know very closely the situation of people who do not have their studies leveled, therefore, for me it is a very great satisfaction that the residents of San Pedro de Atacama manage to get their fourth grade, ”explained Mayor Aliro Catur.

The program, promoted by the Municipality of San Pedro de Atacama through its Municipal Office of Labor Intermediation, Semilla Foundation, OTEC Training Da Vinci and SQM, aims to promote the continuity of studies and complete secondary education or level the cycle basic educational. With this, it seeks to improve the quality of life, providing a tool that could generate new educational and work opportunities for the inhabitants of the commune.

“I sincerely thank SQM for the support. We are already in the third year of the program and for us it is very beneficial because we have been observing the interest on the part of the community in participating in these initiatives and completing their secondary and basic studies. Last year 83 people signed up, today we start a new day with 105 registered students ”, stressed the mayor.

In this regard, the Vice President of Environment and Communities of SQM Salar, Alejandro Bucher, highlighted the importance of generating instances that support the leveling of studies. “We are very happy to be part of the development of this program, which aims to be a contribution to the generation of new educational and work opportunities for the residents of the Salar de Atacama, aiming to improve the quality of life and employability of the commune. This is in addition to the community work that we carry out as a Company through our four lines of action, such as Education and Culture; Social development; Heritage and Sports and Healthy Life. An example of this, in the educational field, is the Support Program in Mathematics and Language for the towns of Camar, Peine, Socaire, Solor and Talabre, with which we have been working for more than 10 years ”.


During this third version and with the aim of safeguarding people's health, respecting health standards and social distancing, preventing possible infections due to COVID-19, the class methodology will only be online. To do this and in order to facilitate access to the program, a subsidy was incorporated to guarantee internet connectivity for students. Also, this year the program integrates people from other localities, such as Camar, Río Grande, Talabre and Toconao.

The distance classes will be held twice a week and will be divided into cycles: 5th to 6th grade, 7th to 8th grade, 1st to 2nd grade and, finally, the cycle from 3rd to 4th grade. “The idea is that people can get their middle room and at the same time recover lost dreams. That is why, in this new version, we adapt to the contingency and classes will be held on Fridays and Saturdays via Zoom. In addition, since we know that in the commune there are several localities that do not have internet, we have made test connections, teaching the students how to download and use the application ", explained Víctor Adasme, in charge of the Municipal Labor Information Office (OMIL ).

“I congratulate the students who took on this new challenge to finish their educational cycle and I urge them to develop each course with energy and optimism in order to successfully complete this new stage, which finally seeks to improve job opportunities and give continuity of study to the neighbors of the commune ”, concluded the Vice President of Environment and Communities of SQM Salar, Alejandro Bucher.

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