Coronel's present and future: identity, entrepreneurship and circularity

Published on Monday, 23 August 2021

“The cochayuyo is the most popular seaweed and the one with the most properties (...) We try to give it an added value, not just buy it in the coves and deliver it to large companies.”

– Cristoffer explains.

In total, 246 enterprises benefitted from the Coronel Emprende Competitive Fund, of which 156 are led by women (more than 60%). Also, the benefit reached 583 projects  in the first version of the Fund for the Development of Artisanal Fishing in 2020.

Greener and circular neighborhoods

In the Cerro Obligado sector, it is possible to find two pioneering buildings in Chile: the Ecosede and the EcoParque de Los Sentidos. At first glance, there is not much difference compared to conventional buildings. Still, their composition is innovative and circular, as they are made with 75% recycled and organic materials and were built by their neighbors for community use.

"Here, there are a lot of materials that were recycled. In some places, people throw away and throw away. Still, if you analyze a material well, you can give it another life," explains Maritza Araya, president of the Nueva Cerro Obligado Neighborhood Council.

"Before we didn't have a headquarters, they rented us to hold meetings. We wanted to have a headquarters," adds Letty Núñez, a Cerro Obligado resident and certified bioconstructor.

Cerro Obligado is a neighborhood located in front of Coronel Bay and close to Lo Rojas creek. Their community is made up of approximately 1,600 families that have been settled in this area for decades. The history of the EcoSede and the EcoParque de los Sentidos de Cerro Obligado has its origins in 2016, with the beginning of the dialogue between the community and Enel to agree on a work plan to create shared value. In February 2017, four women from this neighborhood were invited to be trained in bioconstruction at Asociación Sembra's Centro Explorador de Eco-Tecnologías in the commune of Nogales, Valparaíso Region.

“I missed my son, but I said to myself, 'this is not going to beat me if I'm going to make it home anyway, and they are fine.' We were so good over there with what we did. No one believed we were going to make it. I felt I had already paid for it.”

– recalls Maritza.

But the adventure was just beginning. After returning to Coronel, they started building furniture with disused pallets, which is now a formal company named "Entre Pallets." At the same time, the Neighborhood Council, Sembra, and Enel were making progress in purchasing and clearing the land and designing the EcoSede and EcoPark spaces following the needs inherent to the sector.

"I taught them the process of how to glue the boards and pour the straw, and then with other teachers, we taught them how to pour the mud," Letty explains.

In 2021, the construction of both projects was completed with the participation of the Cerro Obligado community. "If we are taking a gamble on this site, it is for the neighbors to enjoy it. A little further down is the EcoParque, which will also help the children to be stimulated and have their afternoons of movies and reading," adds Maritza.

"I feel proud because tomorrow when I have my grandchildren, my children will tell them, 'look, your grandmother built this house, this building. There are my grandmother's hands," concludes Letty with emotion.

A new look at Coronel

In July 2021, the NGO Global Compact Colombia highlighted Enel's impact remediation model in the municipality of Coronel in its Good Practices Report on Human Rights and Business. This milestone highlighted a 5-year work guided by the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights.

The work began in 2016 from a series of approaches and restitution of dialogue with various communities. In January 2017, Enel began a detailed analysis process to reconstruct its relationship with the affected population and remediate the impacts generated with the advice of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a company with extensive international experience in the field. Based on the results obtained, an action plan was drawn up to solve the persistent problems.

At the core of this plan are a grievance mechanism and a remediation plan that has made it possible to manage social risks and respond to people's needs, both in the community resettlement process and in the re-establishment of livelihoods in different neighborhoods of the Coronel commune. This plan includes the Coronel Emprende Competitive Fund, the Artisanal Fishing Development Fund and the EcoSede and EcoParque de Los Sentidos de Cerro Obligado. Other projects include the donation for the construction of the new Rosa Medel School, completed in 2020. The implementation of the Rosita Medel Scholarship, aimed at high school students who are members of resettled families, and the construction of the Sports Center and the Huertos Familiares Community Center, inaugurated in July 2021, among others.

These initiatives will be able to continue creating value in the future, even after the closure of the Bocamina power plant in May 2022, which will put an end to the company's coal-fired power production—promoting a fair energy transition, meeting all promises with the communities of Coronel. This also includes fair treatment for the plant's workers and contractors, including labor reconversion programs and an innovative ash landfill revegetation project initiated in 2019 together with the University of Concepción. The project seeks to convert the area into a native forest within Coronel.