Former Mining Camp to Become Hotel Managed by the Atacameña Community in Toconao
In an emotional signing ceremony, SQM agreed to transfer part of the mining camp that it managed in Toconao to the community. The facility will be converted into South America’s first community-run hotel.
After engaging in a participatory, consultative dialogue that lasted for nearly three years, Toconao’s Atacameña community reached an important milestone: SQM officially turned over its Toconao mining camp, which will become the first hotel to be managed by an indigenous community in Chile and South America.
The initiative included the participation of over 800 people who engaged in various opportunities for discussion of the project. This gave community legitimacy to the hotel, which will be named Tockolen, which means “place near the Jere Valley” in Kunza. The brand will highlight meaningful elements linked to the community’s identity such as the protection of its ancestors, rural art from the salt flats’ first inhabitants, the astral world view and community symbolism.
The ceremony began with a tour of the Gentilares area where Toconao residents are buried that was accompanied by the lackitas music group, Renacer Andino. Next, the transfer agreement was signed by SQM and the community. This ceremony was preceded by various artistic performances including one by UNESCO Living Human Treasure Alejandro “Pije” González.
During the ceremony, Yermin Básques, the President of the Toconao community, noted, “We feel that SQM has given back to us by transferring the property to us free of charge. We will open the hotel—a five-star establishment—during the first half of 2021. We also will develop a tourism route that will undoubtedly boost tourism in our community.”
SQM’s Lithium and Potassium Operations Senior Vice President, Carlos Díaz, observed, “As a company, we are very proud to be part of this new project, which the community will develop in an effort to diversify Toconao’s economy through local tourism. Following the official transfer, we will continue to work with the community, supporting their efforts on this project through financing and technical advising. We also will continue to work on other projects, such as Casa Telar, Ayllu wine and +Matemática. All of these initiatives are designed to improve the quality of life of Toconao’s residents.”
The Tockolen Hotel seeks to encourage local tourism, offering facilities that reflect Lickanantai culture through architecture and landscaping that incorporate a strong tendency to use liparita stone in paths and terraced gardens as well as traditional irrigation channels and natural dams. All of this will be offered at a level higher than 4 stars.
The facilities of the former mining camp that the community received cover 26,150 square meters, 3,334 of which are built.
In 2017, the Atacaman community of Toconao completed a participatory process and determined that the SQM mining camp would be used as a hotel. The initiative has been developed through formal participation and dialogue spaces based on an agenda that is shared with the company that identifies the community’s needs and the means needed to meet them. The project has been approved by the community assembly.
This effort has identified the shared goal and vision of the community to develop the settlement for tourism and the opportunity to participate in a world-class tourist destination.
The process involved various stages, including strong participatory and consultative components to socialize the idea, which seeks to turn Toconao into an attractive tourist destination while conserving and safeguarding the most important local traditions, heritage and cultural elements so that they can be shown to the world.