Mining overhaul in Chile rejected by constitutional assembly

May 16, 2022

Chile’s constitutional assembly rejected a major overhaul to the nation’s mining industry on May 14. The controversial Article 27 that would have given the state exclusive mining rights over lithium, rare metals and hydrocarbons and a majority stake in copper mines failed to achieve the 103-vote supermajority needed to pass into the draft constitution.

The environmental commission submitted multiple variations of the article to a vote on Saturday, but they all failed to achieve the 103-vote supermajority needed to pass into the draft constitution.

The mining industry strongly opposed the Article and warned that the modified versions still failed to deliver the legal certainties needed for investments that are crucial for supplying the clean-energy transition. Chile is the world’s top copper producer.

Article 25, which states that miners must set aside “resources to repair damage” to the environment and harmful effects where mining takes place, did get a supermajority and will be in the draft constitution.

Reuters reported that the assembly also approved banning mining in glaciers, protected areas and those essential to protecting the water system. Articles guaranteeing farmers and indigenous people the right to traditional seeds, the right to safe and accessible energy and protection of oceans and the atmosphere were also approved.

Voting to approve articles concluded after Saturday's votes, and new commissions in charge of fine-tuning the text took over on Monday. The final draft is due in early July and citizens will vote to approve or reject it on Sept. 4.

The environmental commission, dominated by self-proclaimed eco-constituents, saw just one of 40 of its proposals approved during their first votes in the general assembly.

The commission has since moderated its proposals but its articles including expansion of protected lands, restricting private water rights and making combating climate change a state obligation were included in the new draft text.

“On the one hand, it excludes the risks that were initially foreseen, but on the other hand, it leaves everything subject to simple laws and, therefore, to circumstantial political majorities,” said Juan Carlos Guajardo, who heads consulting firm Plusmining told Bloomberg. “But without a doubt, compared to how this story began, we are in a much better situation.”


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