Chile’s constitutional assembly rejects plans to nationalize parts of mining sector

A constitutional assembly in Chile has rejected plans to nationalize parts of the crucial mining industry in a blow to progressive hopes of overhauling the neoliberal Pinochet-era political settlement.

The proposal, known as Article 27, would have given the state exclusive mining rights over lithium, rare metals and hydrocarbons and a majority stake in copper mines.

But it faced fierce opposition from the mining sector and was voted down last week in a defeat for progressive hopes of redistributing wealth in the world’s top copper producing nation.

Overthrowing the 1980 constitution adopted by the rightwing dictator General Augusto Pinochet was the main objective of anti-government protests in 2019 that succeeded in establishing a constitutional assembly to oversee reform.

The country’s 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.

However, a separate clause, Article 25, 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.

The assembly also approved banning mining in glaciers, protected areas and regions 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 concludes after Saturday, and new commissions in charge of fine-tuning the text take over on Monday. The final draft is due in early July and citizens will vote to approve or reject it on 4 September.

The environmental commission, dominated by self-proclaimed eco-constituents, saw just one of 40 of its proposals approved during their first vote 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.


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