Chile constitution drafters set for key debate on mining, environment

Chile’s constitutional convention. (Image: René Lescornez | Constitutional Convention.)

Chile’s constitutional assembly will start debating dozens of articles on Thursday regarding mining, water and environmental rights that could reshape how the world’s top copper producer regulates production of the red metal and minerals like lithium.

The debate will start at 12 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) over 52 articles including protecting water sources, glaciers and wetlands before voting later today and on Friday. The proposals overall establish stricter environmental regulation for mining.

Articles need a super-majority of 103 votes in the 154 member assembly to be added to the draft constitution that will face a plebiscite later this year. Articles that get a simple majority will undergo further amendments and future second vote.

The articles, which have been toned down amid pushback by the mining sector and concern over radical proposals such as mine nationalizations, would nonetheless lay the foundations for greater scrutiny of mining and its environmental impact.

Chileans overwhelmingly voted to draft a new constitution in 2020 after protests against inequality rocked the Andean country in 2019. Political infighting and controversial suggestions have though led to a drop in support for the process.

The assembly has until mid-May to approve articles for the draft constitution and until July to have the draft fully completed. Chileans will vote to approve or reject the new constitution on Sept. 4.

If voters reject it, the country will stick with its current market-orientated constitution, which dates back to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet over three decades ago.

(By Natalia Ramos and Alexander Villegas; Editing by Alistair Bell)


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