Chile constitutional assembly could reshape mining rights on Saturday

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

A wide-ranging set of environmental proposals could reshape mining rights in Chile, the world’s no. 1 copper producer, if approved by the country’s constitutional assembly on Saturday.

This is the second time the ambitious set of proposals looking to enshrine environmental rights in the new constitution is being voted on in the general assembly after being voted down in late April.

The new proposals still expand protected lands, water, glaciers and natural resources but ease some language from the previous proposal, while articles expanding government control in mining activities across the country remain.

Article 27 would grant the state exclusive rights to lithium, rare earth metals and hydrocarbons while also making the state a majority shareholder of any copper mines.

A proposed amendment would reduce state participation to at least one-third.

The country’s mining industry has been vocal about their disapproval of the proposals.

A group of small-scale miners wearing hard hats and waving Chilean flags protested outside the assembly building on Friday while Chile’s National Mining Society (Sonami) issued a statement opposing the proposals.

“We’ve perceived, in different meetings with our members, a deep worry in the sector about the future of Chilean mining in light of these (proposed articles),” Sonami President Diego Hernandez said.

The full package of proposals needs a two-thirds majority to pass. If it is rejected again, the articles will not be included in the draft constitution.

If the package is approved, each article will then be voted on individually. Articles that reach a two-thirds majority will be included in the draft constitution while those that received less, but more than a quarter, will be sent back to the commission.

The full draft is due in early July and citizens will then vote to approve or reject the new constitution on Sept. 4.

(By Alexander Villegas, Fabian Cambero and Natalia Ramos; Editing by David Gregorio)

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