The election of billionaire S.Pinera to Chile’s presidency was hailed in the front page of today’s Business section of the Canadian conservative paper, The Globe and Mail: “The best place to mine in South America just got better.” This is also an interesting quote:
“His reputation is to have a favourable stance towards business and tax, so those are all positives. But even before he stepped in, we think Chile is absolutely one of the best jurisdictions in the world for what we do,” said Tye Burt, the president and chief executive officer of Kinross Gold Corp.
(Greek readers might be familiar with the Kinross corporation: it’s the owner of TVX Gold (some old, but relevant articles in English here), which has stirred a lot of controversy with local communities around the country.)
So, the news is that Canadian and other mining corporations are very happy with Chile’s new president. And this is not good news. Canadian mining companies, are known to misbehave abroad, even to the degree of being (indirectly) responsible for murders of activists. And this is just talking about Canadian companies…
The current good spirits of the mining coroporations do not mean that things were much better under the 20-years of center-left governments. Back in 2007, Chile was being described as a “The best mining jurisdiction in the world“. At the same time, the state of the long running Mapuche conflict, is indicative of the relation between resource extraction and indigenous struggles for their ancestral land rights.
With just a very quick search, I was able to find at least two cases of mining companies acting in environmentally dubious ways in Chile, with the struggles of indigenous peoples in the background:
- Southern Copper Corporation Begins Mining Project in Aymara Traditional Lands in Chile
- Government Study: Chilean Gold Mine Threatens Local Glaciers
And as Mr Pinera is just incoming, things could be really bleak.
(In the photo by patricio, licensed under CC-by-nc-sa, a pro-Mapuche activist is being arrested. I couldn’t find the exact circumstances, but the photo seems to have been taken on January 4, 2008, the day when a Mapuche youth was murdered by the police.)