The plenary of the Constitutional Convention on Friday 5/07/22 voted on a series of norms related to copper mining and other minerals. Since that vote, there has been significant confusion on the issue, which does not help to understand what was voted and what will be voted in the coming weeks.
After the vote, the representative Hugo Gutiérrez of the Communist Party, to cite an example, posted on his Twitter the following:
“Huge agreement to nationalize copper! 121 votes in favor, 4 against, and 22 abstain: “the state has absolute, exclusive, inalienable, and indivisible domain over all the mains and mining substances, metals, non-metals, and deposits…”
Similar information was disseminated by different parties and media.
Such a political interpretation of what was voted, explained in this way, misrepresents what happened. Anyone who does not know the current legislation could think that now the Chilean State will be the owner of all large copper mining, which is totally incorrect.
The article approved by the Convention maintains the State’s dominion over the mineral that is underground, that is, over the deposits. This article, with a slightly longer formulation, was incorporated by Allende in 1971 into the 1925 Constitution and was subsequently maintained by Pinochet and the democratic governments. What the Dictatorship did (Article 24) was to change the second part of Allende’s text (which nationalized the companies), installing mining concessions by judicial means and opening the door for what would come later, the Organic Constitutional Law on Mining Concessions (1982), which regulates concessions and allows for the privatization of copper. This was the mechanism through which the dictatorship and the democratic governments allowed the privatization of more than 70% of copper production in Chile.
The norm approved by the Constitutional Convention is positive, but it does not change the reality of privatization. It only maintains the State’s dominion over the deposits, which has never been changed. So much so that this article even had the votes of the right-wing and the Socialist Party, who were largely responsible for the privatization of mining. Therefore, all those who say that the Convention voted for the nationalization of copper are spreading information that is, to say the least, inaccurate and misleading.
The true nationalization of copper, that is, that the State be the owner of all copper exploitation so that the people can “usufruct” the mining income, requires two central elements: 1) ending all concessions to large private mining; 2) nationalizing the large mining companies, transferring them to State control. The Standard Popular Initiative proposal (Iniciativia Popular de Norma), which gathered more than 24,000 signatures, proposed all of this, including democratizing the control of the companies and incorporating workers and communities in their boards of directors.
All the proposals that went in this direction were rejected by the Plenary of the Constitutional Convention (5/06/22) and had been introduced through indications (proposed changes to the articles) by our colleague María Rivera and other constituents. Indication 125, which proposed to end all mining concessions (except for small and medium mining) obtained 36 votes in favor (with opposing votes even from the Communist Party and “leftist” independents). Indication 161, which nationalized the companies, obtained 42 votes in favor.
The norm proposing nationalization, however, obtained more votes than the proposal of the Socialist Party/Non-Neutral Independents, which proposed maintaining the privatization of copper and extending it to lithium and also to hydrocarbons (oil and gas). Another norm, promoted by the Communist Party, proposed the majority participation of the State in the exploitation of copper but keeping the door open to private mining. All the norms were rejected by the Plenum. Thus, there will be a new and final round of voting on this issue in the coming weeks.
It is essential to increase pressure on the Constitutional Convention to put an end to the plundering of our natural and mineral assets by the big transnationals and billionaire families of Chile, such as the Luksic family (Antofagasta Minerals) and Ponce-Lerou (lithium). We call on the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the Federación de Trabajadores del Cobre (FTC), the Confederación de Trabajadores del Cobre (CTC) to join the campaign for the nationalization of the large mining companies. We cannot get lost in the false or inaccurate information that is circulating nor in conformist positions that state that nationalization is impossible and that we must be content to regulate the plundering of the transnationals.
The struggle for the true nationalization of copper is the struggle to put an end to the mining concessions and nationalize the big mining companies under the control of the workers and the people.