Building the long-term mining policy that Chile needs

Annie Dufey, economist.

In 2019, the Ministry of Mining began to prepare the National Mining Policy 2050, which, through a participatory process of national and local scope, aims to become the guiding instrument that leads the future development of sustainable mining for Chile. The decision is welcome considering the importance of mining for Chile, in terms of its contribution to GDP (12%), exports (52%), fiscal income (US$ 4,000 million), development of productive and technological chains, among others. Also, there is no other productive sector on the horizon that could equate it, at least, as an engine of growth and its transformation capacity for full insertion in the 21st century.

Mining must carry out major transformations to address the challenges it faces today, among them, decreases in the mineral grade, improve its climatic and environmental footprint, also taking charge of its environmental liabilities, strengthen the development of a technology-based cluster, a better insertion in the territories based on alliances of mutual appreciation and benefit, and thus obtain their social license. Collectively addressing these challenges is also the best opportunity the country has to accelerate its development hand in hand with its mining. For this reason, it is urgent to advance from the State to agree on a shared vision on how to move up in each of these challenges in an integral way.

From the national experience in successful participatory processes in developing long-term policies, that is, that transcend the governments of the day, such as Energy 2050 and the National Urban Development Policy, lessons, and key elements emerge to provide feedback on the formulation of the National Mining Policy 2050.

First, it must be understood that State policies are continuous processes, which are built by recognizing previous efforts. Second, it is fundamental for legitimacy, ownership, and commitment to the results, to carry out convening processes, with different levels of participation and decentralized, from the formulation to the validation of the results. Likewise, having a Council of a strategic nature, reporting at the highest level, diverse in visions, disciplines, institutions, and political sensitivities, which have “power” and clear governance rules for decision-making is also a key. For this reason, the commitment, legitimacy, and leadership of the authority with the process and its results are relevant. Having adequate resources, be they technical, financial, independent facilitation, and coordination matters, as well as accompanying the process from the beginning with a Strategic Environmental Assessment. Finally, an institutional framework for the follow-up and monitoring of the policy, and that allows it to be updated is essential.

All these elements are necessary, although it is not certain whether they are sufficient, so that the process that the Ministry of Mining is developing today, may lead to the mining policy with social, technical, and political validation that Chile needs.