Chile’s Native Communities Find Ally in Supreme Court
IPS, 11 May 2012

SANTIAGO, CHILE: Indigenous groups in Chile celebrated a recent court ruling that represented the latest victory in the struggle for respect for their right to be previously consulted about major projects which directly affect their communities. On 27 April, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision by an appeals court, which had cancelled the environmental permit granted to the Canadian mining giant Goldcorp for its El Morro gold and copper mine in the northern Chilean region of Atacama. The company reported that it had brought all work at El Morro to a halt, in line with the verdict handed down by the Court, which ordered it to consult with the small Diaguita de los Huascoaltinos indigenous agricultural community before carrying out any activity in their territory. The Court also ruled that the company must carry out a more thorough environmental impact assessment, which must also take into account the resettlement of local communities and effects on the traditional way of life of the Diaguita Indians. In addition, the verdict stated that the company violated International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, Chile’s Indigenous Law, and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Supreme Court ruling in the El Morro case was not unprecedented. For the past three years, indigenous communities around the country have filed legal action demanding compliance with ILO Convention 169. The first case was won by a Mapuche community in the southern city of Lanco, who were not consulted with respect to the construction of a garbage dump near their homes. Another victory involved a controversial wind farm on Chiloé Island in southern Chile, which the Supreme Court halted due to the company’s failure to properly consult with local Mapuche communities. Read the article … Read the decision of the Supreme Court [in Spanish] …