In June, President Piñera’s government announced its strategy for promoting development in the northern Region of Arica and Parinacota. The Region of Arica and Parinacota is where the Aymara people currently live and where their ancestral lands are located. Northern Chile is also the region where Chile’s mining enterprises are concentrated, and chief among Piñera’s development proposal was the continued expansion of the mining industry. Most notably, he announced plans to open 40,000 hectares of the Parque Nacional Lauca to copper mining activities. Some of the regional government officials support the initiative, as it is predicted to bring in US$2 billion in investments, quadruple the region’s GDP, and create 9,000 new jobs.
Aymara communities and leaders, however, have raised serious concerns about the government’s plans. Studies carried out by the University of Chile indicate that the overwhelming majority of Parque Nacional Lauca is Aymara property, thus raising questions about the government’s legal right to open the lands to mining. The Aymara additionally assert the government’s obligations under ILO Convention 169 to consult with the affected communities. There are also concerns being raised about the environmental impacts of more mining activities, particularly on water resources.
The Coordinadora Aymara de Defensa de los Recursos Naturales de Arica Parinacota issued a statement condemning Piñera’s plans and summarizing their chief concerns, particularly in light of Chile’s international human rights and biodiversity obligations under ILO Convention 169 and the Washington Convention, respectively.