On Wednesday, January 25th, the Temuco Court of Appeals found in favor of several Mapuche communities who sought to stop construction of power transmission lines through their ancestral lands. The Mapuche communities argued that they were not consulted about the project as is required by International Labor Organization Convention No. 169 (ILO 169), which has been ratified by Chile and is a part of Chilean law. The decision — a victory for indigenous rights — may still be appealed to the Chilean Supreme Court.
The project in question in this case is called, “Línea de Transmisión en Poste de Hormigón 110Kv Melipeuco-Freire” and was a proposal to construct nearly 100 kilometers of power transmission lines through several Mapuche communities and their lands. On October 4, 2011, the Chilean Environmental Evaluation Commission signed off on the project and stated that the environmental impacts of the power lines were minimal and required no environmental impact study.
In response, the Mapuche community filed a claim with the Temuco Court of Appeals alleging that the decision violated their right to consultation, located in ILO 169. The Court ultimately determined that an environmental impact study was required and must be carried out before the project can move forward. In conjunction with that finding, the Court stated that the Mapuche communities were entitled to consultation under ILO 169.
The decision is a positive one for the implementation of ILO 169, but can still be appealed to the Supreme Court. Additionally, even if the right to consultation is upheld, there have repeatedly been criticisms of how the Chilean government carries out consultation which could resurface. For the moment, however, the project is suspended.