Thursday, 17 May 2012

To consult or not to consult (?)

In light of the news that the Chilean Supreme Court nulls once again (this year) an environmental assessment due to irregularities including consult with the Indigenous Peoples, I therefore, question: shall we consider to consult or not to consult?

The answer is pretty simple, it is not a question, it is a fact! Indigenous peoples have a right to consultation when development projects are taking place on their lands – as stated in the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169).

Background of the case
The case involves the 'Comunidad Agrícola los Huasco Altinos' and the “El Morro” mining project, owned by Sociedad Contractual Minera El Morro, represented by Golport, based in Vancouver, Canada. In order to exploit the mine and continue with the project, Golport needed an environmental assessment, which was granted by the Regional Environmental Evaluation Commission back in March 2011. However, according to ILC news, the case presented a ‘twist’ since the community called the Diaguita people, was not technically recognized as an ‘indigenous people’ until 2006. Therefore, the land that the project affects, and which are titled to the community, are not technically recognized as 'indigenous lands' because it predates the said year.

Nevertheless the community succeed bringing the case claiming that “when environmental impact studies were conducted for the El Morro project, and when the government assessed those studies, both the company and the Chilean government failed to apply legal protections that relate specifically to indigenous peoples.” It refers to Chile’s 1993 Indigenous Law and ILO Convention 169 both of which include:

  • protection for indigenous lands, and natural resources;
  • and consultations.
None of these were applied when the project evaluation took place.

In due course, the Supreme Court decided in favour of the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous and Agricultural Community and ordered that the environmental assessment be repeated taking into consideration indigenous legislation and rights.

Some unprofessional conduct
Mr Campusano, Community’s president, together with Nancy Yáñez, attorney who is representing the Community refer to certain practices that they have encountered:
1.- Denial of Indian status being used just to make possible this type of project .
2.- The company in charge of the project has approached individuals in the community, offering cars and money (a lump sum per year per family)in order to override the resistance to this mining project.

More info here and here.

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