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Chilean Nationalise the mines

copper mine Chile
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Marcos Margarido, PSTU Brazil

Chile is not a poor country. It has a lot of natural resources transformed by human labour into goods that generated enormous wealth. This wealth, however, is not used to solve the people’s problems like lack of social rights, high cost of living or the environmental crisis. Wealth is rather accumulated by a few Chilean and foreign billionaires. Furthermore, the irrational exploitation of the nation’s resources contributes to increasing environmental destruction.

Over the last decades, big multinational corporations and a few Chilean families have literally looted the country, 75% of our copper is owned by private companies, most of them foreign, such as BHP Billiton, Anglo-American, Glencore, FreePort, and Antofagasta Minerals. It is estimated that they ransack more than 12 billion dollars per year (and not counting the “normal” profits of large-scale mining). Chile is the world’s largest producer with the biggest copper reserves, an important input for the global economy, as well as lithium, the new “white gold,” whose reserves, alongside Bolivia and Argentina, are among the biggest in the world.

That’s why the recovery of copper, lithium, and other mineral goods must be at the centre of every political and economic debate in the Chilean Constituent Convention. It’s not just the recovery of minerals but of national sovereignty. That is why, MarÌa Rivera, the representative of the Chilean IWL section, the MIT, in that Convention presented a motion for the nationalisation, without compensation, of the big copper and lithium mining companies.

But it must not be confused with the current model of administration by Codelco, the state-owned copper company. First, the MIT defend the nationalisation of all the big mining companies, not only of the soil as it happens today. Second, Codelco functions like a capitalist company. It determines the production rhythm according to the world market, without caring for the environmental and social damage that large-scale mining provokes. Not to mention workers’ wages, working conditions or working hours.

It is necessary – along with expropriating big mining companies – to re-establish Codelco under control of workers with the participation of all communities affected by large-scale mining. The same must be done with companies that exploit other mineral resources, such as SQM or Albermale. 

Codelco and other mines must be administered by a Workers’ and Peoples’ Council of Mining, which would replace the current Mining Council attended by big bosses that pillage the country. This Council will be composed of representatives of mining workers, of communities affected by mining, and of working-class organisations.

To achieve that, the MIT made a campaign for a People’s Constituent Initiative that gathered 24,000-plus signatures, far more than the minimum of 15,000 required. The Convention’s Environment Commission will analyse the different proposals that were accepted, among them the one moved by the MIT, SIM, Committee for Defence of Copper, MarÌa Rivera and other groups. After that they will be put to vote by the Convention’s Plenum.

As the majority of members of the Convention come from capitalist or reformist parties (the Communist Party don’t support the expropriation and nationalisation of mining companies) the campaign for the nationalisation of big mining companies of copper, lithium, water and other strategic minerals must continue in the streets by workers, communities and youth. This is IWL’s and MIT’s commitment.

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