Natural resources, energy and environment
Chile is rich in natural resources. The
country has about a third of the world's copper deposits
and these are estimated to last for another half a
century. There are also abundant amounts of molybdenum,
a by-product of the copper mining used in steel alloys,
as well as gold, silver, iron ore, manganese, lead, zinc
and coal as well as almost all the world's known nitrate
resources. At the far south are smaller oil and natural
Chile is also the world's largest producer of
lithium, a metal with high electrical conductivity used
primarily in batteries. Nearly a quarter of the world's
known reserves of lithium are found in Chile, only
Bolivia has more.
Major exports by Chile with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
The big copper mines were nationalized in 1971 by the
Allende government. In 1976, the military regime formed
the state mining company Codelco (Corporación Nacional
del Cobre). The world-leading Codelco accounts for
around a tenth of the world's copper production. The
mining takes place, among other things, in the
Chuquicamata in the Atacama desert in the north, where
mining has been going on for over 100 years in what is
considered the world's largest copper mine. After an
investment of $ 5.8 billion, mining in 2019 is set to
take place underground.
Large amounts of foreign capital have been invested
in private mining since the 1990s. The Australia-based
BHP Billiton is the principal owner of the Escondida
mine in the Atacama Desert, which is the world's largest
copper mine. In Escondida, gold and silver are also
Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, CI stands for Chile.
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Around two-thirds of the energy demand is covered by
fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas), which have to
be imported for the most part, but Chile has enormous
potential for solar and wind power. Development is fast
and the share of electricity generated from renewable
sources went from 5 to 18 percent in five years, until
May 2018. Solar and wind power dominate, while smaller
parts come from biofuels and small hydropower plants.
Chile is estimated to have the greatest potential of
hydroelectric power in the world, but only a small part
is still being exploited. Severe drought in 2007
affected the water supply and, together with missing gas
supplies from Argentina (see Foreign Policy and
Defense), led to a serious energy crisis.
The gigantic hydroelectric dams are disputed, as they
damage nature and sometimes force indigenous people to
move. Another environmental problem is the extensive
harvesting of rainforests. Exports of timber products
are profitable, and it has therefore been difficult for
environmental organizations to hear about the
requirements for reduced felling. In Santiago and
several other major cities, climate factors combined
with emissions from industry and cars have caused severe
air pollution. The air is often so bad that it is
considered dangerous to health.
Water pollution is another environmental problem.
However, the water in some of the country's rivers is
said to have become cleaner during the 2000s as a result
of stricter control of industrial emissions. Wastewater
treatment has also improved significantly.
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
2 008 kilograms of oil equivalent (2015)
Electricity consumption per person
3879 kWh, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
82 563 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
4.7 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
24.9 percent (2015)
Minister is forced to resign
Health Minister Helia Molina has been allowed to go since she upset the
Catholic Church and the right-wing Foreign Ministry through a statement in the
sensitive issue of abortion. Molina said many women from well-offs circumvent
the ban on abortion and turn to private clinics. For many on the right, Molina's
statement was proof that the Bachelens government is dangerously radical,
something the president is trying to disprove. However, Molina receives strong
support in social media.
Compensation for former political prisoners
A court orders the state to pay around $ 7.5 million in compensation to 31
people held as political prisoners on an island in the Fire Land in the south,
following the coup d'etat in 1973. Among them were several former political
leaders and ministers. The prisoners were subjected to torture, forced labor and
severe hardship. The Supreme Court later decides the decision.
Protests against planned school reform
Tens of thousands of parents are demonstrating in Santiago in protest of
planned legislative changes, which they claim will lead to 4,000 free schools
being forced to close. According to the government, the bill aims to stop profit
withdrawal from the free schools and increase transparency in how the
tax-financed schools are run. But the parents who protest say that the
alternatives that will be available will be poor government schools or expensive
private schools (see also Education).
Supreme Court stops mining project
The Supreme Court halted exploitation of gold and copper in northern Chile
after indigenous peoples in the area complained that they had not been asked and
that a proper environmental check was not done. They fear that the mining
project may lead to a river being contaminated. The mine is owned by a Canadian
Financial reform adopted
Congress approves amended financial rules that are intended to increase the
tax levy, among other things through changes in corporate tax. The extra money
will be used, as promised, to make education free and in other ways increase
equality in the country. After months of negotiations, the opposition gives
support to the reform.
Explosion attacks in Santiago
Fourteen people are injured when an explosive charge explodes in a mall at a
metro station in Santiago. The attack that President Bachelet calls terrorist
acts is said to be the most serious since democracy was re-established in 1990.
It is unclear who is behind it but suspicions are directed at extreme leftist
"91 percent of goals met"
President Michelle Bachelet signs a law that establishes a state pension
fund, as an alternative to private funds. She thus says she has managed 91
percent of the 56 goals she set out to achieve in her first 100 days at the
presidential post. It should give a clear signal of the government's intention
to implement structural changes that will reduce social and economic inequality
in the country.
Bachelet on a state visit to the United States
President Michelle Bachelet visits the United States where both she and Chile
are praised by US President Barack Obama who calls the country "a model of
democracy in Latin America".
Exile chileans get the right to vote
A constitutional amendment is adopted that allows Chileans living abroad to
vote in national elections. The change in the law has been discussed for years.
Severe fire in Valparaíso
A forest fire out of control causes great destruction in Valparaíso. At least
15 people are killed and around 2,000 have their homes destroyed. Bachelet
pledges resources to those affected and to rebuild the city, whose old
neighborhoods are included on the UN agency UNESCO's list of world heritage
Earthquake shakes Chile
An earthquake of magnitude 8.2 occurs in the sea outside the northern part of
the country. Six people perish. Fires, landslides and power outages are
reported, emergency calls are announced and tens of thousands of people are
evacuated, including President Bachelet. A day later, a strong aftershock
occurred, measured at 7.6.
Protesters put pressure on Bachelet
Almost two weeks after Michelle Bachelet's tenure as president, tens of
thousands of protesters in Santiago demand that she accelerate her reform
program. Not least, the requirement for a new constitution is emphasized. The
student movement that led to previous protests is not participating, as a
collaboration on educational reforms has begun with the new government.
Disputed dust project is closed down
Shortly after taking office, the new government announces that the
controversial water dam project in Aysén will be reviewed (see April
2012) and after a couple of months it will be announced that it will be
closed, for environmental reasons.
Dispute over sea border settled
The International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) makes a ruling in the
lengthy dispute between Peru and Chile on the common maritime border (see
Foreign Policy and Defense). The verdict, which sets a new maritime boundary
between the countries, can be described as a compromise: Peru is entitled to a
new sea area, while Chile is allowed to retain fish-rich waters near the coast.
Both countries have promised to adhere to the court's decision.