Chile Energy and Environment Facts

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 gas reserves.

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.

  • COUNTRYAAH: 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 mined.

  • Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, CI stands for Chile. Visit itypeusa for more information about Chile.

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.


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 conglomerate, Goldcorp.


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 groups.


“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 sites.

Earthquake shakes Chile

April 1st

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.

Chile Energy and Environment Facts

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